Politics & Policy

Ars Gratia Terrorism

An understandable lapse in diplomacy.

Zvi Mazel is, by all reports, a rather mild and charming man, as you would expect of a diplomat. He’s Israel’s ambassador to Sweden. Last week in–of all places, the Sweden’s Stockholm Museum of National Antiquities–Ambassador Mazel lost himself in a violent outburst. The provocation? The latest evidence of a degree of European decadence unseen since the French Revolution. Art for terrorism’s sake.

Last October, while visiting Israel, I found myself standing outside the Maxim Restaurant just above the beach near of Haifa. I couldn’t go in, because a couple of weeks before a homicide bomber had slipped through Israeli security, shot her way into the restaurant, and blown herself up, killing 21 Israelis. The shell of the building still stood, but not much else. I couldn’t help thinking of some of the times I’ve sat relaxed in Virginia Beach enjoying a meal and an adult beverage or two while watching and listening to the surf. The Israelis sitting in the Maxim that day must have felt the same until they were murdered.

The bomber, a Palestinian woman, had slipped through the Israeli security because she was a woman, and women hadn’t–until very recently–often been suicide bombers. On the ground outside the fenced area around the gutted restaurant, there was a small memorial. A few flowers, an Israeli flag, and a sign that said, “Why won’t they stop killing our babies?” To us, the bomber was a homicidal maniac. To the Swedes and the artists who contrived the mechanism of Ambassador Mazel’s outburst, she was “Snow White.”

According to the Guardian newspaper, “The installation Snow White and the Madness of Truth, located in the courtyard of Stockholm’s Museum of National Antiquities, featured a basin filled with red water, designed to look like blood. A sailboat with the name Snow White floated on the water, and placed like a sail was a photograph of a smiling Hanadi Jaradat, the 29-year-old Palestinian lawyer who blew herself up in the Haifa suicide bombing in October which killed 21 Israelis.”

Accompanying the display was a text that reads in part: “As white as snow, as red as blood, and her hair was as black as ebony. Seemingly innocent with universal non-violent character, less suspicious of intentions and the red looked beautiful upon the white, the murderer will yet pay the price and we will not be the only ones crying.” Seeing this, Zvi Mazel’s diplomatic temperament failed him, and he tried to tear the exhibit apart. He ripped a spotlight from its mooring, and tossed it into the pool, short-circuiting the display. And of course, the “artists” immediately began wailing about repression of free speech, and the freedom of art for its own sake. This is art as obscenity, and the choice to display it at the outset of the genocide conference has nothing to do with freedom of expression.

The real backdrop for this “art” is the late January international conference on genocide called by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. The Israelis have threatened to withdraw their representation from the conference if the exhibit is not taken down.

The United States should do the same. “Snow White” is not art, it is a tribute to a murderer and her motive. It’s no less offensive to Israelis than a tribute to 9/11 suicide pilot Mohammed Atta would be to us. “Snow White and the Madness of Truth” is an affront to civilization. The Swedes are now saying that they cannot legally require the museum to take down the art, and that’s probably what would happen here too. But to allow it is not to tolerate it. Persson could–but won’t–condemn it personally. To allow freedom for such nonsense is not to exempt it from criticism, but the only criticism that will appear is a complaint about Mazel’s action. In truth, the “artwork” is terribly unimportant. What is important is the atmosphere it appeared in.

Europe is consumed with itself, and the machinations surrounding the formation of the European Union. The Franco-German alliance and even the British elites believe that our reaction to terrorism–including the action we took against the Taliban in Afghanistan, far more the action in Iraq–is a terrible overreaction. The Europeans have lived with terrorism–both local and international–for so long that they apparently believe some level of it is tolerable. They do what they can to control it on an ad hoc basis, and refuse to recognize the threat now building against them, as it is against us.

The European elites are entitled to judge us, as we are entitled to judge them. Their insistence that the Iraq campaign was an illegal war stems from their historic approach to emerging threats. The Europeans could–as Churchill repeatedly said–have avoided World War II if they had acted against Nazi Germany while it was arming itself for the coming onslaught against freedom. But then, as now, decadent Europe wants to talk, sign a piece of paper, and go back to sipping espresso and smoking Galois.

The decadence of Europe is seen in its fear of us and its rejection of the right Israel–and every nation–has to defend itself. Israel is the only nation–other than the United States–that Europe sees as a danger. The famous EU poll of last year that found most Europeans believed that Israel was the greatest threat to peace on earth is part and parcel of its attitude. Syria–a terrorist nation by any definition–has concluded negotiations on a trade agreement with the EU. Syria the terrorist is a welcome partner, but Israel the democracy is the outcast.

Any nation that acts rather than talks in its own defense will feel much the same scorn of European elites. And where their power–and the power of every third-world despotism is legitimized–the U.N.–Israel and the United States are regularly vilified. The U.N.’s effort to haul Israel into the International Court of Justice to declare the antiterrorist fence illegal is another example.

The Israeli antiterror “fence” is an ugly necessity. I saw it from the highway near Tulkarm, the West Bank town that has been the source of many terrorist attacks. It’s not meant to be pretty. It’s meant to stop people like Hanadi Jaradat from entering Israel to murder its citizens. The U.N. General Assembly–which resembles the Mad Hatter’s tea party more than a serious international organization working for peace–has asked the ICJ for an “advisory opinion” on the legality of the fence. The question will revolve around the issue of the “green line”–the ceasefire line from the previous Arab-Israeli wars that has no legal standing whatever. It’s not a border, not a division of land by treaty or otherwise. But the Palestinians–and their supporters in the U.N.–want it to be one. The ICJ action will try to establish it as a legal border. What the ICJ and the U.N. both want to conceal is the fact that borders are made by treaty–and usually by a treaty that makes peace after a war. The “green line” never made peace, and it’s no border because both sides–Israelis and Palestinians alike–have never agreed it to be one.

The ICJ, welcoming support for its coming political opinion, has granted the Arab League permission to be heard in the case. The Israelis–trying to avoid being labeled an outlaw regime–are preparing to fight the ICC action. Because the ICJ is a political court, it will surely say the fence is illegal, opening Israel to whatever sanctions the Security Council dreams up. And the United States will be put to the trouble of vetoing the sanctions, granting another victory to the terrorist regimes. If Israel is an outlaw, and the United States its partner, then surely one is as guilty as the other. The only thing the Israelis are guilty of is self defense. And that goes for us as well. Terrorism is a fact of life. In Sweden, as elsewhere, art imitates life. All too well.

NRO Contributor Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and is now an MSNBC military analyst.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

Most Popular

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More
Media

The Biden Protection Racket

Joe Biden is the most cosseted presidential candidate in memory. He’s run a minimalist campaign that’s avoided the press as much as possible, while the press hasn’t been braying for more access and answers, but eager to avoid anything that could be discomfiting to the campaign. Never before have the ... Read More
Media

The Biden Protection Racket

Joe Biden is the most cosseted presidential candidate in memory. He’s run a minimalist campaign that’s avoided the press as much as possible, while the press hasn’t been braying for more access and answers, but eager to avoid anything that could be discomfiting to the campaign. Never before have the ... Read More

A Few Cracks in the Progressive Wall

The contemporary progressive agenda — of, say, an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren — has rarely appealed to 51 percent of the American electorate. Most polls show opposition to Court packing and the abolition of the Electoral College. Voters don’t seem to like ... Read More

A Few Cracks in the Progressive Wall

The contemporary progressive agenda — of, say, an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren — has rarely appealed to 51 percent of the American electorate. Most polls show opposition to Court packing and the abolition of the Electoral College. Voters don’t seem to like ... Read More
Elections

How Trump Might Be Winning

I’m far too dumb to be able to shed any light on polls, but I do know something about celebrity and I think I can guarantee this: If President Trump wins re-election, Robert Cahaly is going to become very famous very quickly. Who is Robert Cahaly? The chief pollster for the Trafalgar Group, the only major ... Read More
Elections

How Trump Might Be Winning

I’m far too dumb to be able to shed any light on polls, but I do know something about celebrity and I think I can guarantee this: If President Trump wins re-election, Robert Cahaly is going to become very famous very quickly. Who is Robert Cahaly? The chief pollster for the Trafalgar Group, the only major ... Read More

Trump: Yes

Editor’s Note: The following is one of three essays, each from a different perspective, in the latest edition of National Review on the question of whether to vote for President Trump. The views below reflect those of the individual author, not of the NR editorial board as a whole. The other two essays can be ... Read More

Trump: Yes

Editor’s Note: The following is one of three essays, each from a different perspective, in the latest edition of National Review on the question of whether to vote for President Trump. The views below reflect those of the individual author, not of the NR editorial board as a whole. The other two essays can be ... Read More