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Jewish World Review
Oct. 25, 2004
/ 10 Mar-Cheshvan 5765
For Kerry, Multilateralism is Yiddish for Au revoir, Israel
Senator Kerry has promised to bring Europe into closer sympathy with U.S. policy and bring new allies to U.S. initiatives overseas. But how would he pull it off? After all, Europe is a big and complicated place, not a rich widow to be courted with charm and boyish ambition. Senator Kerry is already happily married and, if he is elected, will have achieved his boyish ambition every bit of it. What would President Kerry do, or be able to do, to deliver on his promise?
Few have answered the question of how Kerry would achieve "multilateralism" fewer have even asked it. The willingness to believe that he can do it at least among my Manhattan neighbors is based on not much more than snobbery. Kerry is a Forbes, he does not speak with a Southern accent, he has some French, he does not have a reputation as a "cowboy," he has not only gone to a good prep school and to Yale, as Bush has done, but he has the accent. Of course European opinion may share the same prejudices. But these are trivial matters and not all of our European critics are trivial. What really of substance would a President Kerry have to offer them, after the novelty of not being Bush has worn off?
In fact, a President Kerry would have remarkably few options. On the war on terror, he has no more to give. He cannot abandon the fight against terror although some believe that his way of waging war would be much more attuned to his languid way of doing the few things he has done in his adult life. But the Europeans do not fault us for waging this war, nor are they unwilling to see us wage it primarily with American and British blood and American taxes as they were happy to see us wage and win the cold war. We are fighting on their behalf, and if we are willing to do so even though it may in the short term hobble our economic competitiveness and our popularity in the less-developed world, well, as the French say, so much the better!
As to the cynical expectation that Kerry would wage war with less competence and energy than Bush? The worst of both worlds: more popularity for America and more active terrorists to threaten European safety and prosperity.
On the war on Iraq again, if we strip away the hypocrisy, France and Russia are happy to see us take the casualties and spend the money while they have no longer to worry about Iraq's military threat and their consciences are spared their collaboration with the monstrous Saddam regime. Farther east, China is happy to see us engaged elsewhere, leaving them a freer hand with the Taiwan.
In economic policy, Senator Kerry has already promised to wage trade war against the rest of the world, so he has nothing to give there.
If a President Kerry were to announce that he was going to withdraw from Iraq immediately, reinstall the Ba'ath party, assign responsibility for the fight against terror to the cast of Law & Order and, for that matter, ratify the Kyoto treaty it would leave the Europeans cold (and most likely terribly alarmed for their own safety and prosperity).
No, the real issue that divides America from Europe from its journalists, its elites, its Governments and the hearts of its people is our sentimental and practical attachment to Israel. This anachronistic attachment which was sensibly abandoned by most European countries in October 1973, when the OPEC oil embargo began is the single greatest obstacle to l'amitie transatlantique.
The way to gain the hearts and minds of Europe is to adopt their view of the Jewish state: a troublesome, morally dubious enterprise which is the root cause of terror. Moreover, the desire of Jews for national self-determination is absurdly passť. If Czechs and Britons would be better off in a superstate designed to ensure that national self-determination should be a thing of the past, how dare the Jews carry on as if it were still 1919 and the writ of the Balfour Agreement still extended East of Suez?
The behavior of French tourists at Auschwitz recently, who took the opportunity to rebuke Jewish citizens of Israel, perfectly expresses this view. The Jewish national aspiration ought to be an artifact in Holocaust museums that's what they're there for! But as for Israel itself though its lineage derives from the same promises the Allied powers in World War I made to the people of the Baltic states, the Syrians and Lebanese, the Armenians, the Poles and the Czechs its time is up. No more ought Israel be capable of defending her borders, protect her citizens, or maintain her identity as the national state of the Jews. And what difference would it make, Kerry's advisors would argue? Israel would only be aspiring to the condition of Canada.
In practice, what would this mean? For one thing, a Kerry administration truly interested in international amity would no longer vote against the UN General Assembly resolutions denying Israel's right to defend herself and would no longer threaten to use its veto in the Security Council. It would open itself to the reasonable solutions proposed by such good Europeans as Tony Judt, who proposes a Yugoslavian solution only better for Israelis and Palestinians.
A Kerry administration would instruct the American judge at the International Court of Justice to vote with the majority of his fellow judges and would no doubt join the International Criminal Court, poised to arraign Israeli politicians and soldiers. And an internationalized solution to the Palestinian problem would be at hand perhaps in the form of a Dutchbat patrol to protect Israelis and Iraqis from terror.
President Kerry would have few options and no constraints. Some 80% of American Jews will already have voted for him. The Democratic Party has already learned to absorb a distinct anti-Semitic tinge without protest the Reverend Mr. Al Sharpton and Representative Cynthia McKinney, explanations that Bush is controlled by sinister Svengalis. And from what we know of Senator Kerry, he will take the easiest course. And Americans will need all of the new First Lady's language skills to say goodbye to Israel: "So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu" and wise Israelis will be thinking of another line from the song: "I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly."
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JWR contributor Sam Schulman is a New York writer whose work appears in New York Press, the Spectator (London), and elsewhere, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University.You may contact him by clicking here.
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