Anyone seeking to understand Israel today should carefully study Joshua Muravchik’s Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel (New York: Encounter Books, c. 2014). A Fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University, Muravchik has solidly established himself as a serious scholar determined to chart the historical roots of contemporary affairs. (His 2002 treatise. Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism, remains one of the best analyses of perhaps the most powerful political movement of the past century). As the subtitle of his most recent publication indicates, he wants to help readers better understand the remarkable reversal of world opinion regarding the state of Israel. Far more than describing what’s transpired in the past half-century, he seeks to explain why things have happened.
And though he focuses on Israel, much that he says clearly parallels what’s taken place in America. To be precise: the same leftist agenda that has harmfully impacted the only outpost of Western Civilization in the Mideast has successfully subverted much that has traditionally upheld the American way. During the first 25 years of its existence, the state of Israel enjoyed rather widespread world support and admiration. Then things began to change. In part this resulted from the sheer power Muslims wielded by virtue of their numerous oil deposits. They began exerting influence on the United Nations and those nations dependent on them to fuel modem economies. More importantly, Muslims benefited from “an ideological transformation that saw the rise of a new paradigm of progressive thought that Arab and Muslim advocates helped to develop. It involved multiculturalism or race-consciousness in which the struggle of the third world against the West, or of ‘people of color’ against he white man, replaced the older Marxist model of proletariat versus bourgeoisie as the central moral drama of world history (#147).
Following WWII, largely because of the Holocaust, there was a “reservoir of sympathy for the Jews wider and deeper than they had known over the millennia” (#285). Conversely, the Arabs (who had generally sided with the Nazis) were disliked if not scorned. Yet as they succeeded in establishing the new nation of Israel the Jews—successfully branded Zionists—began to elicit increasing criticism. Following the Six Day War, an astonishing military triumph, propagandists began to successfully portray Israel as a brutal Goliath pulverizing homeless and helpless Palestinians. “The altered perspective that made Israel look big instead of small was accompanied by a shift in ideological appearances that was no less important. The Arab states were seen as autocratic and reactionary. But the groups that came to speak for the Palestinians presented them as members of the world’s ‘progressive’ camp” (# 522). Emerging as the Palestinian spokesman was Yassar Arafat, mentored by his distant relative, Haj Amin al-Husseini—the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who spent the war years in Berlin broadcasting vicious anti-Semitic screeds—and early aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Determined to secure politically what Arab armies had failed to accomplish militarily, Arafat shrewdly ingratiated himself with Leftists in Russia, China, North Vietnam, Cuba, Europe and America. Though not a particularly devout Muslim, “he could channel Das Kapital and the holy Koran with equal conviction. ‘Our struggle is part and parcel of every struggle against imperialism, injustice and oppression in the world,’ he affirmed. ‘It is part of the world revolution which aims at establishing social justice and liberating mankind'” (#739). He especially admired the North Vietnamese, who had politically defeated America despite militarily losing the war. Almost overnight Israel lost “the public relations gift of opponents who were collaborators of Hitler and Goebbels; now they faced the comrades of such chic, romanticized figures as Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. Not only had David become Goliath, but on the other side the frog had become a prince” (#822).
Arafat early envisioned and implemented the use of terror to accomplish (working through the Palestinian Liberation Organization or Fatah) his ends—reviving tactics earlier used in Arab uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s. PLO gangs such as Black September hijacked airplanes, holding passengers and crews hostages in order to exact huge cash ransoms or effect the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. (In 1972 one hijacked plane was successfully stormed and liberated by an elite squad of Israelis including two future prime ministers—Ehud Barak and Binjamin Netanyahu.) In that same year, eight Black September terrorists attacked the Olympic residence hall of Israeli athletes in Munich, killing two and taking nine hostages. They demanding a plane to fly them out of Germany, but a firefight at the airport resulted in all the hostages’ deaths as well as several terrorists’. Though Arafat himself always posed as uninvolved in such terrorist acts, it now “seems clear that Abu lyad, one of Arafat’s two oldest colleagues and top aides, was the chief of Black September, and that blood-soaked group, at first mysterious in its origins, turned out to be nothing other than Fatah in disguise” (#1103).
Following the Munich attack, Israel’s Massad methodically hunted down and killed all the surviving terrorists. America’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, reacting to the killing of some Americans, sent a spokesman to inform PLO representatives ‘”that this killing of Americans has got to stop—or else . .. torrents of blood will flow. and not all of it will be American.’ They add that this ‘blunt message astonished his listeners [who] had not expected to hear such a direct threat from an American official.’ Kissinger says that after this, ‘attacks on Americans—at least by Arafat’s faction of the PLO—ceased”” (#1141). Europeans, however, sought to passively placate the terrorists. “Such appeasement had a corrosive effect on the spirit of Europe, as almost always happens when people bow to threats and violence rather than finding the courage to stand up to them” (#1153). Arab oil—and the threat of its reduced flow as was manifest in the 1973 embargo and subsequent recession—brought Europeans to their knees. Many countries (including 30 out of 33 black-ruled States in Africa) broke ties with Israel in order to bolster their standing with Arabs.
Arab ascendency in Europe was paralleled by triumphs in the United Nations. As the UN welcomed delegations from scores of new nations—many of them former European colonies—the balance of power quickly shifted. Given an opportunity to excoriate the rich and powerful, third world delegates engaged in endless rhetorical attacks on America and the West. Israel, identified as a Western outpost amidst an ocean of Arabs, was selected as a special target of abuse. In 1974, the Arab states introduced “Palestine” as an item for consideration and the General Assembly invited the PLO to participate in its discussions. “No one who was not a representative of a government except the Pope … had ever before been granted such a privilege, but the vote was overwhelming, 105 to 4” (#1481) Representing the PLO was Yassar Arafat, accompanied by “none other than Alt Hassan Salameh, the commander of the Munich Olympics massacre” (#1496). Brashly disregarding UN protocol, Arafat kept his pistol on his hip and pointedly called for the elimination of the state of Israel. He also effectively cultivated the strategy of equating “Zionism” with “racism” (a theme quickly spelled out in a UN resolution), thus enrolling all the modern multiculturalists for whom it is virtually the only serious sin. His “bloodthirsty harangue was greeted in the temple of nations with a standing ovation the likes of which had perhaps never been heard there before” (#1513).
In successive decades, the U.N.’s General Assembly has routinely passed resolutions decrying a laundry list of spurious Israeli “crimes” and “abuses.” Still more: various U.N. agencies (effectively aided by well-funded “non-profit” organizations such as Amnesty International and mainline Protestant denominations) actively work to promote the Palestinian cause both in the Mideast and around the world. “The conclusion is inescapable. By its countless one-sided resolutions and numerous ‘investigations’ of Israel with predetermined results; by providing a global infrastructure for the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel; and by UNRKW [United Nations Relief and Works Agency], which sustains the idea of the ‘right of return,’ the United Nations has served systematically to challenge Israel’s legitimacy and weaken its global position. This is the crucible of Israel’s demonization” (#1616).
Anti-Israeli rhetoric and maneuvers especially thrive in socialistic environments, whether intellectual or political. Well-equipped for the task, Muravchik effectively recounts 20th century developments that led to the founding of the new nation of Israel as a thoroughly socialistic state, thereby garnering considerable enthusiasm amongst egalitarian devotees around the world. The Labor Party, the kibbutzim, the general mood of the infant nations thrilled many who envisioned a socialist Utopia minus the negativities of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China. “As a kind of socialist model, Israel enjoyed great prestige within the halls of the Socialist International” (#1847). In time, however, European socialists (such as Austria’s Bruno Kreisky and West Germany’s Willy Brandt) turned away from Israel and cultivated ties with revolutionary movements throughout the “global South,” supporting the likes of Fidel Castro and, naturally, Yassar Arafat.
Kreisky and Brandt clearly represented significant changes in the socialist world. The “New Left”—birthed in 1968 by European “revolutionaries” and in America by “counter-cultural” agitators such as Tom Hayden and Bill Ayers—quickly infiltrated and transformed Western institutions. They especially targeted universities—violently seizing control of facilities, imposing demands on administrations, turning campuses into centers of political activism rather than intellectual discipline. “The books and ideas that for generations were regarded as the backbone of Western civilization were now systematically ‘deconstructed.’ Moses and Jesus, Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, Shakespeare and Tolstoy, Locke and Burke, Hamilton and Jefferson were exposed as but so many ‘dead white males’ whose principal importance was to perpetuate the hegemony of their race, class, and gender. At long last, their victims day had come, and the study of their oppression and resistance replaced the traditional ‘canon’ on the front stage of higher education” #2106). Reflecting this transformation, “Jean-Paul Sartre, once an orthodox Stalinist, gave voice to this profound rewrite of leftist canon in his preface to Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. ‘Natives of all under-developed countries, unite!’ he wrote. The riveting movement for civil rights of blacks in America melded with the global anticolonial cause to create a larger image of ‘the rest against the West,’ or rather against the White West” (#3769).
Helping orchestrate this New Left agenda was the late Columbia University Professor Edward Said, an American totally devoted to the Palestinian cause. His works are required reading in nearly a thousand university syllabi. Entire courses are devoted to him in top-tier institutions such as UCLA and Georgetown University. Influential leftists, notably Noam Chomsky, took his view of Israel and the Arabs as their own. Said made his mark in 1978 with the publication of Orientalism, a work perfectly attuned to an era dominated by white guilt for racism. A year later he published The Question of Palestine, calling for the liberation and self-determination of the oppressed Arabs residing in Israel-controlled lands. Given his influence. Said deserves examination—something Muravchik does diligently.
Though he glibly postured as a “Palestinian” Professor Said “largely falsified his background” (#2194). Said was in fact born to wealthy parents in Cairo, Egypt, and lived there until moving to the United States at the age of 15, where he received an elite education (including degrees from Princeton and Harvard) and remained for the rest of his life. His dishonesty extended from his autobiographical materials to “all his work, beginning with the most influential. Orientalism” (#2272). He distorted or ignored
evidence and misused his sources (routinely skewing quotations). At one time these were serious academic sins, but they are easily tolerated in the “postmodern” university, suffused as it is with skepticism, relativism, and nihilism. Because Said castigated white people as racists, redefining Arabs as oppressed persons of “color,” dressing up his “malignant charlatanry” with academic jargon and oblique references to celebrities such as Foucault, he enjoyed a unique status in the academic world, providing him a platform with which to rebrand Israel as a Goliath walking roughshod over poor Palestinians.
As if dealing with enemies abroad were not enough, Israelis faced mounting internal dissension, largely replicating the New Left’s agitation in Europe and America. As “the left turned against Israel it was inevitable that Jews would appear in growing numbers among Israel’s fiercest critics” (#4077), generally styling themselves “anti-Zionists.” They detested the Zionism personified by one of the nation’s founders, Menachem Begin (the powerful leader of the Likud Party and sometime prime minister) who “believed to his core that ‘the Jewish people have an eternal historic right to the Land of Israel'” (#2676)—thus envisioning a nation with the geographic boundaries established under David in the Old Testament. More secular Israelis worked to establish a compromise with Palestinians leading to a “two state” position. And some “anti-Zionists” even promoted a one-state solution, giving Palestinians full control of the nation!
Thus MIT’s Noam Chomsky, an influential American leftist, “long advocated the replacement of Israel with a bi-national socialist state along the lines of what he called the ‘successful social revolution’ of Communist Yugoslavia” (#4100). Political battles between these factions “proved to be an inexhaustible resource for Israel’s enemies, much as the Vietnam War gave rise to an ‘adversary culture’ in America that stoked an anti-Americanism that strengthened the hand of Communist forces” (#2898). Anti-Zionist academics (including “New Historians” who debunked the nation’s official version of its founding) and journalists (some cultivating a “prophetic” rather than reportorial stance) especially aired their discontent with the nation’s policies, promoting a “peace movement” that triumphed in 1993 with the Oslo Accords.
Then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who championed the “peace” attained between Jews and Palestinians at Oslo, was gunned down at a Peace Now rally in 1995. Five years later Yassar Arafat unleashed his intifada with suicide bombers blowing up buses and restaurants. We now know “that once the intifada began, Arafat’s forces released from custody hundreds of terror operatives belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad whom the Palestinian Authority had incarcerated under the system of security cooperation with Israel that had been a cornerstone of the peace process” (#4311). It became clear that large numbers of Palestinians, led by the Nobel Peace Prize recipient Arafat himself, wanted to destroy Israel rather than establish an independent state of their own.
Suddenly some of the Peace Now supporters had second thoughts! Benny Morris, the professor who coined the term “new historians,” said: “The bombing of the buses and restaurants really shook me. They made me understand the depth of the hatred for us. They made me understand that the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim hostility toward Jewish existence here is taking us to the brink of destruction. I don’t see the suicide bombings as isolated acts. They express the deep will of the Palestinian people. That is what the majority of the Palestinians want. They want what happened to the buss to happen to all of us.'” This led him to declare: “‘There is a deep problem in Islam. It’s a world whose values are different. A world in which human life doesn’t have the same value as it does in the West, in which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien. A world that makes those who are not part of the camp of Islam fair game'” (#3257).
As Muravchik’s analysis of Israel’s intelligentsia makes clear, modem Israel is generally “on the wrong side of the left’s new paradigm.” Pro-Palestinian activists such as Rachel Corrie (a 23 year old American fresh from her studies at Evergreen State College working for the International Solidarity Movement [ISM] and dying under the treads of a military bulldozer while trying to “non-violently” stop Israel’s clearing ground to deter intifada infiltrations) stirred up anti-Israeli sentiments around the world. To effectively do so, ISM distributed “a doctored photo display intended to show that the Israeli bulldozer had struck her deliberately” (#3730). Another American ISM volunteer, Richard Hupper, contributed $20,000 to Hamas, thus supporting that terrorist group’s effort to destroy Israel. To Hamas, ‘”Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope'” (#3718). While rockets rain down and grenades are thrown at them, Israelis must deal with protesters such as Hupper and Corrie who insist the Jews are the provocateurs, the occupiers, the villains in the Mideast.
Thinking about Rachel Corrie’s work in Israel, Muravchik is perplexed that: “The delicate child who admonished herself not to step on a flower, who could not endure the thought of whales dying or trees being felled, exhibited cold indifference to the death of Israelis. What force was it that had wrought such a transformation?” (#3724). It seems clear that what Eric Hoffer described in The True Believer applies to her. She (like many before her in the French and Russian and Cuban revolutions) had embraced a leftist “creed” that bred ‘”fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance'” (#3724). She clearly shared what Milovan Djilas—a leader in making Yugoslavia Communist before being sent to jail for some deviant thoughts—discerned as a blind faith that “they have been named by a higher power, which they call history, to establish the Kingdom of Heaven in this sinful world'” (#374). To true believers like Come, “the favored groups—blacks, browns, former colonials—were not merely objects of sympathy; they were regarded as the vessels of universal redemption” (#3775).
However demonstrably misguided and meretricious they may be, leftists such as Rachel Come have effectively placed “Israel in the Dock.” Jews rather than Arabs are called upon to justify their policies—indeed, to justify their very existence! Western news agencies, in their portrayal of Israel, are particularly committed to this approach, inevitably filming incidents staged to portray Palestinians as victims. Academics and churchmen tout boycotts of Israel as a way to liberate the oppressed Palestinians. Thus the famed physicist Stephen W. Hawking withdrew from a 2013 scholarly meeting in Jerusalem in order to demonstrate his “solidarity” with oppressed Arabs. His sensitive conscience was, however, apparently untroubled when he keynoted a conference in China, proudly appearing in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People and demonstrated his indifference to (if not support) of the Communist dictatorship.
With the likes of Stephen Hawking—and Jimmy Carter and Desmund Tutu—condemning Israel, the nation today stands truly imperiled. “For all its might, Israel remains a David, struggling against the odds to secure its small foothold in a violent and hostile region. The relentless campaign to recast it instead as a malevolent Goliath places it in grave peril” (#4853). A “second holocaust” is, in fact, not only desired by millions of Muslims but quite possible. The sheer number of Arabs and their oil-based wealth certainly threaten the existence of the tiny Jewish state. But more threatening “is the intellectual power of the contemporary Leftist paradigm” that denies Israel’s validity, consigning her “to the side of darkness and villainy, even in the face of the reality that, measured by the Left’s nominal values—freedom, democracy, tolerance of racial, religious, and sexual diversity, equality of status for women, generosity to the needy Israel is among the world’s best countries and its enemies rank among the worst” (#4794).