Why Israel can't win this propaganda war

'Moral superiority', that’s the key to understanding the left’s support for Hamas

What is the left's problem with Israel?
Vincent Cooper
On 22 November 2012 15:19

Ceasefire or no ceasefire, there is no way Israel can win this war – the propaganda war, that is. Israel may well put a stop (temporarily) to Hamas terrorists lobbing missiles onto Israeli women and children but it will never, ever win the moral argument in the West. Why is that?

Mainly because Israel – its people and culture – is seen by a powerful, opinion-forming liberal/left orthodoxy not as a people with a right to exist within secure boundaries but as a proxy of western interests.

To the left-wing intellectual, Israel equals the West equals imperialism. You can find many versions of this tired old left-wing trope expressed every day in the Guardian and Independent newspapers where western interests are routinely portrayed as voracious destroyers of the weak and the vulnerable.

The blue-collar class of the industrial cities used to be the object of this left-wing patronising. Now it’s the Third World, but particularly the Palestinians with the Goliath of Israel exploiting and dehumanising the little David of Hamas.

Depending on where the leftist intellectual stands on the anti-Israel spectrum, Israel may be seen as a Middle-Eastern outpost of western imperialism (I heard Tony Benn say that many years ago) or as a dumping ground for displaced Jews after the Second World War (the Palestinians paying the price for the Holocaust). In either case, the Palestinians are just more victims in the long history of western imperialist aggression.

And in their defence of the victims of ‘western imperialism’, the leftist intelligentsia naturally and always stake the high moral ground – that powerful sense of the Rococo Marxist’s moral indignation. As the American satirist Tom Wolfe puts it: “the intellectual – was inseparable from his necessary indignation. It was his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority.”

Moral superiority, that’s the key to understanding the left’s support for Hamas.

Here, for example, is the British moral philosopher Ted Honderich, in all his moral rectitude, defending Palestinian terrorism:

“I myself have no serious doubt – that the Palestinians have exercised a moral right in their terrorism against the Israelis. They have had a moral right to terrorism as certain as was the moral right, say, of the African people of South Africa against their white captors and the apartheid state. Those Palestinians who have resorted to necessary killing have been right to try to free their people.” (Ted Honderich, After the Terror)

This is fascinating stuff. Blowing up women and children on a bus in Tel Aviv is morally necessary killing! I think only a western moral philosopher could say such a thing, particularly one sitting in the bourgeois comfort and safety of England – although he was lucky not to have been on the London Underground on the 7th July 2005 when anti-Israeli Islamic terrorists did some “necessary killing”.

Of course, this Western Leftist sympathy for Hamas does not, in the long run, help the Palestinians. Whatever the historical facts may be about the founding and subsequent history of the Israeli state – and no doubt there are bloody hands on both sides – the facts of Israel today dictate that a pragmatic solution, one that unconditionally guarantees Israel’s security, is the only sane response for any Palestinian.

Yet Hamas, with the full ideological support of Western Leftists, insist on an armed struggle to bring an end to the Israeli state. No compromise, no quarter. Of course the message tactically varies. Sometimes Hamas simply calls for Israel to return to earlier borders. But Israel has been there before; it has been at those earlier borders and has buried its dead within them.

For the truth is that the present day borders of Israel are the result, not of land-grabbing but of military solutions to armed aggression. The Palestinians, years ago, could have secured a good settlement for themselves if they had been reasonable. They could now have an up-and-running, economically viable state – Israel, after all, is a successful, free-enterprise economy and would have greatly benefited any Palestinian settlement.

But then, it often seems that Israel’s very success is what Hamas really hates. Indeed, economic success is one of the reasons the left here in the West hate Israel. If Israel were still a socialist kibbutz settlement the left would have a schizophrenia problem.

Western Leftists don’t have to live with the consequences of their support for aggression in the Middle East. But the sad truth is that the Palestinians are paying a heavy price for their failure to face up to realpolitik

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