By John Derbyshire, September 13, 2001
Back in 1982 there were some horrible massacres at two Palestinian refugee
camps in Lebanon. Christian Lebanese Arabs actually did the killing; but the
Israeli army was in the neighborhood, and was responsible, at some theoretical
level, for keeping the peace. Because of this, the Israelis took much of the brunt
of the world’s outrage at the killings. Commenting on these events, the Israeli
Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, remarked in disgust: “Goyim kill goyim, and
they blame the Jews!”
I’ve been getting the same feeling from some of my e-mail. The fundamental
reason America is under attack by Arab terrorists, several dozen people want
me to know, is that the U.S. supports Israel. And the only reason we do that,
several of them have said, is because of the political power of the Jewish lobby here.
People feel that the mass killing of Americans by Arab terrorists is all the
fault of Israel and those American politicians who, for low and disreputable
motives, or from sheer blindness to America’s true ideals and interests, support
her. Goyim kill goyim, and they blame the Jews.
I don’t think these recent outrages can be blamed on the Jews, nor even on
pro-Israel American politicians. The root phenomenon is not American
involvement in Middle Eastern affairs: The root phenomenon is hesperophobia.
This word was coined by the political scientist Robert Conquest. Its roots are
the Greek words hesperos, which means “the west” and phobos, which means
“fear,” but which when used as an English suffix can also carry the meaning
“hate.” Hesperophobia is fear or hatred of the West.
I can’t see any strong reason for believing that if the state of Israel were to
disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow, hesperophobia would disappear
with it. Not even just Arab hesperophobia would decline – Arabs don’t hate us
because we support Israel.
They hate us because we humiliated them, showed
up the gross inferiority of their culture. When European society achieved
industrial lift-off, Europeans were suddenly buzzing all over the world. They
encountered these other cultures, that had been vegetating in a quiet conviction
of their own superiority for centuries. When these encounters occurred, the
encountered culture collapsed in a cloud of dust.
Some of them, like the Turks,
managed to reconstitute themselves, others, like the Arabs and the Chinese, are
still struggling. For a devastating look at the paleolithic condition of politics and
society in the Arab world, I strongly recommend my colleague David
Pryce-Jones’s book, The Closed Circle.
The 1991 Gulf War showed how little has changed. Here were the armies of
the West: swift, deadly, efficient – under the command of elected civilians at
the head of a robust and elaborate constitutional structure.
And here were the
Arabs: a shambling, ill-nourished, shoeless rabble, led by a mad
gangster-despot. (That was their Arabs. There were also, of course, our
Arabs–the Kuwaitis and Saudis, cowering in their plush-lined air-conditioned
bunkers being waited on by their Filipino servants while we did their fighting for
Final body counts: the West, 134 dead, the Arabs, 20,000 or more. The
superiority of one culture over another has not been so starkly demonstrated
since a handful of British wooden ships brought the Celestial Empire to its
knees 150 years earlier. The Chinese are still mad about the Opium Wars. A
hundred and 50 years from now, the Arabs will not have forgotten the Gulf
depth and bitterness of hesperophobia in these cultures is hard to
imagine. As Thomas Friedman points out in New York Times, Palestinian
suicide bombers do not target yeshivas, synagogues, or religious settlements.
They go for shopping malls or Sbarro’s outlets. Sure, they hate the Jews, but
they hate the West as much, or more.
Israel is not a cause of any of this, except that Israeli culture is essentially
Western. If the present state of Israel were inhabited by Christian Lithuanians or
Frenchmen, the hatred would be nearly as intense. Nearly, not completely:
Hatred of the Jews has been built into Arab-Moslem culture since the time of
Mohammed. More often than not, they were treated like swine.
For a true account, read Joan Peters’s From Time Immemorial, or Gil Carl
Alroy Behind the Middle East Crisis. From the Arab point of view, Israel, or any
Western state on “Arab land,” is ‘illegitimate’. The fact that the Jews had a
wealthy and powerful nation on that land three thousand years ago counts for
nothing. Israel is a reminder of the squalid, hopeless, irredeemable inferiority of
one’s own culture by comparison.
So, what are we doing, meddling in the Middle East? Where is our interest?
Well, U.S. politicians must speak for themselves, but if I had any position of
authority in any Western nation, I would be urging full support for Israel, and I
am not Jewish. It’s a matter of cultural solidarity. We of the West must hang
together, or else we shall hang separately.
What, after all, does the Buchananite program offer us, if carried through? We
have no troops in Israel to be withdrawn. If we withdraw our aid, the Israelis
will be less able to defend themselves against the Arabs. If we don’t arm the
Israelis, who will? While other hesperophobic countries–China, for example–are
gleefully arming the Arabs and other Israel-haters like Iran, and pocketing the
And the end of it all will be … what? Inevitably, without our support, it will be
the destruction of Israel. The Arabs will overwhelm that tiny state, and there
will be such an orgy of massacre as has not been seen since the Rape of Nanking.
And we shall be doing … what? Watching it on our TV’s, with a
six-pack and a bucket of Nacho chips in hand? That’s the Buchananite vision? If
so, it is a vision of cowards and fools, and I want no part of it.
Israel’s culture is ours. She is part of the West. If she goes down, we have
suffered a defeat, and the howling, jeering forces of barbarism have won. You
don’t have to be Zionist, nor even Jewish, to support Israel. You don’t have to
be in the pocket of the Israeli congressional lobbies, or a suck-up to “powerful
You don’t have to pretend not to notice the occasional follies and
cruelties of Israeli policy. You don’t have to forget about the U.S.S. Liberty or
Jonathan Pollard. You just have to think straight. You just have to understand
that the war between civilization and barbarism is being fought today just as it
was fought at Chalons and Tours, at the gates of Kiev and Vienna, by the
hoplites at Marathon and the legions on the Rhine.
And the thing about war is,
you have to take sides, and close your eyes to your allies’ imperfections. There
isn’t any choice. What happened on September 11 was not, or not only, an act
of anti-Americanism, anti-Israelism, or anti-Semitism. It was – more than
anything else – an act of hesperophobia.