Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Raising Cain over Israel

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

The Turkish Question

Turkey thought that the Gaza flotilla would be yet another clever way of confronting Israel: They would hype the hoped-for “overreaction,” then posture as regional defender of the faith to the world’s outraged Muslims. However, as more details of the incident emerge, more and more suspicion is falling on Turkish interests that seem to have gone out of their way to stage a violent encounter in order to showcase Turkey’s new Mideast role.

Given these emerging facts, all the Ergodan government is accomplishing through its loud rhetoric and veiled threats is to turn off both elite and popular opinion in the United States, where we are collectively asking, “Are we really allied with such a country and its values, and what are our responsibilities to it under the NATO accords?” Indeed, the more we review the Turkish question, the more it becomes clear that Turkish ambitions are growing antithetical to our own.

Additionally, the rise of radical Islam, the growth of anti-Semitism and cheap anti-Americanism, a failure to confront its own past in regard to atrocities, its present treatment of the Kurds — all this makes Turkey a particularly unlikely censor when it comes to voicing ethical concerns over Israel’s actions.

Given that reality, plus the implosion of the southern EU and the existing fragility of NATO, it is hard to see the new Turkey as a real participant in the future of either organization.

Realists will cite the undeniable strategic value of American bases in Turkey and the on-the-ground fact that its military, at least, is a real partner. These two facts are undeniable, but they too will change as new Turkish realities develop at a rapid clip. I think we are witnessing the Turkish military in the role of the old Shah, and the Islamist government in the part of the Islamic Iranian revolutionaries.

The Times, They Are a-Changing

At the present rate, Turkey has about as much business in NATO as Greece does in the EU. Both countries seem out of place in their respective organizations; both envy and resent northern Europe and the United States, and seek their attention through petulance; and both seem to traffic daily in conspiracy theories about going to war against each other.

The problem with both the EU and NATO is that, while there is always much gala celebration about who gets in and under what particular conditions, there is almost no attention given to the circumstances under which a member gets out of either organization. That will change in the next few years, given southern European debt, growing Islamization, and the apparent planned financial and military regression of the West.

In the meantime, we should pay attention to a growing concern in the southeastern Mediterranean: A bankrupt Greece has alienated its patrons in northern Europe, has alienated the U.S. through years of anti-American rhetoric, has little or no financial resources, and will be facing cutbacks in its military — and a newly assertive Turkey is carving out a position of influence in the region as the real, and far more serious, representative of Islamic government, perhaps in the fashion of the old Ottomans.

The Proverbial Chickens and Their Roost

When the U.S. loudly proclaimed a reset diplomacy, and by appointments, rhetoric, and policy began to criticize Israel while reaching out to Syria and Iran, the proverbial floodgates were opened. Now everyone from the Europeans to Hamas and Turkey will outdo each other in trashing Israel, as most grasp that is no longer any downside to seizing upon a new P.R.-inspired incident; they may even perceive empathy in Washington for anti-Israel acts.

And when a liberal member of the White House press corps calls for the deportation of Jews from Israel to Poland and Germany and the Turkish ambassador (a newly found advocate of human rights) goes to the pages of the Washington Post to demand an apology from Israel (no doubt buoyed by 15 months of appeasing outreach from the administration), one gets the impression that the flotilla incident is the beginning, not the end, of such provocations. Note that Israel’s status as a long-time ally, its constitutional government and freedom of expression, and its cultural and scientific contributions count for nothing. The Gaza flotilla was the harbinger of far, far more to come.

A Macaca Moment

What has been missing from critiques of Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic diatribe is any discussion of the precise way in which it trumped the usual slurs we hear from political figures (e.g., Jesse Jackson’s “Hymietown,” Reverend Wright’s “them Jews”). By picking Poland and Germany as the ultimate destinations to which she wishes Israelis would go, Thomas was, deliberately or carelessly, saying that they should be uprooted and sent to places where 6 million of them were liquidated. In other words, Thomas was not voicing the usual prejudice, but something much creepier, a sort of flippant pop blueprint for a repeat of 1939–45, echoing the shout from one of the seaborne “peace” protestors, “Go back to Auschwitz!”

Of course, Thomas doesn’t care that nearly half the Israelis are of Middle Eastern heritage, that many Israelis can claim a family residence in “Palestine” longer than her own in the United States, that a Jewish presence in Israel dates to the dawn of recorded history, that many of Israel’s older generation were ethnically cleansed from cities like Baghdad and Cairo after the 1967 war, or that her views are in sync with the Hamas charter and Iranian promises. Note also that Thomas is not concerned with occupation in such places as Tibet, Cyprus, or Ossetia; such human-rights violations as Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds; such violence on the high seas as the North Korean attack, Iran’s hijacking of a British ship, or the pirates off Somalia. All these are mere abstractions — unless they involve the Jews.

Nota Bene: Explanation versus Evasion

Watching historian Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., skillfully deal with the anti-Israeli hysteria in regard to the Gaza flotilla offers a disturbing contrast with Robert Gibbs, the President’s press secretary. The latter — a second coming of Scott McClellan — obfuscates, becomes petulant when asked now about everything from offering buyouts to Democratic primary candidates to administration lethargy on the oil spill, and in general tries to evade or insult when he has neither the knowledge nor the savvy to answer directly. Oren in a few seconds offers more logic and clarity than Gibbs has in 15 months.

©2010 Victor Davis Hanson

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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