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General Articles
Sniping from the ivory tower

Sniping from the ivory tower


Intellectuals are generally known to inhabit ivory towers – far from the madding crowd, cordoned off from the tough realities of life and insulated from the dangerous partisanships of dogmatic faith, religious or secular.

But ever since intellectuals assumed the mantle of their nations' conscience, their isolation from life and love for abstractions and utopias have become dangerous. This is especially true in light of their conviction that their judgments are informed by a higher wisdom – when, in fact, they often defy common sense and are marred by a terrible naivet .

A recent debate in London on a motion asserting that "Zionism today is the real enemy of the Jews" saw radical Israeli leftists and their fellow intellectuals leading the attack, illustrating the infection of many intellectuals with nihilistic post-modernism and neo-Marxist fantasies.

Many intellectuals nowadays perversely criticize their own countries for failing to observe some abstract utopian notions of ideal justice while supporting the most horrendous tyrannies simply because these "represent" an aggrieved Third World.

So it is not surprising that many intellectuals have chosen to ignore the genocidal wars in Africa or the Balkans, focusing exclusively on the least bloody ethnic conflict, the Arab-Israeli one.

Israel has come to represent the West, or America, in their eyes. They have become so obsessed with anti-Israel sentiment that in trying to help the Palestinian people they have come to support a Palestinian terrorist regime that in actuality oppresses Palestinians in a worse manner than Israel ever would.

To sustain such perversity, intellectuals from Noam Chomsky down resort to misrepresentations and distortions.

Thus Avi Shlaim, a former Israeli, condemns Zionism by building his case against it beginning with Israel's 1967 "illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories." Oxford historian Shlaim omits to mention that murderous Arab attacks on Zionism preceded 1967 by a century, when no settlements existed, and Zionism, as even he admits, was a legitimate liberation movement.

Sneakily ignoring what transpired prior to 1967 helps Shlaim invent a false narrative: that in 1967 an expansionist Israel suddenly and capriciously decided to wage a "savage war against the Palestinian people."

Shlaim does not disclose that the 1967 war was caused by the Arabs and their threats to destroy Israel; this at a time when there were no Arab lands to be "liberated," no "occupation" to be fought. Indeed, the notion of "occupation" is a figment of Arab propaganda because since Oslo most Palestinian Arabs live under the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority.

Yes, Israel periodically exercises its right to defend itself from terrorism by temporarily entering Palestinian territory. But to call this an occupation, and to claim that the "occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 is the underlying problem" is a lie.

Shlaim calls Israeli nationalism "a liability and a moral burden for the liberal segment of the Jewish community."

He even claims it explains anti-Semitism. But he, and his "liberal segment," apparently have no qualms about supporting a most aggressively jingoistic Arab nationalism or its xenophobia and oppression of women. He is not bothered that by attacking Israel he helps military dictatorships that have not only fomented massacres, suicide bombings and other atrocities against their own minorities, but have exploited nationalism in order to oppress their own people in the most horrendous ways.

In this, of course, he follows the tradition of his intellectual mentors who supported dictators from Stalin and Mao to Castro and Arafat.
Shlaim, who ought to know better, helps peddles the big lie of Arab propaganda about Israel stealing "Palestinian lands." This lie took root by dint of being constantly reiterated by Arab propaganda, and Israel has foolishly failed to challenge it.

But the disputed West Bank territories were never "Palestinian," either by habitation or by private or national ownership. Less than four percent of the land was ever occupied by Arabs or privately owned by them; nor was there ever, historically or legally, a Palestinian entity of any sort with claim to this land.

The lands of Palestine, as well as all the lands which Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq occupy, belonged for centuries, until the end of World War I, to the Turkish Empire. They were taken from Turkey in the post-World War I peace agreement.

Ninety-nine percent of them were allotted to the Arabs, while the 1 percent that made up Palestine (including what is now Jordan) was entrusted by international agreement to Britain because it undertook to build a Jewish national home there. It was agreed then that the Jews had an overwhelming claim to this territory.

So if anyone has a residual legal claim to then essentially empty government-owned West Bank lands, it is the Jews, not the Arabs. The Arabs received their part of the bargain and then some, and now they demand the rest.

We cannot, of course, expect leftists like Shlaim and his coterie to respect Jews' legal rights. All that counts for them are the "rights" that derive from being an oppressed inhabitant of the Third World. These rights, they seem to believe, justify all the horrors Third World rulers have committed, and lying on their behalf to boot.

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