At once impassioned and clear-headed, this abundantly researched discussion of Israel’s decline in world public opinion is necessary reading for all who care about this highly vulnerable country. How is it that an innovative, democratic, peace-seeking nation keeps losing the propaganda war? Muravchik shows us how in a series of well-crafted chapters.
The author begins by reminding readers of the high esteem with which Israel was generally regarded in the first decades following its declaration of nationhood. To some measure, that esteem grew out of how the tiny new nation had overcome seemingly insurmountable odds — and continued to do so.
Over time, however, various forces dimmed the luster of the glorious David. The chapter entitled “The Arab Cause Becomes Palestinian (and ‘Progressive’)” outlines the story well, exploring the psychological warfare in Arab and Muslim politics that slowly repositioned David and Goliath. Israel was positioned not as threatened by the Muslim masses, but as the demonical usurper of Palestinian rights. Losing underdog status in world opinion was a major blow.
Terrorist assaults on Israel did one kind of damage, constantly diverting resources. Assaults on Jewish institutions in Europe weakened the moral fiber of European nations and also released latent anti-Semitism. On top of this, Arab countries were able to use the petroleum weapon to make Europe cower. The message was clear: If you want oil, detach yourself from Israel in every possible way.
The takeover of the United Nations by so-called nonaligned nations rendered Israel a pariah, constantly charged and found guilty of crimes against humanity rather than responsibly defending its population from attack. Anything Israel did in retaliation was immediately labeled as disproportionate.
National and international socialist bodies redefined Zionism as both racist and classist. Weighing evidence was rarely an issue. The once-sympathetic political Left moved inevitably to the other side throughout Europe, and that transition became apparent in the U.S. as well.
Edward Said. Need I say more? The moral corruption of academic institutions whose faculties were brainwashed by a smooth charlatan did enormous damage to Israel’s standing.
Yes, as Muravchik admits, Israel’s own leaders and political parties made a number of poor decisions. He details several key instances and their consequences. Just as much of a problem is the culture of dissent that has weakened Israel from within.
This author sees a severely imperiled Israel whose enemies might succeed. “The result,” he insists, “would be a second Holocaust.” This timely study, puncturing illusions and facing hard facts, is must reading. Index, introduction, notes.
Philip K. Jason is professor emeritus of English at the United States Naval Academy. A former editor of Poet Lore, he is the author or editor of twenty books, including Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture and Don’t Wave Goodbye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom.