Print this page
Editorial: Support for Israel no local liability
Sixty-eight years after Munich, appeasers are again seeking concord with anti-Semitic fascists who would rule the world
FOR those who love peace, appeasement can be an appealing concept: give the bad guys what they want, and they'll leave you alone. The only trouble is, as history repeatedly demonstrates, whatever peace it purchases is impermanent at best. Such was the case when Europe offered up Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in 1938, hoping to quell Hitler's ambitions. It didn't work then, and it won't work now. Yet individuals like former Australian ambassador to Israel Ross Burns on Wednesday night's 7:30 Report still fall for appeasement's deadly siren song. Following up a speech he gave the previous night in which he called the Australian Government a "stalking horse" for Israel, Mr Burns claimed our close relations with Jerusalem were hurting Australia's standing with neighbouring countries, specifically Indonesia. Instead, suggested Mr Burns, Australia should revisit its relations with liberal-democratic Israel to win Jakarta's respect. This is nonsense. Although he once wrote a well-received travel book about Syria, Mr Burns's undistinguished diplomatic career suggests the former ambassador is not yet ready to sit at the grown-ups' table. With one posting to Canberra's embassy in Israel under his belt and no experience in Southeast Asia the ego-tripping Mr Burns is hardly in a position to judge how neighbouring countries feel about Australia's relations with Israel. The fact is Australia's support for Israel hardly rates as a concern for Indonesia, Malaysia, or any of our other neighbours with whom John Howard has built strong relations over the past decade. Topics such as Papuan asylum-seekers, terrorism, drug trafficking and Asian security and development drive our relationship with Indonesia; Israel has never been a feature of bilateral talks between us. And in any case one does not abandon principles for convenience. Indonesia is a democracy with as much to lose from Islamic fundamentalism as Australia or Israel. Much the same can be said for Malaysia as well. Nor would abandoning Israel help the cause of peace. For ultimately Mr Burns is suggesting Australia turn its back on a Kadima government that was created and elected on the promise of land for peace and the handing back of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. Israel's hawks, including Ariel Sharon, had all accepted the need for peace with the Palestinians. It is Israel's foes who regularly derail the prospect of peace, most recently with the separate kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah and Hamas that sparked the most recent conflict.
Mr Burns's ill-informed comments fall against the broader background of a Middle East where, for the moment at least, Iran and its Hezbollah proxies are holding increasing sway in the region and look ever closer to acquiring nuclear arms to cement this position. The UN has proved toothless in its dealings with Tehran, which has just announced that it is happy to talk with the Security Council but that its nuclear program is not up for negotiation. What would be discussed at any such talks is then irrelevant, especially given the Iranian regime's nature which is totalitarian and fascistic at home and expansionist and anti-Semitic abroad. Iran has also issued an unprecedented refusal of UN demands to allow inspectors to visit its uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz. Even if Iran is five years or more away from fabricating a nuclear weapon, enriched uranium could easily be fashioned into a so-called dirty bomb. Although it would be a complicated strike involving relatively long distances and multiple targets, Israel would be well-placed to take out Iran's burgeoning nuclear capability - as it did to Iraq when it bombed Saddam Hussein's Osirak reactor in 1981. And given Arab governments' refusal to weigh in against Israel in its recent fight with Hezbollah, such a move could likely be accomplished without unacceptable military or diplomatic backlash. Were the Israelis to demur, the job of taking out Iran's nuclear facilities would fall to the US, where George W. Bush is thought to be eyeing such a move before the end of his presidency.
What is most remarkable in all this is the way anti-Semitism has re-emerged as a driving force in geopolitics. Like Adolf Hitler before them, radical Islamists have resurrected ancient suspicions and hatreds of Judaism as a way to distract the world from their own fascist ends. Just as many Europeans, Americans and others were reluctant to see the rise of Nazi Germany as a personal threat in the 1930s, today the postmodern Left has welcomed the rise of Hezbollah, which has convinced them that it is the Jews - in the form of Israel - who are the real problem and obstacle to peace. This is ironic given that Hezbollah is an organisation which, given half a chance, would use brute force to do away with every liberty and freedom valued by those same progressives who march in world capitals bearing signs declaring their support for the group. Just as it was the Nazis who wanted to take over Europe and beyond, today it is fascists in the form of the Iranians and their Hezbollah proxies who want to win sway over the Middle East and beyond. The manner in which Hezbollah infiltrated Lebanon, and the way unassimilated and radicalised Muslims sympathetic to the so-called Party of God are becoming ever more separatist in Europe, suggests ambitions beyond the Middle East. Yet many Westerners still see Tehran's hoped-for nuclear capability as a good thing. If Israel can have a nuclear weapon, they say, why not Iran - despite Mr Ahmadinejad's stated intentions. Iran's President has said he not only wants to wipe Israel off the map but called for an ingathering of Jews to make his hoped-for holocaust all the more successful, suggesting that being anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic are not as mutually exclusive as Israel's critics might claim. Compare this to the 1930s when elite wisdom in Europe held that having been hard done by at Versailles, Germany should be allowed to re-arm - despite Hitler's stated feelings about the Jews and easily discerned desire for global conquest. Even old and discredited Nazi propaganda, which held that Jews were a secret and malign influence controlling banking and politics, has been resurrected (although more subtly) by those who claim that Israeli lobby groups have too much power to influence policy and stifle debate.
The lesson of history may not be, in the short to medium term, a happy one. But human nature has not changed in the past seven decades. Just as would-be fascists who with crazy agendas will always be with us, so to will the voices of appeasement be always at the ready to offer an easy way out, trading a few more years of peace and ease to put off an increasingly awful inevitable. Winston Churchill described an appeaser as "one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last". Those who believe offering up Israel to the likes of Hezbollah will buy peace are only fooling themselves and should consider what they are next willing to lose.
privacy terms © The Australian