Oh, That’s It -- Just That Pesky Ol’ Auschwitz Complex

by Victor Davis Hanson

There is one of the most ignorant articles in recent memory posted at the Economist website — apparently an anonymous essay called “Auschwitz Complex” on the Democracy in America blog. The nameless author argues that Israel is less a master of its own fate than are other countries because, “Israel refuses to give up its empire. Israel is unable to sustain its imperial ambitions in the West Bank, or even to articulate them coherently.”

But as I recall, Israel fought three existential wars before the 1967 borders were altered. Where was the “empire” then — and what were the wars fought over? And when its forces stayed in place after defeating its enemies in the Six-Day War, as I also recall, Israel gradually relinquished its “empire” in Sinai, Lebanon, and Gaza, areas from which still arise calls for its destruction. The so-called settlements in the West Bank will have to be negotiated, but the dismantling of them in Gaza brought no peace; and it remains a fact that roughly a million Arabs are currently treated far better inside Israel than were the roughly 500,000–600,000 Jews who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in the now Judenfrei major Arab capitals — not to mention that Arab Israelis enjoy rights not granted under most Arab autocracies. Somewhere in this polemic full of moral equivalences, the unsigned author seems to have forgotten that Israel is a consensual democracy unlike all of its front-line Arab rivals. As far as lands occupied after war, I suppose the author is just as worried about global “imperial” tensions arising over the Polish possession of former German East Prussia, or the current Turkish occupation of Greek lands in Cyprus, or the Russian occupation of islands off the Japanese coast?

Then, after blaming Netanyahu for almost all of the current Mideast tension, the nameless author further pontificates,

Having trapped themselves in a death struggle with Palestinians that they cannot acknowledge or untangle, Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran. An Iranian nuclear bomb would not be a happy development for Israel. Neither was Pakistan’s, nor indeed North Korea’s. The notion that it represents a new Holocaust is overstated, and the belief that the source of Israel’s existential woes can be eliminated with an airstrike is mistaken.

This is all gibberish. As I recall, Israel was attacked from the West Bank in 1967 (in the words of King Hussein “the die was cast”), and had no real desire, with its hands full with Syria and Egypt, to “tangle” itself up with Jordan at the time — had not Jordan foolishly decided to join the doomed pan-Arabic attack on Israel. The author’s real ignorance, however, shows when he touches upon nuclear gymnastics. Does the author really think that Pakistan’s bomb or North Korea’s was ever claimed to be a threat uniquely to Israel? Moreover, Iran’s bomb is not comparable in general to nuclear Pakistan, which, although dangerous enough, is deterred by a far larger, far more powerful nuclear and democratic rival, India, next door. North Korea, far smaller and poorer than Iran, is still on a Chinese leash of sorts, and its ostensible targets — South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan — are, for the most part, under the American nuclear umbrella. And we still station several thousand troops on North Korea’s border, precisely to deter any sort of insane attack by land or air. None of those deterrents, again, would apply to a nuclear Iran — a fact apparently known to most of the Sunni regimes in the region who quietly hope Israel deals with Iran, lest they must themselves either go nuclear or else show some sort of obeisance to the Shiite theocracy in Tehran.

As far as a “A new Holocaust is overstated” — well, about half the world’s Jews live in tiny Israel, which could be made uninhabitable with a good-sized bomb or two. The dead would roughly approximate the numbers of those lost in the Holocaust — a genocide that most who run the government in Iran now, of course, deny. This article easily could have been written around 1939, when pesky Jews were then being blamed both for stirring up trouble that might upset tense world relations with Germany and draw the U.S. into an unnecessary war — and, of course, in supposedly psychodramatic fashion, for talking about a planned genocide.

Anonymous goes on in cute fashion to warn us that “Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis because, unlike the Palestinians, it can be fitted into a familiar ideological trope from the Jewish national playbook: the eliminationist anti-Semite.” But, again, how strange to call a mere “trope” Ahmadinejad’s boast to acquire nuclear weapons and his long-stated wish, shared by others in the theocracy, to eliminate Israel. Nor does anyone think that Israel believes there is anything “appealing” about losing hundreds, if not thousands, of its own, in trying to stop an existential enemy like Iran from acquiring the means to fulfill its loud promises.

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