Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel
By Joshua Muravchik
Israel, writes Joshua Muravchik in his new book, Making David Into Goliath, was “once widely admired for its resolution ‘never again’ to allow Jews to be targeted.” It was once feted as a David in a region of Goliaths, a hero country stuck in a barren desert, making a garden grow. Now, Muravchik points out, “the ‘global community’ [has] stamped Israel as an outcast.”
Determining the answer to that question is Muravchik’s task, and he lays out the history of global feeling on Israel in detailed, meticulous fashion. His answer, in short, is that while Israel never changed, the international left did – and that their change of heart, combined with the growing power of Arab oil, pushed Israel into a corner, forcing it to question its very identity.
Muravchik points out that Israel began as a darling of the global left, but that the left abandoned Israel as it embraced a “multiculturalism or race-consciousness in which the struggle of the third world against the West, or of ‘people of color’ against the white man, replaced the older Marxist model of proletariat versus bourgeoisie as the central moral drama of world history.” In this narrative of history, it is the third world Palestinians who are victims of the marauding Jews, of course. That story gained credibility on the left at the same time that Arab oil made its most aggressive play for global power.
The combination of those two factors – a redefined, radicalized racial left, and economic fear of Arab oil manipulation – led to the rise of Arab control over the United Nations, widely considered a moral international body.
Meanwhile, in Europe, a new movement was afoot, led by Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky, a Marxist-turned-Israel critic. Muravchik’s profiles Kreisky in memorable fashion, shedding new light on a largely-forgotten world figure. Muravchik labels Kreisky a figure “alongside de Gaulle as the foremost leaders in undoing Europe’s sympathy for Israel and its people.”
American academia, too, embraced the new Marxist critique of Israel. Led by Edward Said, an American of Palestinian background, the academic movement against Israel snowballed quickly. “Said’s objective,” Muravchik writes, “was to expose the evil worm at the core of Western civilization, namely, its inability to define itself except against an imagined ‘other.’ ” Suddenly, Israel’s Arab attackers were transformed from victimizers to victims, simply by virtue of their “otherness.” In fact, the Western failure to understand Israel’s Arab enemies demonstrated that Israel’s enemies were in the right:
“Said rolled American racism and European colonialism into one ball of wax: white oppression of darker-skinned peoples.” By the time Said’s background as a “Palestinian” was debunked in 1999 (he spent his entire upbringing in Cairo), his legend had already taken root.
As Israel faced new global foes, the Israeli right began to win elections for the first time. And yet that same right eventually made concession after concession to the Palestinian Arabs; it was Menachem Begin’s government that recognized the notion of Palestinian rights. In turn, the rise of the Israeli right– combined with the death of international socialism – led the left to begin critiquing Israel’s very basis within Israel. “The death of the socialist dream created a spiritual vacuum in Israel,” Muravchik writes. That spiritual vacuum has been filled, for the left, by post-Zionism, pressed forward by large swaths of the Israeli media.
Israel requires both internal and international support, as Muravchik notes. Israel’s loss of support on the political left puts all Jews in significant danger. “Were that support withdrawn,” Muravchik says, “Israel’s enemies would be tempted to renew their efforts to destroy it once and for all…. Should Israel’s enemies succeed, the result would be a second Holocaust.”