By Ira Sharkansky
JERUSALEM—Is the sky falling? Maybe not in the next
five minutes, but perhaps soon after.
I see a lot of material about Israel and the Middle
East. Some comes in response to what I write. More comes because I
have an Israeli academic address, or have gotten on some other list.
Some I find by my own wanderings through the internet.
A great deal of material demonizes Israel. Here I am
not focusing on that, except as it is part of the stimulus that
provokes the view that the sky is falling.
Among the themes in this writing are:
- Hatred of Israel and Jews is extensive and growing,
due to reactions against Israeli actions in Lebanon, Gaza and the
West Bank, as well as the pre-existing nucleus of Christian
- Islam has become the primary source of anti-Jewish
and anti-Israel material, due not only to the recent actions of
Israel but also to fundamental elements of Islam that insist on its
own primacy, and the sacred calling of expanding control throughout
a large view of the "Middle East" (including former Muslim
lands in Iberia) and beyond to Britain, northern Europe and
- We cannot accept peaceful overtures from Muslims,
insofar as Islam recognizes the need to lie for the purpose of
advancing the faith, and views anything like "cease fire"
or "peace with unbelievers" to be temporary accommodations
in response to tactical needs.
- The comments of Iran's president that deny the
existence or the extent of the Holocaust, declare that Israel's
existence is illegitimate, and must be ended insofar at it is the
sole cause of Palestinian misery.
- The refusal of Iran to stop its nuclear program,
the unwillingness of Russia, China, and Western European governments
to act seriously in support of sanctions.
- The inevitability of Iran developing a nuclear
weapon despite its denials (Muslims lie for tactical reasons). Economic
sanctions will not occur or will be strong enough to not stop the
- Iran's nuclear program is too scattered, and too
well protected for Israel's military to do more than knock out a bit
that might delay development for a few years, and make it even more
likely that Iran will use its nuclear weapon to attack Israel.
- The American administration is too weakened by its
foolhardy adventure in Iraq (it started the war against terror in
the wrong country) to take the appropriate military action against
Iran's nuclear program.
- Israel has not taken sufficient action against its
enemies, perhaps because of its own misdirected humanitarian
concerns for harming civilians, or because of concern for
international sanctions. As a result, it will only be a matter of
time until Iran and Syria re-arm Hezbollah, which will renew the
attack with even more dangerous weapons.
- Sooner or later the Palestinians of Gaza and the
West Bank will have the weaponry of Iran and Syria, and be able to
join in attacking Israel from the east and south.
- Hateful and inciting education and mass media
throughout the Muslim world, including Palestinian schools and
media, render foolish any Israeli hope or aspiration for peace.
All this has more than a bit of truth. Things are even
more depressing if we read the Israeli press to conclude that the
country's president is a sex maniac, its prime minister is corrupt,
and its defense minister is a social activist interested only in
increasing programs for the poor. Moreover, we read that neither the
prime minister nor the defense minister know anything about national
security, and much of the IDF officer corps is incompetent.
Should we take all this seriously and start packing our
bags and ordering tickets? But for where? There are already too many
Muslims in Europe, Australia, and North America.
While all of the above is true, it is not the whole
truth. There is room for maneuver, and Jews have been polishing their
talents for maneuver for at least 2,500 years.
Among the holes in the depressing truths are the
- The Holocaust did happen. Western elites know it,
and give us some wiggle room on its account.
- We recognize our vulnerability, and seek to stay on
the right side of governments that tolerate us, and may even help
- We are helped among peace loving Western countries
by our Jewish values, which serve to limit the violence we direct
against our enemies.
- Islam is complex. It is not entirely hateful of
others. Moreover, most Muslims are not primarily religious. They are
more interested in living a decent life than following the most
extreme of those who claim to be religious leaders.
- Political elites in most Muslim countries want to
benefit from what the West offers; they recognize threat to
themselves from Islamic extremists, as well as from the likes of
Iran and Syria. They also cut Israel some slack, even while they
express criticism of its actions.
- Israel is well armed. So far it has proved its
capacity to act against those who threaten it. We can argue if it
has been tough enough against Hezbollah or the Palestinians.
Meanwhile I would not like to own real estate in Gaza, Nablus, Jenin, or
the Shiite areas of Lebanon.
- Non-Hezbollah Lebanese are more than a little upset
at Syria and Iran, as well as Hezbollah. We have yet to see the last
chapter in this story.
- Even if Iran develops nuclear weapons, that will
not assure the destruction of Israel, without also risking the
destruction of Iran. Stand off worked between the USSR and the
United States, and so far between India and Pakistan. It is not
pleasant. It might not work for us, but it might.
Survival will take hard work. We will need help. We
have never been populous enough, rich enough, or powerful enough to
dominate the world or even our region. David's empire may have been a
myth. It gives some of us pride, but causes problems among Muslims who
view it as a Jewish model for Israel's expansion. The City of David
might have been the whole thing: a few dusty acres, expanded by the
imagination of Jews who knew how to write well.
We are here again, living better than our enemies. So
far so good. True, that is what the person said part way through a
fall from a high building. If we remain wise, we should survive longer
than the person whose early end seems likely.
Sharkansky is an emeritus member of the political science department at Hebrew University in