MAKING DAVID INTO GOLIATH: HOW THE WORLD TURNED AGAINST ISRAEL
By Joshua Muravchik
Encounter Books, $26, 233 pages
With the media attention pivoting from the World Cup in Brazil to the latest conflict in Gaza, it seems an apt time to dredge up an old joke. Question: If the United Nations put together a soccer team, who would they play? Answer: Israel.
It’s not really a funny joke. For a joke to be “funny because it’s true,” the truth has to be fresh, and the U.N.’s monomaniacal obsession with Israel is stale, old news. It surprises no one to hear that three-quarters of all U.N. resolutions criticizing a particular country single out Israel. It would surprise no one to hear that the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories was asked to resign by the Palestinian Authority, which alleged that he was a “partisan of Hamas.”
What might surprise the worldly observer of current affairs is to hear that it wasn’t always this way.
In “Making David into Goliath,” Joshua Muravchik takes the reader back to a time when Israel “was admired (almost) all around,” and traces and dissects the forces that turned the world against Israel. His book is a guide for those perplexed by the concerted effort to demonize and delegitimize Israel, yet not satisfied that anti-Semitism is a sufficient explanation.
The high-water mark of the world’s esteem for Israel came during the 1967 Six-Day War, when even in France supporters of Israel outnumbered Arab sympathizers 25-to-1. However, after winning that war, Israel was no longer seen as existentially imperiled in a struggle with the whole Arab world. Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with the sponsorship of Maoist China and the Soviet Union, gained a place on the global revolutionary left by refashioning their cause from a pan-Arab effort to annihilate Israel into a “progressive” movement for liberation.
That movement would have languished with the Kurds, the Tibetans and the Basques on the ash heap of unrecognized aspirations were it not for two forces: terrorism and oil. In the early 1970s, the PLO gained notoriety by staging a series of airplane hijackings, and according to its second-in-command, Abu Iyad, the PLO finally succeeded in making the world “take note of the Palestinian drama” with the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
When Israel’s neighbors launched a surprise invasion in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, oil-producing Arab states threatened to cut supply to any country offering Israel assistance. The results of the embargo threat exceeded Arab expectations, fundamentally realigning “the geopolitics of the Middle East and the entire world,” according to historian Daniel Yergin.
Terrorism and oil captured the world’s attention and self-interest on behalf of the Palestinians against the Israelis, and a new breed of academics soon captured the imagination of a generation.
The now-deceased Columbia professor Edward Said, whom Mr. Muravchik skillfully deconstructs as an intellectual charlatan, transformed the Marxist notion of class struggle into a narrative of imperial racism by portraying the oppressed “Oriental” other as “the epitome of the dark skinned; Muslims as the representative Orientals, Arabs as the essential Muslims; and finally, Palestinians as the ultimate Arabs. Abracadabra, Israel, in conflict with the Palestinians, was transformed from a redemptive refuge from 2,000 years of persecution to the very embodiment of white supremacy.”
Prominent academics traveled down the rabbit hole burrowed by Said. Judith Butler, a professor of “critical theory” whose books on gender, queer studies and feminism are widely assigned in American universities, declared, “understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important” — never mind their opinions on women and gays. These dissonant underpinnings, which don’t withstand an instant of common-sense scrutiny, have become received wisdom by the professoriate writ large.
Thus, Israel finds itself on the wrong side of the global left. When college students see that their professors are en masse antagonistic toward Israel, it’s easier to imagine that it’s enlightened opinion rather than mass moral myopia. When study after study by organizations with nice-sounding names like Human Rights Watch issue reports condemning Israel, it’s easier to imagine that they’re working in good faith than to research and realize that they fundraise in Saudi Arabia off of their work in Gaza.
Moreover, when nearly every country in the world is saying the same thing, it can seem more intuitively sensible that they are onto something, rather than that they all hate Jews.
There is more to the world’s hatred of Israel than anti-Semitism, and anyone seeking a cogent explanation should read “Making David into Goliath” to understand what’s really at work.
Max Eden is a research associate at the American Enterprise Institute.