Ah, Israel, the ultimate wedge issue for people on the right. Nothing can queer an alliance between mainstream conservatives, paleoconservatives, and white nationalists quicker than Israel. There’s so much we all agree on! Affirmative action and antiwhite racism? Blech! Illegal immigration? Phooey! The welfare state? Feh! Political correctness? Dreck! But just when we’re getting on like gangbusters, someone has to go and mention Israel, and immediately the differences begin to matter a lot more than the similarities.
Such a shanda it is.
Last week, in the wake of all the fuss and bother surrounding the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, I was contacted by The Guardian for my thoughts on, among other things, Trump’s vigorous support of Israel and how it plays with his alt-right base. The Guardian piece as published ended up focusing on general issues of alt-right dissatisfaction, so I thought I’d use my column this week to delve a bit deeper into the Israel issue.
During my Holocaust revisionist years in the 1990s, I encountered—no surprise here—lots and lots of “anti-Zionists.” After my forced reemergence as David Cole in 2013, I encountered even more. People in those circles continue to be amazed that I’m a supporter of Israel. I, on the other hand, continue to be amused at the level of anti-Israel sentiment that exists among self-described white nationalists and alt-rightists. I don’t quite get it. Israel is the closest thing to “the West” in that fetid sandlot known as the Middle East, and Israelis do exactly the types of things that white nationalists and alt-rightists want to do themselves (build walls to halt immigration, unapologetically racially profile in the name of safety, unashamedly fight to preserve an ethno-state, etc.). Yet rather than admiration from the “white right,” Israel gets hostility.
Back in the ’90s, I got my ear bent by a lot of Arabs, who would hang around revisionist events and conferences like burrs on a sweater. They never contributed a damn thing. Talking about the Muslim contribution to Holocaust revisionism is like talking about the Maasai contribution to space travel. But boy, would those Muslims talk your ear off about their woes. Those guys were like the Islamic version of the most exaggerated Hollywood stereotypes of hillbillies. “Muh lah-yand! Git off muh lah-yand! They dun took muh lah-yand!” Anytime I would try to have a rational discussion with one of those sad sacks, the discussion would always revert back to “the Jews took our land,” as though that magical statement had the power to kill any debate about tactics.
Have you thought about the fact that maybe blowing up buses isn’t the best long-term solution to the problem?
“The Jews took our land!”
You know, massacring an Olympic team might not have been a great strategy.
“The Jews took our land!”
So going to the top of the Empire State Building and shooting a Danish musician in the head somehow helps your cause?
“The Jews took our land!”
Look, I’m not blind to the Palestinian predicament. Yes, their ancestors lost land in a war that didn’t go well for them (and then another, and then another…). But Palestinians forget a fairly important rule that all “oppressed” people have no choice but to consider, especially if they’ve suffered one humiliating defeat after another: Being “oppressed” doesn’t free you from the responsibility of crafting an intelligent strategy to improve your lot. Being right isn’t enough; you also have to be smart. Unfortunately, to the average self-righteous zealot (especially those driven to some degree or another by religion), being right is enough, and mindlessly repeating a failed strategy is seen as a good thing, a sign of faith.
I really don’t understand why the whining of Palestinians catches the ear of anyone on the alt-right. I mean, the cornerstone of the Palestinian cause is that they were “colonized by Europeans” who “grabbed land via warfare.” And you, Mr. Alt-Righter, are sympathetic to that complaint? You think we should force Israel to “give that land back”? Funny, because when the Aztlán loons in the Southwest also claim to have been “colonized by Europeans” who “grabbed land via warfare,” and when they claim that Mexico deserves to “get that land back,” I don’t hear a lot of sympathy. In fact, all I hear from alt-rightists is “Hey, wars happen. The Indians fought; they lost. The Mexicans fought; they lost. We don’t owe them their land back.”
I just don’t accept the notion that gaining territory through war suddenly became a crime against humanity in 1945, right after—and what a coincidence this is!—the victorious Allies gained a shitload of territory from Germany following World War II. That 1945 “deadline” is arbitrary, and I don’t buy into it. As far as I’m concerned, Israel has a right to keep every damn square inch of land it won, and I don’t see that as a position that betrays any particular pro-Jewish or anti-Muslim bias. If a Latino gentleman were to come to me bitching about how “this California ranchland used to be la casa de mi familia until we were forcibly repatriated after the Mexican-American War, so therefore I deserve it back,” I’d tell him to get bent.
Now, having said that, let me make one thing clear. Anything that can be said about the Palestinian leadership can also be said about the Israeli leadership. The Palestinian leaders are fanatical? So are the Israeli hard-liners. The Palestinians use brutish and violent tactics? So do the Israelis. The Palestinian leaders have an unrealistic, one might even say insane, concept of what will lead to success (“blow up enough buses and one day the Jews will surrender and leave”)? The Israeli hard-liner “blueprint for victory” is every bit as lunatic (“if we continue to make life as intolerable as possible for the Muslims, one day they’ll just up and go”). But this “equivalence” misses a vitally important point: The Israelis can afford to be violent, brutish, unrealistic fanatics. They have the power. They have the army, the nukes, and the unfailing support of the U.S. The Palestinians can’t afford to be morons. They live in squalor. Their kids grow up in slums that would make J.J. from Good Times vomit in revulsion. They have to be smart, and yet I see no proof that any meaningful percentage of them want to be.
The 1990s witnessed the heyday of Palestinian bus, restaurant, and public-square bombings. What did that tactic do except create a generation of Jewish kids, many of whom grew up to become soldiers, bitterly carrying memories of the fear they lived in during the days when any public location could in an instant turn into a hellstorm of fire and shrapnel? Now, I’m sure at the time the notion of traumatizing the enemy seemed mighty appealing to the Palestinians. “We shall make them suffer as we do!” Hey, Ali, how’d that work out for you? Especially as you now have to deal with the brutal actions of Israeli soldiers who grew up during those years. Was visiting your trauma upon your foes a good plan, long-term?
In the 1980s, South African blacks, on advice from leftist whites (and, ironically, Jews) decided to take a very sound piece of advice: Stop committing terrorist acts against white South Africans. Don’t traumatize the folks who have to approve the dissolution of their own rule. Reserve your violence (like, say, those snazzy burning-tire “necklaces”) for the traitors in your own ranks. But to whites, be all Gandhi-like, be all “oh, heaven forbid, I’d never use violence in my quest for freedom,” and in no time at all, the name Mandela will become synonymous with Jesus. And it worked. Black South Africans got majority rule, and slowly but surely they’re getting the ethnic cleansing that their PR machine promised they didn’t seek.
Post–World War II (West) Germans took a smart approach to the problem of lost land and a refugee/expellee crisis ten times worse in terms of raw numbers than the Palestinian refugee/expellee crisis following the Arab-Israeli War: Take in the refugees, stop whining about the lost territories, and get on with your lives. Black South Africans took a smart approach to ending apartheid: Show discipline and control your bloodlust, and in the long run, you’ll get the revenge you seek. If Palestinians ever decide to wise up and seek a smart approach, good for them. But until then, I feel no desire to give them a hand. And all I can do is shake my head in puzzlement as white nationalists and alt-rightists, who always make such a huge deal about having no desire to rescue Third Worlders from the consequences of their own ignorance, rally to their aid.
To be sure, a lot of anti-Israel sentiment on the part of the more reasonable elements among the far right comes from a place of “Israel is a millstone around our neck regarding our relationship with the Muslim world, and Israeli lobbyists meddle too much in our foreign policy.” Granted. No argument from me. I’d never for a moment deny the influence of Zionist advocacy groups on U.S. foreign policy (and for the record, I’d be tickled pink if all foreign aid—to every country—disappeared tomorrow). But the conspiracy-minded on the far right tend to see “Zionism’s” hand in everything they hate. “My health insurance premiums just went up…fuckin’ Zionists!” “The Supreme Court just approved gay marriage…fuckin’ Zionists!” “The dang city won’t fix the potholes on my street…fuckin’ Zionists!” Too many on the far right take anti-Zionism to ridiculous extremes. There’s also a tendency to assume that “all of our problems” with the Muslim world come from our support of Israel. That’s simply not true. A lot of the radicalization and destabilization that occurred in the Muslim world in the 20th century was the result of Cold War politics (Iran and Afghanistan, for example), oil, and European colonialism. Israel is and has been a factor, sure. And not a small one. But it’s hardly the only factor.
Overreaching and overarching conspiracy theories about “Zionist influence” might be comforting to those who want to see Israel as the octopussian world center of all that is evil, but don’t expect Trump to share that worldview. Those on the far right who managed to convince themselves that Trump was going to be an “anti-Zionist” president who would clean house of “Jewish influence” are beyond deluded. If they got a rude awakening last week as Trump cozied up to Netanyahu, it’s their own fault for getting lost in a fantasy world.
Building a wall? Banning Muslims? Kicking out unwanted immigrants? How can Trump not feel an affinity for Israel? And if they want to continue supporting their “emperor,” white nationalists and alt-righters will just have to bite the bagel and deal with it.
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