Jonah Goldberg: Only ‘useful idiots’ are blaming Israel
By JONAH GOLDBERG
IF YOU took Western news outlets at face value, you’d think that
every Arab hamlet, no matter how humble, must have at least one
thriving American and Israeli flag merchant. For whenever the Big or
Little Satan sneezes, it seems all anyone has to do is run down to
Achmed’s Flag Emporium to set one on fire for the cameras.
The point here, alas, is that Westerners are suckers. Or, put another
way, terrorists aren’t stupid. They understand that images are more
important than armies. Heck, that’s why they’re terrorists in the
Nowhere is this more evident than in the global war against Israel.
Its enemies understand that they cannot defeat Israel militarily.
Instead, they must fight a war against Israel’s resolve. This
requires fighting on several fronts. One of them is terrorism. We
know how that works: Blow up children. Tear apart buses. Shred
wedding parties. Etc.
Another tactic in this “asymmetric” war is to make the Israelis the
bad guys for resisting terrorism. Jews have a well-cultivated sense
of guilt (take my word for it). And, for obvious reasons, no insult
could hurt more than depicting Jews as Nazis. Hence, the nigh-upon
global campaign to depict Israelis as the heirs to Hitler. Of course,
ad hitlerum argumentation is just the tip of the propaganda spear.
“Aggression,” “apartheid,” “racist”: no insult is barred from the
anti-Israel script. Terrorize your enemy and make them feel like
villains in the process — that’s a powerful strategy.
This strategy depends on the willing support of what Lenin called
“useful idiots.” These are the accommodating Westerners — many of
them intellectuals — all too willing to take the word of
totalitarians and even more eager to believe that the champions of
democracy are in the wrong. Some social scientists call these people
“French,” but that is too limiting. There are plenty of them in
All they require is a steady stream of useful “facts.” For example,
in 2002, a Palestinian camera crew was videotaping a staged funeral
at which the “corpse” accidentally spilled out of the stretcher and
was miraculously reborn.
Sometimes the facts don’t require such sorcery; they just need to be
gussied up a bit. In June, a Palestinian family was tragically killed
by artillery while visiting a beach in Gaza. At first it seemed
plausible that Israel was responsible. Which is why Hamas immediately
swept the beach for evidence and collected all the shrapnel from the
bodies to prevent that impression from changing. The Israelis
initially apologized for the deaths — that’s what Israelis do when
they kill civilians — and only later revised their apology when an
investigation revealed that the deaths were probably caused by
ordnance buried under the beach.
That didn’t stop the usual chorus from calling the deaths a
deliberate “massacre.” Indeed, every unintentional civilian death
caused by Israel is a “massacre” while every intentional slaughter of
Israeli civilians is “self-defense.”
Even if Israel did accidentally bomb the beach — as the Hamas
government still claims — those deaths would still be tragic, but
they wouldn’t be Israel’s fault. Hamas was allowing rockets to be
fired at Israel a few football fields’ distance from a recreational
beach, hiding behind day-tripping picnickers. What, exactly, was
Israel supposed to do?
On July 30, Israeli jets bombed a building in the Lebanese village of
Qana — a building Israelis believed to be evacuated — and it later
collapsed. Twenty-eight people, many of them children, were pulled
from the wreckage, dead. Newspapers, politicians and a host of useful
idiots condemned another Israeli massacre. Images of dead children
saturated the airwaves. Israel immediately apologized.
The script is even more familiar. The Qana “massacre” was very
convenient for Hezbollah politically. It stymied Condoleezza Rice’s
visit to Beirut, forestalled talk of disarming Hezbollah, and rallied
international opinion around the terrorist group.
Aspects of the Qana story don’t jibe, starting with the timeline. The
building collapsed seven hours after the bombing. Some of the victims
didn’t look like they were killed in a building collapse, and
refrigerated trucks were reportedly brought in before the media could
visit the site, perhaps delivering corpses. An elaborate 30-foot
banner condemning a bloody-lipped Rice for the attack was improbably
at the ready for a protest that morning. Bloggers around the globe
are steadily picking apart other details, to the dismay of many who
like their anti-Israel storylines tidy (see confederateyankee.mu.nu
for a summary).
But again, even if the deaths were the byproduct of Israel’s bombing
(which remains the most likely explanation for now), that hardly
makes it an intentional massacre, and it hardly makes Israel the
villain. Hezbollah deliberately places its weapons caches beneath
schools and homes, in violation of the Geneva Conventions. It shoots
its rockets from civilian population centers. If the rockets
slaughter Israelis, Hezbollah wins. If Israel responds and kills
civilians, Israel loses. And either way, you can be sure some sucker
will blame Israel for the whole thing.
Jonah Goldberg can be reached via e-mail at JonahsColumn@aol.com.