Hamas puts its rocket launchers in schools, but Israel gets blamed for civilian deaths when it strikes back—or at least partially blamed. Max Fisher’s Voxsplaining last week is a representative example of this genre of blame-shifting: “This is the one thing that both Hamas and Israel seem to share: a willingness to adopt military tactics that will put Palestinian civilians at direct risk and that contribute, however unintentionally, to the deaths of Palestinian civilians.” [Vox, July 17]
How did we get to the point where Hamas’ barbarism has become an argument for Israel to not defend itself? Joshua Muravchik’s talk at The Heritage Foundation this week sheds some light on why many people are so quick to blame Israel when Hamas is clearly the aggressor.
Muravchik spoke about his book, Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned against Israel, which sought to explain why world opinion has shifted from being largely pro-Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War to mostly anti-Israel today. The shift is partly explained by the death of Pan Arabism and rise of Palestinian nationalism. After the 1967 war, Israel was seen less as the underdog surrounded by hostile neighbors and more as the denier of another people’s national aspirations.
But that’s not the whole explanation, says Muravchik, who points to several other developments. In brief, these are: (1) The bombings, hijackings, and oil embargos during the 1970s put European governments into a mode appeasing Arab and Muslim opinion, as Henry Kissinger observed when he tried to organize a Western response to dependency on Middle East oil. (2) There are many more Arabs and Muslims in the world than Jews; and there are many Arab and Muslim countries, but only Israel is a Jewish-majority country. That strength in numbers has allowed Arab and Muslim countries to turned the United Nations into an anti-Israel platform—at least at the sub-Security Council level. And (3) The cause of Palestinian nationalism has benefitted from a shift in the way progressives understand political struggle. Progressivism used to see the world through the lens of class struggle. Now the “West versus the rest” anti-neocolonialism is the dominant paradigm, and the Palestinian cause fits neatly into that frame.
Muravchik has been thinking about these issues for a long time. His new book turned out to be pretty relevant just this week; unfortunately, it will probably be relevant in other weeks, too.