In Israel this week, I flew to the northern border with Lebanon. From a military outpost, I looked over the barbed wire which separates the two countries, and surveyed the attractive, rocky country beyond. In the far distance, Mount Hermon rose, snow-capped and remote.
A thin, shy, clever officer from Israeli military intelligence explained to us what we could see. There, in the middle of a village, was a large white house. It is a home for the physically handicapped, but inside is concealed a Hizbollah observation post, which cannot be attacked without injuring the innocent inmates. [It seems that Hezbollah has learnt this lesson from Hamas. Hezbollah hides behind women and children, or, in this case, behind the physically handicapped. That way, if Israel attacks Hezbollah it may well kill innocent civilians – which is precisely what Hezbollah and Hamas want. They know that it turns gullible left-liberals and leftists even more against Evil Israel.] To the right were several Christian villages, and a Sunni one, but most of these are now dominated by the Shia, from whom Hizbollah is drawn. A Lebanese army border post was visible to the far right, but neither its soldiers, nor those of the UN force, Unifil, have any serious power.
Further off, straight ahead of us, was the town where the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, popped up last October, using a stadium rally to denounce Israel and display Iranian strength. Since then, that strength has grown. Hizbollah, which depends on Iran for its money and training, and on Syria for refuge and political support, has taken effective control of the government of Lebanon. [Iran has been financing Hezbollah atrocities against Israel, and many other states and individuals (e.g. the Argentinian massacres), for many years. Hezbollah, like Iran, is Shia Muslim.]
Within one sweep of the eye, then, we could see the difference between hope and reality. In 2005, Lebanon experienced its "Cedar Revolution". Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, protesting against the Syrian/Hizbollah-backed assassination of their prime minister, Rafik Hariri. [Yes, not all Lebanese love the Hezbollah ‘freedom fighters’, as the SWP would have us believe. In fact, only Shia Lebanese truly support Hezbollah, with a few Sunni exceptions.] Just as they are doing this month all over the Middle East, Western television reports celebrated the event. The democratic will prevailed. Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon. [We hear so much about the Israel ‘invasion’ of Lebanon from the Left, but next to nothing about this and and the other Syrian invasions of Lebanon. In fact, Syrians have taken far more Lebanese lives than Israel ever has. However, the Israelis are ‘white capitalists’, whereas Hezbollah is a Brown Exotic group which defends the Oppressed.] Yet today, six years on, Lebanon has never been a less politically plural place. The Christians believe that they are all but finished; the Sunni minority are embattled; the Shia extremists are back, and in charge. [Muslims moan about ‘crusaders’ and ‘Zionists’, but what about the ancient war between Sunni and Shia Muslims, which has been going on for over 1000 years? What about the Jordanian, Syrian, Egyptian massacres of the Palestinians, etc?]
This example is worth bearing in mind as the West tries to read the current rush of events in the Muslim world. A few days in Israel at this juncture is a good antidote to the sheer gloopiness of our own television reporting. [Note Jeremy Bowen’s (BBC) obsequiousness and unquestioning praise of the Libyans and all the other Arabs who are revolting. Does he really believe that there will be Western-style democracy after any of these revolutions? And ‘why should there be?’]
It is right that the Western media should reflect some of the natural delight most people feel when the powerless come together and protest against their corrupt rulers. We are all touched to see these human yearnings for greater justice.
But as our famous reporters move on to new scenes of action, other players in the drama, to whom we pay scant attention, move in. As they left Tunisia for Egypt, in from London (incredible how often it is our own dear capital which supplies these characters) came Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Tunisian version of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, Islamist mobs have attacked prostitutes in Tunis, and a Polish Catholic priest has been murdered. [Yes, but these new killers and brutalists are not supported by ‘the West’ or financed by ‘Western capitalists’. Thus Brown Exotic Islamist violence, no matter how obscene and extreme, is acceptable to large chunks of the left-liberal establishment as well as to all far leftists.]
No sooner had the John Simpsons and George Alagiahs left the excited nights in Tahrir Square in Cairo, than a vast crowd, almost unreported in the West, turned out there to hear Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi [a personal friend of Red Ken in London], who had just flown in from Qatar after years of exile. Qaradawi, an old friend of this column, is sometimes touted as a moderate, and he himself likes the word. [A moderate extremist.] He publicly advocates what he calls "the most moderate opinion" that all Muslim women should be subjected to female circumcision without cutting off absolutely everything, as if there is a sort of Blairite "Third Way" for genital mutilation. [Will Red Kenneth adopt the Islamic policy of female circumcision for his London fiefdom?] Qaradawi is the spiritual inspiration for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood [very ‘spiritual’!]. His presence in Egypt, of course, is timed to get it into power.
Next stop for our cameras was Bahrain, and now to Libya – or rather, to the Libyan border – with reporters screwing up their eyes against the desert sun, and telling us very little that we cannot glean from films shot on mobile phones by protesters. They will stay there as long as there is bloodshed and/or the fall of the dictator, and then slip away without bothering about what happens after. [All these BBC reporters who are failed or aspiring novelists and poets – or at least it seems so when you hear their saccharine and unctuous accounts of all foreign cultures and peoples.]
Our political leaders are similarly scraping the surface. President Obama's policy seems to track the television images precisely, falling in behind whoever may be the hero of the evening news bulletins and then moving smartly on. Far be it from me to suggest that he should have allowed his foreign policy to die in the ditch for President Mubarak, but the example of how America treats its old friends sharply reduces the incentive to become a new one. [In addition, Gaddafi once used to be a favourite of the far left and even of the broad left. After all, he supported the IRA and other killer-groups that battled against the Evil Capitalist UK/West.]
The history of the Cedar Revolution shows a similar pattern. The West was all over Lebanon for a bit, full of helpful plans for monitoring and peacekeeping. But all Hizbollah had to do was to wait, with the patience of the fanatic, until the West got bored – and move in.
In Israel, the attitude is different. Ordinary human reactions are quite similar to our own. Israelis live in a democracy and they believe in it with a passion which, when one looks at the endless disputes generated by their minutely accurate system of proportional representation, can seem too much of a good thing. They recognise, in these stirrings in the Middle East, symptoms of the political modernity that they themselves possess. [Charles Moore simply must be a Zionist or a neo-con (or both). No one can say such helpful things about Israel and not be a Zionist neo-con. Has he forgotten about the King David Hotel and the Nakba? And what about the three hundred or so loony Jews who talk about ‘Greater Israel’? Doesn’t he know about them?]
Where they are profoundly unlike us, though, is that their attention to the subject is perpetual, because their lives literally depend on it. They don't just have fun at the party: they are there for the morning after the night before. To change the metaphor, we in the West are like tourists in Middle East politics: we see something interesting, focus with our zoom lens, frame a pretty picture, and depart. The Israelis, by contrast, watch with 24-hour CCTV. [Yes, like keffiyeh-wearing students who think the Palestine-Israel problem is all about an SWP debate in the Student Union or wearing a Palestinian scarf (freshly imported from China) at an anti-Israel demo.]
[Above: Get your own keffiyeh (Palestinian-killer) scarf for only £5.99. From your local Socialist Workers Party shop or at the next UAF demo. Buy now before China runs out of supplies. Peace and suicide bombs to all!]
They are therefore much more alert than we are to threat. In my interview with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, which appears on page 12, he speaks at length about Iran. It is the greatest danger to world peace, he says, especially if it gets the Bomb, and it is "seeking to exploit" the current turmoil. [Danger to Israel? What rhetoric! Just because Amaddinnerjacket has promised to obliterate Israel on many occasions, that doesn’t make him a danger to that country. What Zionist nonsense!] Iran's proxies and even (see above) its president reach his country's borders. Its missiles and its proxy operatives can now hit Western Europe. It has put naval vessels through the Suez Canal for the first time since 1979. It is governed by an extreme Islamist ideology. Yet the television cameras which camped in Tahrir Square mostly ignore similar large anti-regime protests in Tehran, and the Western powers do almost nothing to encourage the demonstrators and dissidents there. [Again, because Iran is Islamist and brutal whereas the Egyptian state, for example, was pro-Western and brutal. Only the former is acceptable to left-liberals and far leftists.]
It is often said that anti-Israeli feeling is growing in the West because Israel does not, despite its claims, live by Western values. I sometimes wonder if the opposite is the case: Israel, because of the constant threat to its existence, reminds us of the high cost of defending our freedoms. And that, to Western wishful thinkers, is intensely irritating. [Those fucking Jews!
The 1000-year history of Jew-hatred has nothing to do with anti-Zionism. They are in no way related, just as Hitler had nothing to do with the German Nazi Party.]