This article was written by A. Barton Hinkle and published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on September 10, 2010.
The latest issue of Time purports to explain "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace." (Hint: Blame the money-grubbing Jews!) There will be earnest efforts to point out why this is nonsense, but they will fall on deaf ears. These days a defense of Israel requires stronger measures. And perhaps nothing could do Israel more good than for the United States to declare war on it.
After all, if you want to win the support of American academics, journalists, and movie stars -- if you pine for the approbation of the U.N. Security Council and NGOs the world over -- then you should get on the wrong side of U.S. foreign policy.
This has been true at least since 1933, when The New York Times' chief Stalinist, Walter Duranty, called reports of famine in Russia "malignant propaganda." Throughout the Cold War, Americans were instructed that communism was "fundamentally a more uplifting idea than capitalism" (Andy Rooney). That "most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy" (Dan Rather). That Fidel Castro was a "dashing," "larger-than-life personality" who not only "delivered the most to those who had the least" but who turned his nation into "paradise," a "peaceable society that treasures its children" (Diane Sawyer, Peter Jennings, Rather again, CBS' Giselle Fernandez, and Newsweek).
When the Iron Curtain began to fall, Americans were told that "the transition from communism to capitalism is making more people more miserable every day" (CBS News). That "in the old Soviet Union, you never saw faces like these: the poor, the homeless . . . .[I]s this what democracy does? . . . [T]he price of freedom can be painfully high" (Barbara Walters). And so on, ad nauseam.
If you wanted agitprop about the evils of anti-communism, Hollywood was happy to oblige. If you wanted to learn about the horrors of the gulag or Soviet psychiatric prisons, Hollywood was happy to change the subject. And while you would be hard-pressed to find much regard for Ronald ("Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!") Reagan in academic circles, admiration for Mikhail Gorbachev was so high that it required the coining of a new word, Gorbasm.
We see the same thing shaping up today with regard to radical Islamic extremism. Thanks to the debate over the Park51 mosque in Manhattan, the news media suddenly are full of stories about America the Intolerant -- reporting on a "torrent of anti-Muslim sentiments and a spate of vandalism," as The New York Times put it, not long before its front-page story, "American Muslims Ask: Will We Ever Belong?" "Protesters Use 'Sharia' as a Slur and Rallying Cry Against Islam," reports The Washington Post. "Is America Islamophobic?" asks a Time cover story.
Three decades after Jimmy Carter lectured Americans about their "inordinate fear of communism," his intellectual heirs are lecturing the public about their inordinate fear of radical Islam.
"Some of what people are saying in this mosque controversy is very similar to what German media was saying about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s," an American Muslim tells The Times. Such as? Oh, maybe this: "There is indeed a belief . . . among most Jews that they are right. So it's not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is happening in the Middle East." Whoops! That wasn't from the 1930s -- it was from last week. The speaker was Karel De Gucht, the chief trade negotiator for the European Union. Never mind.
A single whackjob in Florida decides to burn the Quran, and everybody from the president to the pope to Gen. David Petraeus to Sarah Palin to the nearest blogger in Starbucks lines up to denounce the deed. And rightly so. Yet from all the furor you would scarcely know that for every bias crime against a Muslim in the U.S., there are 10 bias crimes against Jews. (E.g., in 2008 the FBI logged 7,783 hate crimes; 105 of them targeted Muslims, and 1,013 targeted Jews.)
Likewise in academia, one simply cannot be considered right-thinking if one does not deem Israel -- America's staunchest Mideast ally -- an imperialist, racist, illegitimate state that terrorizes innocent Palestinians. Hence, inter much alia, the move at Harvard to divest from Israeli companies. As for the thousands of Qassam rockets lobbed at Israeli civilians by Hamas "activists," or the fact that the Palestinian Authority's "moderate" Fatah government recently named a square in Ramallah after an infamous terrorist -- well, best not to speak of those things. Not if you want tenure, anyway.
So you can easily see what Israel would gain from a formal American declaration of war. Ideally, the declaration should come from a Republican Congress -- preferably introduced by a Tea Party insurgent, at the behest of Glenn Beck -- but that's icing on the cake. The main thing is to put the Jewish state in the same position vis-à-vis the United States as Fidel Castro or the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.
Overnight, violent pro-Israel demonstrations would break out in San Francisco and New York. The press would term them "mostly peaceful." Counter-demonstrations would be described as angry mobs. Sean Penn and Michael Moore would collaborate on a movie glorifying the Israeli Defense Forces' raid of the "Freedom Flotilla's" Mavi Marmara. Campus centers of Middle Eastern studies would discover the virulent anti-Semitism of the official Arabic press, catalogued with depressing thoroughness at Memri.org. In English departments across the land, Zionist literary criticism would become the hot new thing. Posters of Che Guevara would come off college dorm walls, to be replaced by images of David Ben-Gurion.
Who knows? If the war dragged on for a few years, maybe Time might even come to its senses.
My thoughts do not aim for your assent -- just place them alongside your own reflections for a while.--Robert Nozick.