The left believes that a clever elite can fix all the world’s problems; conservatives accept that human error can lead to disastrous outcomes. Liberals fancy themselves rational in contrast to conservatives’ dour acknowledgment of tradition and tragedy. Why, then, is the left so impossibly, stubbornly, counter-factually dense when it comes to the state of Israel (among other matters)?
Liberal rationality is a pose. Knowledge is existential — that is, we tend to ignore facts that apply to a world in which we will not exist at all. I saw that before the 2008 banking crash, when I tried to warn the industry that a crash was inevitable. Most of them said, in effect, “If what you’re saying is true, then I shouldn’t have a job, so I won’t think about it.” Not long afterwards, most of them didn’t.
The left (and the European left in particular) doesn’t like certain facts because they are dying — literally. The triumph of the secular welfare state in Europe is associated with a catastrophic population decline. Three-fifths of southern Europeans will be elderly pensioners by mid-century. Of course, they’re going to go bankrupt. And Muslim society is fragile, and much of the Muslim world has entered a tailspin from which it won’t recover. The left clings to the magical idea that if only Israel would roll over and die, and validate the illusions of the Muslims, that somehow this horrific future might be avoided.
This is about as rational as the cargo cults of New Guinea after World War II. The sociologist Eric Kaufmann is an enlightened liberal, because he observes that liberalism is a self-liquidating proposition: “The weakest link in the secular account of human nature is that it fails to account for people’s powerful desire to seek immortality for themselves and their loved ones,” he wrote in a recent book titled Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Secular liberals don’t have children while people of faith do.
The existential irrationality of the liberals came to mind yesterday as I listened to Alan Dershowitz, Shelby Steele, and other distinguished friends of Israel on a Hudson Institute conference call. Hudson and Touro College are hosting a conference titled “The Perils of Global Intolerance: The United Nations and Durban III,” on Thursday, Sept. 22, across the street from the United Nations. Speakers will also include Ron Lauder, John Bolton, Elie Wiesel, Wafa Sultan, Ruth Wisse, and other dignitaries. It’s an important event, and deserves wide attention. (Note: Watch the proceedings live on PJTV, September 22.)
“We are going to complain that as Palestinians we have been under occupation for 63 years,” Mr. Abbas said the other day. That’s another way of saying that the “occupation,” in Mr. Abbas’s view, began with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and not with Israel’s takeover of the West Bank and Gaza after a war that threatened Israel’s existence in 1967.
Abbas could not be more clear in his declaration that his objective is not to live side-by-side with the state of Israel, but to destroy it. What sort of concessions are supposed to appease that point of view? As for the Turks, anyone with two synapses that fire in the same direction understands that the Mavi Marmara incident was a set-up from the outset. Turkey’s ruling party sponsored the Gaza flotilla and packed the Mavi Marmara with fanatics intent on a violent confrontation with Israeli soldiers. Turkey deliberately provoked the violence so as to manufacture a crisis with Israel. Like Aesop’s fable of the wolf and the lamb, rational arguments will not persuade the predator to go supperless. An Israeli apology would merely whet the appetite of the wolves in Ankara.
Nothing will appease the liberals, however, because if liberal social engineering can’t fix the problems of the Middle East, the world will have no need of liberals. Tom Friedman, no matter what happens, will demand that Israel concede and apologize, as surely as a gumball will roll out of the machine when I crank in a quarter. Existential need trumps rationality, most of all among the self-styled priesthood of rationality.
Prof. Richard Landes’ new book Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience contains a marvelous discussion of the grandfather of all World Government schemes, Immanuel Kant’s “Universal Peace.” Kant, the supposed exemplar of Enlightenment rationality, wrote with cultish enthusiasm of “the realization of Nature’s secret plan to bring forth a perfectly constituted state as the only condition in which the capacities of mankind can be fully developed.” Reading what Kant actually wrote, we confront not a rational philosopher but a deluded dreamer. Scratch a liberal, bleed a millennial fanatic. My review of Richard’s book will appear in the next issue of First Things magazine.
I applaud what the Hudson Institute and Touro College are doing. We are so bombarded with insanity by the mainstream media that we need to go over the facts of the case, painstakingly and at length. And I admire this effort most of all because I have lost the patience to do that myself. Instead, I wrote a book showing why Islam will enter a terminal crisis, no matter what anyone proposes to do. My riposte to the liberals addresses their existential quandary. They need to be told: “You are going to die.” Liberalism has no future, literally speaking, for it proposes to solve all problems except for the human desire to exist in the first place, as Eric Kaufmann concedes. And we do not intend to go down with them.
Update: In a front-page editorial disguised as a news article, the New York Times denounces President Obama for NOT supporting the Palestinian “statehood” ploy: “President Obama declared his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood through the Security Council on Wednesday, throwing the weight of the United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement even as he hailed what he called the democratic aspirations that have taken hold throughout the Middle East and North Africa.” Excuse me: “democratic aspirations” entail the destruction of the state of Israel? This is not just irrational, but creepy.