“In 2006 an ideological alliance has emerged between liberal circles in Europe and the conservative, fire-breathing Iranian president. Both describe Zionism as a European effort to get rid of the hated Jews of the old world at the expense of the Palestinians; both accuse Israel of exploiting the European Holocaust (which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies ever took place) to oppress the Arabs; and both would like to see it eliminated. The only difference is that the Iranian president proposes to the Europeans that they take back the Jews, and the European liberals prefer a Jewish minority in an Arab Palestine (as “a state for all its citizens”).
“Israel usually writes off such views as expressions of anti-Semitism. But even if that is true, the problem remains just as bad: Israel is losing its grip on important, influential parts of public opinion in the West, and is being shoved into the corner with rightist, Christian groups that preach in favour of a war of civilizations with Islam.
“David Ben-Gurion said that Israel’s fate is dependent on two things: its strength and justness. His heirs believed strength was enough. In the current election campaign as well as those in the past, the candidates are competing over who will annex more territory and hurt the Palestinians more. None are speaking of Israel’s legitimate problems and saying what must be done to fix them.”
I don’t entirely share Benn’s perspective, but it is a increasingly articulated position. For starters, it is intellectually lazy and patently untrue to suggest there is an “alliance” between “liberal” circles and Islamists.
Israel has a clear choice. If it wants international legitimacy, it must submit to universal norms, and maintaining an illegal occupation, while oppressing Palestinians, is a sure way to ongoing, and justified, demonisation. If, however, the Jewish state wants to be respected, it must cease playing the victim card, recognise its strengths and weaknesses and moderate its expansionist Zionism. The alternatives, as Benn articulates, are too worrying to contemplate.