Israel will live in peace when its neighbors let it

Jonah Goldberg

11/5/2003 12:00:00 AM - Jonah Goldberg

According to a poll conducted by the European Union, a majority of Europeans see Israel as the chief threat to world peace. And, in a sense, they're right.

One could also say that the American founders were the chief threat to world peace. Why couldn't they just go on tolerating tyrannical rule from Britain? It would have made things so much easier.

You could also say that Sir Thomas More was the chief threat to civic peace when he refused to place king over God.

You could say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the chief threat to peace in Sunndydale by refusing to allow demons to rule in evil tranquility.

OK, you get my point by now: Just because your resolve creates friction doesn't mean your resolve is wrong. If Britain refused to stand up to Hitler, there might have been "peace." But at what price?

Israel isn't peaceful because its neighbors won't let it live in peace. Israel refuses to be destroyed, so there's conflict.

Similarly, America refuses to sit still while others plot our demise. Not surprisingly, then, Europeans think America is the second biggest threat to world peace. Actually, we're tied - with Iran and North Korea. There's a nice symmetry there. Since we're the occupiers of Iraq, Europeans think we've taken Iraq's place in the Axis of Evil. Maybe they think that was our plan all along?

Anyway, America is the only nation out there willing to sacrifice blood and treasure for the sake of world peace. We are the engine for the global economy, we are the chief guarantor of global stability and security, and we are the model for countless nations in countless realms - from law to politics to education. More importantly, America understands - much like the British did in the 19th century - that such delicate machinery needs to be maintained as well as protected from saboteurs. September 11 reminded us of that.

Oh sure, Europeans care about peace, but they believe it can be attained through talking. In his wonderful book "Of Paradise and Power," historian Robert Kagan argues that America and Europe no longer share a common worldview. Americans believe it is necessary to use force when force is necessary. Europeans - in large part because they don't have the option of using force - believe that force is never necessary. America is from Mars, Europe from Venus, Kagan writes.

"Europeans have done something that no one has ever done before: create a zone of peace where war is ruled out, absolutely out," Karl Kaiser, director of the Research Institute of the German Society for Foreign Affairs said in the Chicago Tribune last year during the lead-up to the Iraq war. "Europeans are convinced that this model is valid for other parts of the world."

Kaiser's rosy version of history perfectly reflects the unreality of the European point of view. First, the United States has maintained peace in North America since 1865. Second, what about that whole mess in the former Yugoslavia that consumed most of the 1990s and still requires U.S. troops to keep the peace? But whatever, we're talking worldviews, not facts, I suppose.

But let's get back to Israel. Many of Israel's defenders were quick to charge that the Euro-poll reveals "nothing less than pure anti-Semitism," to quote Natan Sharansky, a minister in the Israeli government.

I'm not so sure. I certainly believe that anti-Semitism is a growing and real problem in Europe. I also can see how the age-old European tendency to see Jews as "troublemakers" and "boat-rockers" when they stand up for themselves plays a part in the European bias against Israel. But ultimately, I think anti-Semitism is only part of the story.

Israel has a worldview that, of necessity, understands the need for force even more than America. Israel's neighbors see the murder of little kids and old women as cause for celebration. Just one small example: A recent poll of Palestinians revealed that 59 percent of them wanted to see terrorism against Israel continue even after the creation of a Palestinian state.

But Europeans, in their condescension and arrogance, don't hold Arabs to the same standard as they do Israelis. Remember how one Swedish official wanted to revoke Shimon Peres' Nobel Peace Prize but saw no reason for Arafat to give up his?

Europeans see Israelis as fellow Westerners, and they can't forgive them for not following Europe's example of settling differences over runny cheese and bottled water in fancy hotels. The truth is the Israelis would like nothing better. But not if the chitchat over brie is nothing but a pretext for their destruction. So, they opt for self-defense. They may make mistakes in the process, but one can hardly expect them to accept suicide simply in the name of world peace.