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October 20, 2014
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Israel’s many enemies

A demonstrator with face painted in the colours of the Palestinian flag protests outside the Israeli Embassy in West London yesterday.
By James Neilson / As I See it

Not so long ago most Europeans would have bombed any neighbour, but it would seem that times have changed

With the statesmanlike moderation that is one of his most endearing characteristics, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says that the only solution to the Middle East crisis is the complete destruction of Israel. The pious gentleman is not alone in thinking that a final solution to the Zionist problem is urgently needed. His views are shared by millions of people throughout the Muslim world, whether Shiite, Sunni or adherents to one of the smaller sects. They all want Israel, and most its inhabitants, dead. There are also many Muslims — just how many is impossible to say — who are thoroughly sick of the blood-thirsty fanatics who are slaughtering unbelievers who fall into their hands and quietly support Israel, but few listen to them.

Meanwhile, back in the West, well-meaning individuals who, on the whole, disapprove of violence and think people should rub along together, are demanding that Israel let the holy warriors of Hamas, who make no bones about their desire to finish off Hitler’s work, continue to fire their “homemade” rockets at the Zionist Entity’s towns and airports because, they say, thanks to the famous (or infamous, because it is so unfair) “iron dome” defence system, they do little damage. Others, in France and Germany, take a more straightforward view: they scream “Death to the Jews” and try to torch “Zionist” synagogues and businesses.

Not surprisingly, the targets of so much hate coming from Muslims and their allegedly leftist supporters are getting nervous. They also feel bewildered. How can it be, they ask, that European humanitarians assume the Israelis are overreacting by sending their troops into Gaza where they try to destroy the tunnels used by people who are determined to kill every last one of them? What would a European country do in similar circumstances? Not that long ago, most would have carpet bombed any neighbour that kept lobbing missiles, homemade or not, at it, as the Allies did to so many large German cities in the Second World War, but it would seem that times have changed. Even so, the US can still get away with firing drones at jihadis and anyone unluckily enough to be near them without “world opinion” doing much more than raising a few eyebrows; perhaps, some suspect, it is because Barack Obama is not a Jew.

Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right when he says there is precious little difference between Hamas and Boko Haram, Isis, Hezbollah and other equally murderous outfits, but pointing this out does him and his country little good. He has been typecast as a heartless warmonger and Israel is widely seen as a singularly aggressive country. Most people agree the Islamists are horrible, but with few exceptions among the articulate they also assume that dealing with them should be left to the local constabulary, not to regular soldiers who often fail to discriminate between harmless civilians and individuals who think that by killing Jews they will earn themselves a place in paradise where dark-eyed maidens impatiently await their arrival. Some may be disappointed; a German scholar says that what the scriptures promise them is a plate of raisins, the wrong kind of sultanas.

In any event, as thousands of Christians who have just fled from Mosul could tell worried Western progressives, given half a chance, the holy warriors would butcher every Jewish man, woman and child in Israel and then look elsewhere for more. Stopping them is a job for well-trained soldiers willing to behave as did their forefathers in similar circumstances, not for policemen who, after tapping them on the shoulder, will read them their rights.

European governments and the US have Hamas on their list of terrorist organizations. Its charter or covenant commits its members to “fight the Jews and kill them” so Israel can be replaced with an Islamic state. But Hamas is by no means alone. Isis could soon take over Jordan on its way to Saudi Arabia. Iran, with its proxy Hezbollah, is preparing to enter the fray. As the Muslim world sinks deeper into chaos, large numbers of young men are reacting by working themselves up into a frenzy of hatred toward their ancestral foe, whose iniquity was explained to them by Allah himself in the Koran and by later exegetes in the sayings attributed to Mohammed.

For now, berating Israel for using “disproportionate” force may go down well in the more comfortable parts of Europe, where many would like to think the Jews had it coming so a repetition of the Holocaust should be a matter of indifference to them, but outside such enclaves public opinion appears to be changing. The brutality of Boko Haram, ISIS, al-Qaeda, the embattled regime in Syria and the ferocious gangs that are running amok in Pakistan, Somalia and many other places, is making the easy-going approach favoured by the respectable press and most politicians look increasingly out-of-date, as does the notion that old-fashioned warfare never solves anything. That theory was always ridiculous because, on occasion, as in 1939, there is no other acceptable alternative, but for decades now many European leaders have been treating it as though it were a self-evident truth.

Middle-class Israelis too seemed to fancy the idea until, on finding themselves surrounded by utterly remorseless enemies who despise weakness, most changed their minds. For them, restraint, let alone the Gandhian pacifism many are self-righteously demanding, would mean collective suicide.

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