Thursday, 22 November 2012

Gaza and Israel are important, not in themselves, but because of the anger they arouse


How can any foreigner strongly support Israel or Hamas?

Yet many people in Britain see this in Manichaean terms, and in the majority of cases with Israel as evil. In almost every case they transpose onto the Middle East their own preoccupations. Two Irish friends back Israel for example from hatred of the IRA. Other people I know see Israel as apartheid South Africa (which, to digress, may be judged less harshly in a century than it is now). In fact, this is not about Left and Right - both sides are both simultaneously.

Partly Israel is hated for one thing which is admirable about the country - that it is an ethnic state. Partly it is hated because it is seen as colonialist, which it certainly is, but this too is not necessarily a bad thing and the Arabs in Israel are better off than Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East as a result. Partly Israel is disliked because Jews have whiter skins than Arabs: the great Mark Steyn pointed out that, after centuries of being hated for being Asiatic, Jews are now hated for being Europeans. Partly Jews are disliked for being Jews, though I hope this is rare these days in England and think it is, but it is creeping back on the Left.

But the Arabs have fairly recently lost their land to the Jews and this is a very sad and wrong thing. After ninety years in the area, Jews are there to stay and their right to be there derives not just from the passage of time but also from the expulsion of the Jews from Arab countries in 1948. Still, I am surprised that some people get angry because some Arabs think Israel has no right to exist.  Outsiders (white, gentile Western Europeans anyway) on both sides of the argument fail to understand what makes people fight each other. Blood and religion make people fight and desire for freedom for their nation.

But mostly I take little interest in the whole thing, while feeling sorry for the casualties. Syria interests me far more than Gaza and is far more important. Like the recent coverage of hurricane Sandy in the USA (but only in the USA, not the deaths in Haiti and Cuba) the events in Gaza are given an attention by the world out of all proportion to their importance to the world. 

The main importance of Israel is not strategic but the fact that it attracts to the USA the dislike of so many Muslims. The great strength of the Arabs is the strength of their anger.

Better to try to understand than to take sides in a conflict which is about two nations, by which I mean ethnic groups, fighting for the same land.  I have somewhat more sympathy for Arabs on the whole than Israel but somewhat more sympathy for Israel over this week's bombing in Gaza, as they gave up Gaza to the Arabs. But this is a dispute in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing, or perhaps know some things but understand little. And a dispute which does not much concern us.

I do understand, and every true conservative must, why some Muslims, like the dear (joke) Ayatollah Khomeini, think America Satanic - from a Christian point of view much is very wrong: materialism, sexual licence, abortion, violence. He might have agreed too with the wonderful Pope Benedict XVI about rock music being Satanic. I once hoped that Christians and Muslims would be allies against secular modernity but it did not work out that way.

Click here for my musings on A.J. Balfour who started the whole Middle Eastern crisis.


Matthew Kalman, a very nice man, who was in my year at college, has written a very good article on this. 

(I liked him even more because, when I asked him what he did for his 50th birthday, he said, 'I cried.')


  1. Or as Mark Steyn said, as a conservative if the Muslims ever did take over I can always let the beard fill out, take a couple of extra wives and keep my head down. The gays and feminists will have a tougher time.

  2. Or as Martin Amis said more strongly " People of liberal sympathies, stupefied by relativism, have become the apologists for a creedal wave that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperialist, and genocidal. To put it another way, they are up the arse of those that want them dead."

  3. The reason westerners get pulled into this is because the situation represents so much impacting the west. Be it interventionism or non, secularism and religious ferver, anti semitism, Islamic propaganda.