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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In every generation they rise against Israel, 29 Nov. 2009
This review is from: A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem With Israel (Hardcover)
The relentless torrent of anti-Israel propaganda turned out by leftist and liberal European media during the past two decades is finally bearing loads of toxic fruit. The far left really started the campaign on a low key after the 1967 War, it intensified during the 1982 incursion into Lebanon, escalated during the second Intifada, took a leap forward during the 2006 Hezbollah War and went mainstream during the Gaza Operation in early 2009.

The war against the Jews has two fronts: one of physical violence in the Middle East and the other of verbal violence in the media where the battle of opinion is raging. Israel is well equipped to defend itself physically but is losing the other war as Stephanie Gutmann wrote some years ago. Openly antisemitic antagonism towards Israel has always been common in the Arab world. Spread through mosques, madrassas and the internet, this propaganda has infected the entire Islamic sphere including Europe where Muslim numbers and influence are increasing. This demographic factor is expertly dissected by Rafael Israeli in his book on elemental and residual antisemitism.

Robin Shepherd examines the battle of ideas about Israel between non-Muslim westerners. Documenting and analysing in meticulous detail the expanding scope and power of this hostility among European opinion-formers, he notes how it has spread from the far left to the mainstream liberal-left as Bernard Harrison also reveals in The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism and Manfred Gerstenfeld in Behind The Humanitarian Mask with reference to Scandinavia. Major UK media like The Guardian, Independent and BBC are in the vanguard while on the continent recent examples were provided by the Swedish paper Aftonbladet and the Spanish El Mundo.

Shepherd identifies the cause as Europe's civilizational exhaustion and its symptoms like the post-Holocaust guilt complex and the intelligentsia's embrace of pacifism, appeasement, nihilism and relativism. The World Wars and the continent's murderous salvationist ideologies have made them reject all frameworks like nationalism or religion. As Chantal Delsol observes, Europe now believes in nothing but the welfare state. The far left and to a lesser degree the liberal-left hate many things, especially America and Israel, but have no idea what they want since the collapse of communism.

Shepherd's examples of the crude demonization of Israel correspond exactly with the analyses of Delsol and Harrison. Emotion & indignation have become the preferred channels for a morality which is negatively defined. Artists and intellectuals in particular express an angry form of piety in hysterical fits of morality of which the relativism, rage and selectivity betray it as fatuous posturing. It is demonstrably contradictory in the way it clings to moral absolutes whilst affirming the universality of relativism. Delsol considers it an empty morality of despair and withdrawal.

Caroline Glick, Bruce Bawer and Claire Berlinski share the opinion that European elites have rejected the lessons of the Holocaust. The simplistic fallacies that nationalism is the ultimate evil and that war is never justified are denials of reality. Nationalism is a neutral concept that must be judged by the way it is expressed whilst pacifism permits evil to flourish; it is neither pious nor benevolent as it holds justice in contempt. The collapse of the USSR pushed the Left over the edge and was the main reason for its eager acceptance of postmodernism & multiculturalism.

These evil philosophies are behind Europe's refusal to defend Western values. European elites deny the reality of Islamist terrorism whereas Israel has no choice but to confront it. The fad of Moral Relativism is not applied to both sides; it is used to justify suicide/homicide bombing but never to the measures taken by Israel to defend itself. The far left's hatred of Israel and the USA has made it an ally of radical Islamism despite the ideological chasm between them. Jamie Glazov explains this unholy alliance with great insight in his book United in Hate.

In the war of ideas, academia is the source & the mass media the disseminator of anti-Western pieties du jour of which the seeming benevolence masks a profound self-loathing. The double standards of "human rights" organizations and trade unions are breathtaking. Shepherd doubts that Western anti-Zionism is rooted in the old antisemitism; he argues that this vitriolic hatred of Israel represents an entirely new mutation of the mental disease.

The last chapter, Contagion: Is America Next? investigates why the quality of Middle Eastern discourse in the USA has not deteriorated to the same extent as in Europe. He warns however, with reference to Wart and Smearsheimer, that it could happen. In this regard it's important to consider Andre Glucksmann's theory that a contagion of hatred must be taken literally as a mental disorder that invades minds, bodies and society. Immune to reason, such an outbreak inoculates itself against opposing ideas.

Shepherd's informative book ought to be read with Denis MacShane's Globalising Hatred that highlights the plague as a factor in international politics with important geostrategic implications. MacShane also points out what scant attention is paid in the West to the Islamic sphere's brazen antisemitism which is promoted by state media and appears in the charters of Hamas & Hezbollah. Authors like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, Brigitte Gabriel and Phyllis Chesler have been trying to raise awareness of the phenomenon for years.

It is incumbent upon friends of Israel to counteract this descent into madness. Shepherd's is not the first warning; in the 1990s Alan Dershowitz, William F Buckley and William Nicholls saw it coming, while more recently Oriana Fallaci, Bat Ye'or, David Horowitz, Melanie Phillips, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Abraham Foxman, Dennis Prager, Nick Cohen, Walter Laqueur and David Solway have sounded the alarm. This time the Jewish people must not be abandoned to fight the battle on their own. As for the how of counteracting it, the best book by far is The Dawn: Political Teachings of the Book of Esther by Yoram Hazony.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Dec 2009 00:27:30 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Dec 2009 00:29:44 GMT
S Wood says:
Pieter old chap, did it occur to you - even for a eeny-weeny nano second - when you typed and re-read the first paragraph that the examples you give for milestones in the increasing criticism of Israel actions are all examples of Israeli aggression? Might that not be the reason for the increasing levels of the criticism. Just a thought.

And - presumably it's the same Robin Shephard who authored the book under review - if anyone one to see the high quality of Robins intellect in action copy and paste the URL below. And Robin - if your watching - feel free to respond.

Posted on 10 Dec 2009 14:20:17 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Dec 2009 14:41:10 GMT
Late Reader says:
Unlike your patronizing commentator above, I do not see anti-Israeli politicking as anything to do with " aggression". Sri-Lankans have been very aggressive to Tamils in recent years, but without the media attention or with the public outcry even in recent months with the offensive staged by the Sri Lankan govt against the Tamil Tigers at the same time as the fighting in Gaza. Your review describes the double standards which exist within the Liberal establishments in the West and the arrogance of the previous comments exemplify it. Good review by the way.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Dec 2009 21:18:32 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Dec 2009 21:20:44 GMT
S Wood says:
I'm hardly going to make a comment regarding the Sri-Lankan governments brutal aggression against the Tamils with regard to a review of book regarding Israel?

So if "anti-Israeli politicking" is nothing to do with Israeli aggression (which incidently you don't deny) then what is it to do with? - I presume your one of those who conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Glad you enjoyed Pieters somewhat fantastical review, but just reflect for a moment on, for example, the reviewers - oft repeated - renaming of the authors of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy Walt and Mearsheimer as Wart and Smearsheimer, imagine an opponent of Israeli aggression made a similar style of play on a Jewish name of a Israeli Government minister then no doubt they would have been vilified as anti-semites: a small example of "double standards" that has escaped your somewhat selective notice. And if you want a real example of arrogance, then one need only contemplate the above reviewer, who pontificates but never indulges in debate which ought to be regarded as a corner stone of any real comitment to democratic norms.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Dec 2009 16:29:33 GMT
Late Reader says:
Then I suggest you follow your own "norms".

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Dec 2009 19:04:15 GMT
S Wood says:
A response laudable for its brevity, though somewhat lacking in a point. Please do expand. . .

Posted on 16 Jan 2010 20:29:48 GMT
What the hell is going on on this site? Perfectly reasonable comments are being hidden as 'objectionable' for no apparant reason except that they're perceived as being critical of Israel. Would anybody care to explain?

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Sep 2010 19:14:13 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 30 Dec 2011 23:48:36 GMT]
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