Israel and Rape
December 11, 2003
The Return of Anti-Semitism,
headlines a cover story by Craig Horowitz in New
York magazine. Its what G.K. Chesterton used to call the
Usual Article, one you feel youve read a hundred times before.
Horowitz says the worldwide rage against the state of Israel is a
kind of politically correct anti-Semitism.
But just when youre
tempted to dismiss it as standard whining, you run across this item: at a
San Francisco rape crisis center, volunteers are asked, on an application
form, if they are willing to take action on other social justice
struggles, such as supporting Palestinian liberation and
taking a stance against Zionism. Can you commit to that?
Well, maybe. But what on earth
has rape in San Francisco got to do with the struggle in the Middle East?
Are the citys rapists Zionist agents?
Rational objections to Zionism
are one thing. I agree that it causes more than its share of the
worlds problems. But both its advocates and its enemies seem to
lose all sense of proportion about it. Surely there are other injustices to
be lamented in this sorry world. A few might be found in, say, Africa.
Granted, the state of Israel
boasts a high concentration of annoying people. But we dont have to
look far for worse examples of bloody ethnocentrism. After crushing the
Confederacy to vindicate the proposition that all men are created equal,
the U.S. Government launched a westward campaign to
exterminate the word was freely used the
American Indian. War heroes like Generals Sherman and Sheridan led the
way, under the witty slogan The only good Indian is a dead
Indian. The Israelis havent gone that far.
Britannia, the English set out to civilize much of the world, killing
as many wogs and niggers as it took to
achieve civilization in backward lands. Tiny Belgium managed to kill
millions in the Congo, largely uncommemorated. Other European powers did
their part to spread enlightenment abroad, before commencing world wars
only sketchy reminders, not a comprehensive history. We might also glance
at Arab, Mongol, and Japanese conquests. Not always pretty.
None of this excuses what the
Israelis are doing, but they didnt invent ethnocentrism. To live at
all is to be, at least at first, self-centered. And its a pretty
general human habit to feel that we are civilized and
refined, while they are crude, backward, and savage and
deserve anything we choose to mete out, from the halls of
Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. Is Ariel Sharon so different from
Andrew Jackson? The Cherokees those who are left might
have their own views on that. (Id hesitate to ask a Cherokee to
break a twenty.)
Men may believe firmly in
Original Sin without quite appreciating that it applies to them as much as
to their enemies. We all know the rules; applying them consistently is
And you really cant blame
the Zionists too much for feeling that the rules have been rather abruptly
changed on them. Not so long ago, the United States and European countries
were freely practicing the kind of nationalism, racialism, and imperialism
(and there are suspicions that they havent entirely stopped) for
which Israel is now being censured. Have we forgotten already?
By all means, lets
criticize Israel. But raw vilification isnt criticism. Criticism is
reasoned and measured. It is leery of emotionalism, hyperbole, and wild
metaphor. Its essence is comparison and proportion. The true critic may be
stinging, but he is at least sober. His words express something more than
a sour mood. He keeps references to Satan to a reasonable minimum.
(Personally, I try to bring Satan into the conversation only on very special
One of the glories of the West is
its universalism its bone-deep conviction that the same standards
apply to everyone. If you found yourself wearing a uniform and shooting
little Jewish boys, I trust youd ask yourself, Wait a minute!
How did it come to this?
Well, some Israeli soldiers are
asking themselves the same question. Fate has put them in the position of
shooting little Arab boys, and they are recoiling from their assigned role.
Every soul comes at last to the moment when it must retrace its steps. At
that moment we owe it encouragement, not condemnation.