Commentary Magazine

Israel’s New Reality

On August 12, two days before the ceasefire in Lebanon took hold, Ari Shavit, a prominent Israeli journalist and contributor to the New Yorker, published an opinion piece in the liberal Hebrew daily Haaretz, for which he writes regularly. A blistering attack on Israel's government and army, it held both of them responsible for a “wartime failure” caused by “faulty intelligence,” a “delusional logistical network,” “improper preparedness,” and “scandalous strategic bumbling,” and it pinned the blame for the debacle on the post-Zionist outlook of Israel's “elites.” These elites, Shavit declared,

with their unending attacks, both direct and indirect, on nationalism, on militarism, and on the Zionist narrative, have eaten away from the inside at the tree trunk of Israel's existence and sucked away its life force. [They] have become totally divorced from reality. Capital [i.e., business], the media, and the academic world of the 1990's and the first decade of the 21st century have blinded Israel and deprived it of its spirit. Any national idea was rejected [by these elites] because of the sanctity of the private sphere. Every cooperative ethos was dismantled in favor of the individual. Power was identified with fascism. Masculinity was publicly condemned. The pursuit of absolute justice was mixed with the pursuit of absolute pleasure and turned the reigning discourse from a discourse of commitment and enlistment to one of protest and pampering.

Having lulled Israel to sleep with an opium dream of the post-Zionist good life, Shavit held, Israel's leaders discovered that their country was too groggy to perform adequately when waked on the morning of July 12, the day Hizballah triggered hostilities by abducting two Israeli soldiers and killing eight more. “We were poisoned,” Shavit wrote, “with an illusion of normalcy.” This is an illusion, he went on, because

the state of Israel is fundamentally an abnormal state. It is a Jewish state in an Arab region, and . . . a Western country in an Arab region, and . . . a democratic state in a region of fanaticism and despotism. Israel is in constant tension with its surroundings. On the one hand, because of the situation in which it finds itself, Israel cannot live a life of European normalcy. On the other hand, because of its values and structure . . . Israel cannot avoid being a part of European normalcy.

To this fundamental dilemma, Shavit did not hesitate to offer a solution, or rather a prescription:

What is needed is to create immediately a new discourse that will suit the new situation. Without a new spirit and without a new language there will be no victory in the fighting. . . . There is no future for an Athens without a speck of Sparta. There is no hope for a society-of-life that does not know how to organize itself to deal with death. . . . We are returning to the encounter with our fate; returning to what is decreed by the reality of our lives.

Shavit's article, widely cited in Israel and abroad, struck its readers as a particularly damning attack on the Israeli establishment because it came not from the nationalist Right but from a political Center that its author has been identified with since his first appearances in the Hebrew press in the 1990's. The war in Lebanon, he now held, had been a disaster for Israel. Yet as can be the case with military disasters in the lives of nations, it was also an opportunity for renewal. Such a renewal, he wrote two weeks later, returning to the pages of Haaretz on August 28, meant “restoring Israel's [military] power.” This was not something that could be done, however, simply by an investment in armed might. On the contrary: it demanded “ethics,” “truth,” “modesty,” “substance,” “faith,” and “a sense of responsibility,” and it involved, Shavit wrote, no less than “the great task of fixing Israel.”


How great a disaster for Israel last summer's war was will have to await the judgment of history. More good may yet come of the fighting than its critics are currently ready to concede.

Nor can one so neatly put the blame for the demise of Zionism at the door of Israel's “elites.” Parts of these elites, in the media and the universities, have indeed been engaged for years in “deconstructing” the Zionist “narrative.” But other parts, especially in the army and government, are the last places where the rhetoric of Zionism, which vanished from the Israeli street long ago, can still be heard. The deeper causes of Zionism's passing as a motive force in Israeli life lie elsewhere: in the end of collectivist ideologies in Europe and America, the de-legitimization of nationalism in the intellectual discourse of the West, the worldwide triumph of the market economy, globalization. To expect Israel's elites to have shielded it from such trends is unreasonable.

Still, the fact remains that Israel's army and government performed poorly last summer. In no other war did the Israel Defense Force accomplish so little in so much time and with such an advantage in numbers and firepower; in no other did Israel's government act with such hesitation and confusion. Even without the embarrassing rash of scandals that erupted as soon as the war ended—a chief-of-staff accused of selling off his stocks in the hours between the abduction of the two soldiers and the commencement of open hostilities, a prime minister linked to corruption, a president facing charges of sexual misconduct, and still more—most Israelis seemed to agree with Shavit that something had gone badly wrong at the level of national leadership. How could such a leadership have rushed into a fray for which it was so ill-prepared?

How, indeed, could an entire country have been so deluded about its overall situation? A year ago, after the successful disengagement from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Israelis in general were feeling more optimistic about the future than they had been for a long time, buoyed by a drop in terror attacks, an economy that was growing again, and a plan put forward by two prime ministers, Ariel Sharon and his successor Ehud Olmert, to reach a détente with the Palestinians by withdrawing unilaterally, on the Gaza model, from most of the West Bank. An interminable conflict that had resisted all solutions for over 50 years appeared at last to be tractable, precisely because this no longer depended on the Palestinians' good will or intentions but rather on a self-initiated separation from them.

Now, a year later, its wisdom having been called into question even before the hostilities in Lebanon by the Hamas takeover of the Palestinian Authority and the firing of Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel, unilateralism is a dead letter.
1 In view of the powerful fighting machine that Hizballah was revealed to have built in southern Lebanon after Israel's withdrawal from there in the year 2000, no Israeli government can contemplate giving Hamas, or for that matter, anyone else in the Palestinian Authority, the freedom of a similarly evacuated West Bank. And with West Bank disengagement struck from its agenda, Ehud Olmert's ruling coalition, hard-pressed to defend the prime minister's shaky conduct of the war, has been left purposeless and floundering.

The economy has been handed a stiff war bill. Hizballah's strong showing can only encourage the forces of radical Islam dedicated to Israel's destruction. The sympathy shown for Hizballah by many of Israel's Arab citizens and their politicians is a reminder of the collision course that the country's Arab minority and Jewish majority have been on. Hizballah's patron and supplier, Iran, may soon have nuclear weapons. The skies that looked bright last autumn have clouded over.


In discussing Israel's post-war despondency, therefore, one must realize that it is not just a reaction to “wartime failure.” It is based on a revised assessment of a future that suddenly, in terms of Israel's chances of living securely in the Middle East, appears bleaker than at almost any time since its establishment in 1948.

True, after a long period of total siege by the Arab world, Israel has for years now lived in a state of formal if cold peace with two of its four neighbors. Yet even at the height of that siege, it was assumed by Israelis that, as the post-colonial Arab world matured, it would come to accept the Jewish state's presence. This confidence was strengthened by the resounding Israeli military victory of 1967 and, despite the shock of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, was seemingly borne out by the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties of 1979 and 1995, and by the 1993 Oslo agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization—which, when it unraveled and finally came apart in the 2000 intifada, was replaced by a belief in unilateralism. Never during this entire period was there a moment in which some resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts was not imaginable.

That moment has now arrived. With unilateralism, too, exposed as a chimera, Israel now finds itself, vis-à-vis the Palestinians, at a bitter impasse. For the first time in its history it is impossible even to conceive of how it might unlock horns with them. If Israel cannot withdraw from the West Bank on its own, it can do so only by negotiating an agreement with a stable and responsible Palestinian government—yet no such government and no such agreement are remotely in the offing. If Israel remains in the West Bank, it must continue to deny popular sovereignty to millions of Palestinians; come closer every year to the point of no return at which the growth of Jewish settlements will make future withdrawal impossible; and go on battling Palestinian terror, which will quite likely grow worse as weapons more lethal than Kassams and suicide bombs find their way to the terrorists' hands.

Meanwhile, virulent hatred of Israel and outright anti-Semitism have become pandemic in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Radical Islam is gaining strength. Both Egypt and Jordan are threatened by it. So is Iraq, where the West's war has not been going well. Iranian power and influence are on the rise. Looming on the horizon is the threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of a country whose leaders speak openly of the mass murder of Jews.

Hence, Ari Shavit believes, the need to come to terms with Israel's “fundamentally abnormal” situation. Classical Zionism always believed in the normalization of the Jewish condition. Although it never aspired to turn Jews into carbon copies of Italians, Englishmen, or Americans, it looked forward to the day when, with the end of exile, they could live ordinary lives in a Jewish state, as securely at home there as any other people in its land. In this respect, Zionism was a bold attempt to lay down the burden of Jewish history. To a people that had always been different and had paid a high price for it, it said “Enough!” At the same time that it was a defiant affirmation of Jewish nationhood, it rebelled against a Jewish destiny that had set Jews apart from the rest of the human race.

In calling on Israelis to “return to an encounter with [their] fate” and consciously re-shoulder the burden of Jewish difference, Ari Shavit is thus making a profoundly post-Zionist statement himself. If this summer's war against Hizballah should have taught Israelis anything, he believes, it is that they must cultivate a higher degree of mutual responsibility, cohesiveness, morality, and national purpose than exists in “normal” societies. Otherwise, they will lose the edge needed for survival in a region in which their foes are becoming more capable and more resolute all the time. And in order to achieve and maintain such standards, they must have a meaningful way of understanding their situation—a “new discourse,” as he puts it—that will replace a classical Zionism that no longer answers to the times.


For many Israelis, of course, there is no need for a “new discourse.” They have a perfectly serviceable old one, far older than Zionism. It is called Judaism.

The resurgence of Orthodoxy in Israel in recent years, and its attraction for many secular Israelis, is a function not only of the contemporary crisis of secular values that has led to a return to traditional religion in many parts of the world but also of Israel's unique situation. When Israelis ask themselves why, despite Zionism's promise to the Jews that their enemies would vanish with the advent of a Jewish state, they now have a wider circle of foes than ever, it is Judaism that has the most coherent answer. “In every generation there are those who stand over us to destroy us,” says the Passover Haggadah, and the belief that this is rooted in the nature of things and that God's chosen people will inevitably draw the wrath of those who quarrel with His choice is intrinsic to Jewish religious thought. Religious Jews may be the only Jews who are never surprised by perduring anti-Semitism.

There is great consistency and a certain comfort in this point of view. It cannot be discouraged by adversity, since adversity is a sign that the Jews are faithful to their role. It does not lose heart when the hope for normality dies, for this hope is a flight from the Jews' covenant with God. And it has a remedy to offer Israeli society that is not, in some ways, very different from the remedy proposed by Ari Shavit: a rejection of individualism and the culture of self-fulfillment, a return to Jewish solidarity and a commitment to higher values.

In the political turmoil that Israel is about to be thrown into, the religious parties and their allies on the secular Right, both of which emerged badly battered from the disengagement in Gaza, stand to be strengthened again. If new elections are held in response to public discontent with the Olmert government and to disarray within its ranks, both Olmert's Kadima party and its Labor coalition partner will do badly. Should elections not be held, Kadima—which, cobbled together by Ariel Sharon after he and his followers bolted Likud a year ago, has no rank-and-file and little organizational structure—may simply melt away, with enough of its Knesset members defecting back to Likud to enable the latter to form a new right-of-center coalition.

Most Likud supporters, like other voters on the secular Right, do not view Israel's situation through the prism of religious Orthodoxy. Yet just as they are more sympathetic than voters on the Left to Jewish religious observance, so they are closer in their sensibilities to Orthodoxy's perceptions of reality. Many of them could adjust to the idea of a permanently beleaguered Israel, going its own way and following its own path.

This would not, however, be a way of rethinking Israel's situation in the world. It would be a way of thinking Israel out of the world.


And there is more to the world, for Israel, than gloom. There is America, whose friendship in the years of the Bush administration has been magnificent. And there is not just America. Preoccupied with their own troubles, Israelis have paid less attention than they should have to the international response to this summer's war, which differed dramatically from reactions to previous Arab-Israeli wars.

Compare it, for example, with what happened when Israel launched its preemptive attack against Egypt and Syria in June 1967. Then, within 24 hours, a joint U.S.-Soviet resolution was unanimously passed by the United Nations Security Council demanding an immediate ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal with no quid pro quo of any kind. Or compare it with an even more analogous situation in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon in order to smash the PLO. That very day, the Security Council again voted unanimously, calling on Israel to pull its troops out “forthwith and unconditionally.” Nothing was asked of the PLO or of Lebanon, and no Israeli interests were taken into account. (In the end, with a measure of American connivance, Israel ignored both resolutions and continued to fight.)

This past summer, by contrast, the Security Council waited a month before acting, giving Israel, notwithstanding European criticism of its “disproportionate use” of force, a green light to press on. And when Resolution 1701 was finally adopted, it blamed Hizballah for the fighting, made an Israeli withdrawal conditional on the behavior of the other side, and mandated the implementation of key Israeli war aims, including the demilitarization of Hizballah and an embargo on arms shipments to it. Indeed, well before this, the G-8 powers meeting in Russia had blamed the war on the “extremist forces” of Hizballah and called not for a ceasefire but merely for “creat[ing] conditions for a cessation of violence that will be sustainable”—that is, for allowing the Israeli offensive to proceed until it achieved its goals.

The difference is striking, all the more so because, in 1967, Israel's image in the world was at a high, while in 2006, America being a salient exception, it was far from that. The countries of the European Union, plus Russia, Japan, and even China, did not cooperate with the U.S. in backing Israel this past summer in order to please either Washington, with which they have not hesitated to disagree over other issues, or public opinion at home.
2 They did what they did because they thought it in their interest.

The nature of this interest is clear. Europe is worried about Iran. It is worried about the jihadist threat to the moderate Arab regimes it trades with and buys oil from. It is worried about its own Muslim minorities. Later than it should have, it has come to realize that radical Islam is a menace to it, too. Like Israel and America, it wanted to see Hizballah demolished, and like them, it was disappointed when it wasn't.

Of course, Europe remains Europe. It continues to emote about halting Iran's nuclear program while opposing sanctions that would be bad for business, and it wants the ceasefire it helped broker in Lebanon to be enforced without its soldiers getting in harm's way. Convictions without courage are a continental specialty. Still, by and large, European convictions in the summer of 2006 were with Israel.

Israel has often been called an outpost of Western civilization. Even when this is meant as a compliment, which is not always the case, it is not one that Jews need hurry to embrace. Western civilization, as they know, includes the Inquisition and Auschwitz.

Nor is radical Islam quite the antithesis to this civilization—the anti-West—that it is often made out to be. Its theology comes from its reading of a Qur'an that borrows heavily from Hebrew Scripture, its political philosophy owes a great deal to 19th- and 20th-century European totalitarian thinkers, and its arsenal of terror depends on state-of-the-art Western technology. It is less an anti-West than a caricature of the West, one whose very crudeness long kept it from being recognized for the danger it is. For while its combination of intellectual primitivism and organizational and technological sophistication should have been familiar from the histories of Bolshevism and Nazism, revolutionaries swearing by the beard of the Prophet were not quickly credited with the political cunning possessed by their European predecessors.

Be that as it may, however, Israel belongs today, culturally and politically, to the West. And now that the West is at war with radical Islam, it and Israel are fighting the same battle. A large part of America understood this long ago. The response to this past summer's hostilities in Lebanon suggests that a part of Europe is beginning to understand it, too.

This is something without precedent in Jewish history. Although it has become a cliché of our times to refer to Israel and the Jewish people as the world's “canary in the mineshaft,” any successful attack on which will be followed by a more sweeping assault on democracy elsewhere, the actual history of modern anti-Semitism is one in which Jews and Israel have had to stand alone. They have had their sympathizers and defenders, but—America again partially excepted—the number of intellectuals and statesmen who have fought for them in the clear knowledge that they were also fighting for themselves has been small. A canary, after all, is no more than a disposable early warning system.

But this past summer in Lebanon, Europe—gingerly, to be sure, mealy-mouthedly, to be sure, taking a half-step backward for every step forward—treated Israel for the first time as the potential ally in the war against Islamic terror that America has been treating it as for years.

And yet Europe's greatest problem is not Islamic terror alone. Terror is a sideshow compared with the related threat posed by Europe's Muslim immigrant minority. In some European countries, Muslims now constitute close to a tenth of the population; in all of them, this percentage will go on rising steeply for at least another generation as a consequence of low European birthrates (the average Spanish or Italian woman has half as many children as the average Jewish woman in Israel), high Muslim ones, and a continued influx from Islamic countries that anti-immigration laws will not stop entirely because Europe needs working hands that it itself cannot provide.

In any case, it is too late to solve the problem by shutting Europe's gates. It must be dealt with in the only way that immigrants have ever been successfully dealt with: by integrating them and giving them an identification with their adopted homeland. If this cannot be done, Europe will be permanently saddled with a poor, unacculturated, disaffected, high-crime Muslim underclass that will imperil its prosperity, its security, and its very identity.

And yet the nation-states of Europe are more poorly equipped to handle this task than ever before. It is certainly possible—Jews are the proof of it—to turn a non-Christian immigrant into a German, Englishman, or Frenchman. But how, in an age in which German, English, and French identity has been greatly weakened by the rise of a supra-national Europe, do you turn a Moroccan or Pakistani Muslim directly into a European? And how, especially, do you turn him into one when he already has a supra-national identity of his own as a member of the umma of Islam and is hardly in need or in quest of another?

In both Europe and the Islamic world, the nation-state is the missing term today. In the former it is on the wane; in most of the latter, stillborn. It was the failure of post-colonial Arab and Muslim regimes to create strong national identities that first led to the pan-Arab politics of the 1950's and 60's, and subsequently to political pan-Islamism. For obvious reasons, nationalism has been in bad repute since World War II. And yet nation-states remain the only political entities that can stand between a chaos of warring clans, tribes, and sects, always the bane of the Arabs as it is of other regions of the world (such as nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa), and the imperial claims of all-embracing structures like Islam—which, in its jihadist version, views every human being as either a Muslim or someone who is destined to become one.


Israel was created as a nation-state just when the nation-state in Europe began to be regarded as superannuated. For that very reason, the continued relevance of the nation-state in today's world must stand at the center of any serious intellectual defense of Israel. If political nationhood is on the verge of obsolescence (as intellectuals like Tony Judt like to argue), Israel is indeed a costly exercise in futility (as they also claim). If nationhood still has a vital role to play, Israel stands for something of importance.

The “new discourse” called for by Ari Shavit needs to begin here. This may seem quite abstract when compared with such topics as the recent war in Lebanon, post-Zionist elites, morally and financially corrupt politicians, and an insufficiently idealistic Israeli public; but it is the necessary lever to lift the discussion to a higher plane.

The Jews are among the oldest of the world's nations. And because nations are thorns in the side of empires, the Jews have been disliked by imperial powers just as much as they have been disliked by other nations among which they have lived. They have always fought for the right to be themselves, whether politically in the Roman Empire, spiritually in the religious empire of the Catholic Church, or socially in the nation-states of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Europe. And that fight has also been, even if Jews did not historically think of it this way, for every other people's right to be itself, too.

The nation-state is the only reliable vehicle in modern times for preserving the heritage of a people. If Israeli intellectuals were to reflect on this, they might dwell less on the solitariness of their fate and more on its commonality with the fate of others. There is an irony in the fact that Zionism, initially because of its association with the British Mandate, and then because of close U.S.-Israeli relations, has become regularly associated with Western imperialism when the true imperial forces in the Middle East have always been, instead, Arabism and Islam. These, starting with the Arab conquest of the area in the 7th century C.E., have imposed a uniformity of language, culture, and religion wherever they have spread. In recent decades they have sought to crush the Kurds of Iraq and the Africans of southern Sudan, to repress Berber culture in North Africa, to attack the Copts of Egypt and the Nestorians of Iraq—and to destroy the state of Israel.

A “new discourse” among Israeli intellectuals might concern itself with Israel's relationship to such minorities, as to minorities everywhere. It might ponder Israel's natural affinity with the national struggles of all small peoples, some of whom—the Tibetans, for example—have cultures every bit as unique and rich as that of the Jews. On his visit to Israel earlier this year, the Dalai Lama, with little protest from the public or from Israeli intellectuals, was cold-shouldered by Israel's government because of pressure from the Chinese, who have regularly sold arms and given support to Israel's enemies. Yet the Tibetan leader has spoken often about how, in their struggle for cultural and religious survival, the Tibetans have found inspiration in the Jews. There is reason for rue when he has been able to see in a Jewish state what a Jewish state does not see in itself.

Israel's treatment of its own Muslim and Christian minorities has hardly been exemplary. (I am not speaking of the Palestinians, whose tragedy was to a great extent brought upon them by themselves.) In this respect, although the failure of each to integrate its minorities has its own cause, Israel and Europe face many of the same ethnic challenges and will have to find many of the same answers to them. Indeed, all around today's world there are countries with warring ethnic and religious groups, violent territorial disputes, long-standing quarrels with their neighbors. A state of “fundamental abnormality” is normal in many of them.

And how “normal” is anywhere these days? Travelers trying to fly from British airports this past summer had every reason to wish they were flying from Tel Aviv instead; two-thirds of Americans polled this year reported fearing that a major terrorist attack on the United States was imminent. It is not only Israelis who have their anxieties.

Of course Israel is different. Four-thousand rockets fell nowhere else this past summer. Israel's existence is threatened like no other country's. But its intellectuals, guilty of a hubris of their own, might stop contemplating their own country's woes long enough to look up and take note that many of these are also part of the contemporary human condition. There is a sense of purpose to be gotten from being part of the world that is not necessarily less than that to be gotten from standing apart from it.


National renewals cannot be engineered. “Ethics,” “truth,” “modesty,” “substance,” and “faith,” all on Ari Shavit's shopping list, are not purchasable commodities. Countries often change for the better and for the worse simultaneously. Yet what many Israelis fail to see these days is that not a few of the domestic embarrassments currently afflicting them are actually signs of a change for the better. If the higher standards of conduct being applied to Israeli politicians today had reigned in the past, more than one previous Israeli war hero and high cabinet minister would have gone to jail for sexual misconduct, financial improprieties, archeological looting, or other crimes. The country was never so virtuous then that it should be considered so sinful today. In Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the army was accused of being first, unprepared, and then, too cautious and worrying overly about its soldiers' lives. But it was similarly not ready and similarly cautious and moving slowly in 1973 when Ariel Sharon ignored orders and brilliantly stormed the Suez Canal with his troops, punching a hole between the Second and Third Egyptian Armies. Had his maneuver failed, he would have been pilloried for insubordination and recklessness.

Israel, after Lebanon, will certainly have to reconsider its priorities. But it already has the “speck of Sparta” that Shavit demands of it, and it is not clear how much more, if any, it needs. More money for the army, to “restore” Israel's “power,” and more money for social-welfare programs, to demonstrate Israel's “sense of responsibility,” also mean more taxes, and Israelis, particularly the middle class, are already overtaxed and overburdened with responsibilities. Economically, too, Israel belongs to the world, and has learned in recent years that governments that least get in the way of their citizens' ability to make a living and get ahead end up presiding over the wealthiest populations. Ehud Olmert has been much mocked for his declaration before the war that he intended to make Israel a “fun place to live.” Yet this is not in itself a bad thing to be, and Israelis, like anyone else, will be more ready to die for a country they love than for one that they don't and have the option, in an age of global mobility, of leaving. Make Israel a pleasanter place, and “ethics,” “truth,” and the rest have a better chance of following of their own accord.

Finally, the war against Hizballah has created a new opportunity for Israel to work in concert with major countries besides the United States. The first test of this collaboration will come in Lebanon itself, where it remains to be seen how much of its mandate the new UNIFIL will carry out. It will have to take its job seriously if Europe wishes to gain Israel's confidence, which it has never enjoyed in the past, but if that confidence is gained, there could perhaps be a role some day for a European force in the West Bank, too. And Israel, for its part, will have to win Europe's confidence in return. In the absence of meaningful political negotiations with the Palestinians, the worst mistake a right-wing government could make in the years ahead would be to permit Jewish settlements beyond the West Bank security fence to resume growing until Israel and the Palestinians are condemned to an irrevocable state of unhappy and violent cohabitation.

Post-post-Zionism, to give Shavit's “new discourse” a name, could reverse post-Zionism's disenchanted appraisal of Zionism and come to view the latter for what it was: a culminating moment in Jewish history and one to be supremely proud of, without which the Jewish future would have ceased to be of any interest. It could make the case that Jewish nationhood and all that is implied by it—a small people's will to live, its determination to transmit its heritage, its upholding of the institutions of family and child-bearing that are necessary for such an enterprise—have significance not only for Jews. And it could, one hopes, stick by Zionism's ambition of making the Jews at home in the world. When all is said and done, there is no reason for them to be more abnormal than anyone else.



1 For more on this development, see my articles in COMMENTARY, “Israel After Disengagement” (October 2005) and “What Israel Did (and Did Not) Vote For” (May 2006).

2 And yet this opinion, at least to judge by Le Monde, Figaro, El Pais, El Mundo, and ABC—the newspapers I read in France and Spain while on vacation for two weeks in the middle of the war—was also, despite daily reports of the devastation wreaked upon Lebanon, more sympathetic to Israel than I remember it having been on previous visits to Europe. Several of these papers ran more than one strongly worded op-ed in Israel's favor, and Le Monde even featured on its front pages a two-part article by Bernard-Henri Lévy that was effusively pro-Israel.

3 A slightly longer-range perspective on the European response would also take into account Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005, followed by the prompt devolution of the Palestinian Authority there into economic malfeasance and fraternal violence, accompanied by continuing cross-border terrorism and rocket attacks on Israeli civilian targets. Just as the withdrawal met with widespread European approval, what followed it may well have served to clarify for many Europeans exactly what Israel has been up against in its struggle to survive.


About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.

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