Making David Into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel by Joshua Muravchik. New York: Encounter Books, 2014. 233 pp. $25.99.
Fuming about biased media coverage of Israel? Well, this book may not make you feel any better, but if you get your hands on Making David Into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel by Josh Muravchik, you’ll at least understand the reasons Israel has been transformed into an international pariah.
It wasn’t always that way, the conservative scholar explains.
In 1967, as Israel fought its Six-Day War for survival against its Arab neighbors – Egypt, Syria and Jordan – the world cheered for a victory by the Jewish state. “Efforts by the Arab states to rally support for their cause in the General Assembly [of the United Nations], where London and Washington wielded no veto, were rebuffed, with a substantial number of states condoning Israel’s action,” writes Muravchik, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
So, what happened?
Muravchik tries to explain this unprecedented turnaround in public and elite opinion. Here are some of his salient points:
* The very way the conflict was seen has been completely transformed. It used to be tiny Israel against the numerous, powerful Arab nations; now, it’s Israel against the “homeless Palestinians.” And while earlier the Arabs were seen as “reactionary,” the Palestinians are now presented to the world as “progressive.” Edward Said, the Columbia University professor and literary critic most famous for Orientalism, played a huge role in that conceptual transformation. “In the Leftist worldview, politics was at its core a contest between the forces of good and evil or of progress and reaction,” Muravchik writes. “To the Old Left, this meant the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. But to the New Left, of which Said was an avatar, the lines of conflict were demographic: young against old, female against male, and above all black against white.” Said “rolled into one ball of wax” European colonialism and American racism, and it became “white oppression of darker-skinned peoples.” In his depiction, the Palestinians were the embodiment of the dark-skinned victims and the Israelis became their white oppressors.
* Terrorism and oil – leading to intimidation and bribery – also played roles in the Israel’s Kafkaesque metamorphosis from beautiful butterfly to repulsive caterpillar. Terrorists “forced” Western and Arab countries to give in to whatever demands they made, including freeing convicted murderers. And when the Arab oil embargo was announced in 1973 the world, and especially the Western Europeans and Japan, simply capitulated. Terrorism and the oil embargo, then, had “softened up Western resistance” to the Palestinian narrative, the author writes. * The U.N. underwent a radical transformation. The U.N., which had been midwife in the rebirth of the Jewish state, became the most anti-Israel of organizations. Fueled by the growth in new countries that had been European colonies, beginning in the 1970s, the Third World took over the U.N. and, with many Muslim and Arab states as members of its Non-Aligned Movement, began to mobilize the international organization against Israel and for the Palestinians. The U.N. also created several groups – the Commission on Human Rights (now the Human Rights Council), the Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency – whose main functions have been battering the Jewish state and serving the Palestinian cause.
* Israel in 1977 elected a much less likeable government led by Menachem Begin. The internationally attractive socialism of the Labor Zionists was replaced by the hardline nationalism of the Revisionists. And Begin’s government – especially during the Lebanon war of 1982 – led to fractures in Israeli society, and specifically the anti-Zionist “post-Zionist movement” that further weakened the Jewish state.
* Some Jews on the edge of the political Left – such as linguist Noam Chomsky; and Richard Falk, Princeton professor emeritus of law and the U.N. Human Rights Council special rapporteur on Israeli violations in the Palestinian territories – also have been prominent in joining the attack on Israel. What does all this mean for Israel’s survival? This almost universal hostility to the Jewish state limits its ability to defend itself, the author concludes. Muravchik quotes Golda Meir’s testimony before a commission set up after the Yom Kippur War. The former Israeli prime minister noted that on the eve of that war, Israel wanted to launch a pre-emptive strike after it was sure that Egypt and Syria were planning an attack. But American officials told her Israel might lose American support if it made the first strike. So the Jewish state held back – and lost more than 2,500 soldiers in that war. Whatever the remainder of the world thinks of the Jewish state, the main battleground for Israel’s survival is in the United States. Here, public opinion seems to support Israel. But it might not always be that way, the author notes, pointing to the predominance of the anti-Israel Left on college campuses.
This book may not lift your spirits, but if you want to understand why the world seems to love to beat up on Israel it should be at the top of your summer reading list.
Aaron Leibel is WJW’s copy chief.
His novel Generations: The Story of a Jewish Family, which spans 1,500 years and three continents, is available at https://www.createspace.com/4601609, at amazon.com and in Kindle format.
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