Friday, June 18, 2010

José María Aznar: If Israel goes down, we all go down

José María Aznar, Former Prime Minister of Spain, has written an important opinion piece in the Times, June 17, 2010. His position reflects truthfully how vulnerable and precarious the present situation is in Israel. While Israel possibly is equipped to deal with many of the threats the country presently encounters, the increasing demonization, which skillfully deconstructs its legitimacy, may provide the successful road to the final solution for those who seek it.

Following Aznar's opinion piece you will find an excerpt from my novella Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, which deals with this subject. The book is presently on sale at Fisher King Press, see details below.

If Israel goes down, we all go down
By José María Aznar

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion.

In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organised a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances.

Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbours using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathisers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.

Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment’s peace.

For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. But if Israel is in danger today and the whole region is slipping towards a worryingly problematic future, it is not due to the lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict. The parameters of any prospective peace agreement are clear, however difficult it may seem for the two sides to make the final push for a settlement.

The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel’s destruction as the fulfilment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.

The core of the problem lies in the ambiguous and often erroneous manner in which too many Western countries are now reacting to this situation. It is easy to blame Israel for all the evils in the Middle East. Some even act and talk as if a new understanding with the Muslim world could be achieved if only we were prepared to sacrifice the Jewish state on the altar. This would be folly.

Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel’s right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.

The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world’s future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel’s strength is our strength and Israel’s weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.

It is not our intention to defend any specific policy or any particular Israeli government. The sponsors of this initiative are certain to disagree at times with decisions taken by Jerusalem. We are democrats, and we believe in diversity.

What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel’s legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel’s vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defence of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

Israel is a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined.

José María Aznar was prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004.

During his daydream, Eliezer Shimeoni, the protagonist of Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, imagines the men and the women, the elderly and the infants, crowding the sandy shores, boarding the ships that set sail across the Sea. That very moment he understood why the passionate longing for home had anchored in the Jewish soul, and why the sense of the soul’s exile wandered like a shadow behind every Jew. Those shores he knew so well were no longer full of playing children or of smiling lads and teasing maidens and suntanned tourists. In his mind he saw, rather, the pushing and the screaming, the anxiety and the desperate clinging together for comfort, as the fate of dispersal lie in wait for the Jews of the Destroyed Temple, soon to board the ships of salvage for a future of pogroms and persecution.
Now, just like then, many had stayed behind, perhaps mostly those that had had no choice, scattered in little towns and villages around the country, under foreign rule. He imagined the day of upheaval, when Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, youngest pupil of Hillel was smuggled out of Jerusalem in flames in a coffin during the Great Siege.
Yochanan understood that as Jerusalem was on fire and the Temple destroyed, a historical era had come to its end. He established the Council of Yavneh. While he himself still resided in the Land of the Fathers, this would be the beginning of Rabbinical Judaism, and millennia of Diaspora Judaism. For Eli S. this was the picture of a fugitive, of a refugee in the making. Exile and return had been wavering back and forth for centuries, even before the destruction of the Second Temple. But the year seventy of our common era was a moment close enough in time so that he could touch it, or that was recent enough to touch him. He could almost stretch out his hand across the short distance in history, and grab the side of the coffin, as if he himself carried Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai out of the burning Jerusalem, across the hills and the fields down to the coastal plain, for future wanderings to be drawn on the maps of the world.…
His tranquil ruminations about exile and return, rebirth and destruction, were suddenly interrupted when Professor Shimeoni felt his entire body flush, feeling as if he had been stripped of his clothes, to bare nudity. He recalled the words of the Norwegian philosopher Jostein Gaarder, of “Sophie’s World” fame, who in 2006 wrote, “We do no longer recognize the State of Israel. … We laugh at this people’s – the Jews – fancies and weep over its misdeeds.” Then, foreseeing the fulfillment of his wet dream he excels in triumphant compassion, exclaiming “Peace and free passage for the evacuating civilian population no longer protected by a state. Fire not at the fugitives! Take not aim at them! They are vulnerable now like snails without shells… Give the Israeli refugees shelter, give them milk and honey!” Not a far cry from Hamas leader Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, whose diagnosis says, “Israel has no historical, religious, or cultural justification, and we will never establish relations with this cancer.”
Quickly, quickly, help get rid off the cancer! I accuse, I accuse you, Jostein Gaarder, and with you I accuse those European intellectuals, with whom I have always felt affinity, who collaborate with the grand deception, 21st Century Faux, in which the boundaries have been blurred between empathy of the heart and apocalyptic hell, between depth of mind and simplicity of thought, Shimeoni exclaimed to the absent audience.
…He recalled the words of Chaim Potok, who so poignantly gave voice to that collective concern, “To be a Jew in this century is to understand fully the possibility of the end of mankind, while at the same time believing with certain faith that we will survive.” Living in Israel was certainly living at life’s edge, at the edge of survival.
Bitter irony turned into sour cynicism, as Professor Shimeoni reflected on the word “certain.” He was convinced that an eloquent writer such as Potok had purposefully used the ambiguous word certain. “Is there a word more uncertain than certain?” he asked himself rhetorically. “Did Potok mean that we could be sure, could be certain in our faith that we will survive, or did he mean that we may have some, a bit, perhaps a certain bit of faith that we will survive?”

Dr. Erel Shalit is a psychoanalyst and author, and past President of the Israel Society of Analytical Psychology. Erel Shalit has served as officer in the IDF Medical Corps, has been on the council of Meretz, and is a member of The Council for Peace and Security. His latest book, the novella Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return, is a fictitious account of a scenario played out in the mind of many Israelis, pertaining to existential reflections and apocalyptic fears, but then, as well, the hope and commitment that arise from the abyss of trepidation.

Enemy, Cripple, Beggar is on sale now for $17.95 and
Requiem: A Tale of Exile and Return is on sale now for $14.95,
$30.00 for the pair when ordered directly from the Fisher King Press Online Bookstore.
You can also order The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitcal Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel directly from Fisher King Press.

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