There are many political and historical reasons for the West’s unconditional support to Israel which has benefited from its unprecedented political, diplomatic, financial, and military assistance throughout the seven decades of its independence. Israel continues to cash this support by building Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinians Territories (OPTs) in flagrant violation of international law for realising the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel with an undivided Jerusalem as its capital. This support is so blind that the West, notably the US, is prepared to jeopardise its relations with the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. Israel expects a preferential treatment because its regards itself as a chosen race which has the divine right to overrule other races and nations. Israel is a unique example in the world where an occupier State invokes existentialism and victimisation to claim immunity from prosecution, dehumanises its captives to reduce them to animals, and calls those who resist its apartheid laws terrorists. Israel’s hold on the Western countries is so strong that it literally wields a veto on three of the five veto powers. The latest example of this is the stand of the Western block in the three failed UN Security Council attempts to stop the Israeli bombardment of Gaza for a humanitarian truce.
A Functioning Democracy
Western democracies see Israel as one of their own in the community of liberal democracies. Its political system is based on multi-party democracy which holds regular parliamentary elections. In a region where monarchies, dictatorships and authoritarian one-party governments have been a dominant feature of the political landscape, Israel’s democracy with so many imperfections is acceptable to the West. Israel’s discriminatory nationalist laws which promote Jewish values at the expense of Arab identity and traditions do not pass the test of equality of citizens. Israel’s adherence to human rights is deeply flawed. Its political space is filled by ultra-right racist political parties who prevent Palestinians from integrating into the Jewish society. Palestinian Arabs are second class citizens and the bête noir of the Israeli population. After massive displacements, the 20 percent remaining Palestinians in Israel are far worse than the ethnic communities living in Western democracies. Israel is so proud of its democratic credentials that it claims to be a European State outside the continent of Europe. Israel may be a functioning democracy, but it has a huge democratic deficit in ensuring equality of citizens, observing human rights and striking down its apartheid laws in a pluralistic society.
Israel’s membership of the Western democratic alliance enables close people-to-people contacts between Israeli and Western institutions, NGOs, religious leaders, academics, media personnel showbiz personalities, tech engineers and investors. These groups form strong professional networks and political lobbies capable of influencing parliamentary and presidential elections in Western countries. Nearly all US and British politicians, both in office and out of office, dread being labelled as anti-Semitic and annoy Jewish voters in their respective countries, even when it becomes apparent to them that they are defending the indefensible.
A Joint Front Against Terrorism
Israel has used the terrorism reference to exploit the West’s sensitive soft spot that reminds Americans of the horror of nine-eleven in New York and the US losses in fighting the Al-Shabab in Somalia, the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq. Israeli leaders have succeeded in convincing the US to declare Hamas as a terrorist organisation, although there is no record of Hamas operating in any country other than Gaza and OPTs which the Palestinians claim as their land. Hamas is also a political party that has repeatedly won elections in Gaza and is committed to securing the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. In an ironic comparison, Hamas is no different from the Jewish Irgun which launched a military campaign against the British rulers during the Palestine Mandate. Before becoming Prime Minister, Ehud Barak was once asked a question by Israeli journalist and author Gideon Levy: “Mr Barak, what would you have done if you were born as a Palestinian?” Ehud Barak’s reply to Gideon was: “I would have become a terrorist”.
Intelligence sharing between Israel and Western countries helps keep an eye on the movement of terrorist groups and entities considered a security threat to Israel and the US. These contacts are further reinforced by joint military training and exercises, exchange of military advisers and gathering satellite data and cyber traffic, including monitoring public opinion and social media trends considered unfriendly to Israel and the Western alliance.
An Important Strategic Outpost
The creation of Israel played an important role in enabling the former colonial power Britain to keep a strong political foothold in a politically unpredictable Middle East when non-alignment dictated the foreign policy of many newly independent countries. The US also cobbled up two military alliances to prevent the former USSR from getting a foothold in the Arab and Muslim world. By the end of the cold war, Israel had achieved its security objectives. It had eliminated the militancy of Al-Fatah and its splinter groups, turned most of the Arab Palestinian population into a compliant work force, achieved water security by keeping control of the Golan Heights and surrounded and enclosed the Palestinian militants in Gaza from all sides. In recent times, Israel has become even more useful for the West for many reasons, the foremost among which are China’s growing influence in the region, and Iran’s support to the various Palestinian and Shia Arab militias opposed to the Zionist State. Israel is also a nuclear country armed to the teeth by most advanced air, naval and land defence systems. Israel’s nuclear state status was an open secret until last month, but the cat came out of the bag on 5 November 2023 when the Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu from the extremist Otzma Yehudit Party, threatened to use the nuclear option against Hamas in Gaza.
A Debt to Repay
As President Erdogan of Turkiye recently said that the Western countries have a debt to repay to Israel in the form of extending all support to the Zionist regime without questioning its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. There was a time when the West said Israel has a right to exist. Now the Western position is that Israel has the right to defend itself. Tomorrow, the West’s position could well be aligned with that of Israel that it has the right to expel all Palestinians from the holy land. In contrast, the West shuns the calls for the right of the Palestinian people to live in Palestine in an independent sovereign State of their own, even though this position is agreed in the UN Security Resolution 242 and the Oslo Accords.
This appeasement policy is in fact the repayment of the debt of what the West did to the Jews by maltreating them for centuries in Europe, keeping them on the margins and denying them human rights and assimilation in their respective societies. The culmination of this attitude was the shameful treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany under Hitler. The Allied powers could not save thousands of innocent Jews from dying in gas chambers. To compensate for this guilt feeling, the Allied powers, notably France and Britain, compensated the Jews by gifting to them a land which was not theirs by law or right, and subsequently allowing them to change its demography by importing non-Arab Jews into Palestine from all over the world and making life hell for the Arab inhabitants through several Jewish Value laws. Despite the special status of Jerusalem, the US and other Western countries have moved their diplomatic missions from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in violation of the UN resolutions and notwithstanding Muslim and Palestinian disagreement. The volume and period of of this debt repayment to Israel by the West is unknown but it can be reasonably assumed that it will never be repaid because of the other factors at play discussed in this essay.
The Clash of Civilisations
Samuel Huntington’s theory of clash of civilisations as the main source of conflict in the post-cold war years was dismissed in the mid 1990s as unrealistic and incorrect. However, the many civil wars and conflicts at the end of the Millennium and the beginning of this century following the Arab Spring have shown that the sceptre of a clash of civilisations is real and still present. The most sensitive flash points of this clash involve people of three Abrahamic faiths in the world, with the Middle East being the main battleground. These faiths are pitched against each other in a combination of two groups versus one, each claiming the teachings of Prophet Abraham and the Patriarchs as its spiritual heritage.
In this equation, the nations with majority of their populations as Jews and Christians share a common platform. The Muslim nations are on their own, and even though they claim not to have any enemies, they have little trust in the West due to their historical, religious, and colonial experiences, and more importantly the Israel factor.
The founder of the Evangelical Calvary Chapel Movement in the US, Pastor Chuck Smith once recalled his conversation with a former Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin: “I said, ‘We are very close in our beliefs. You believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; we believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You believe the messiah is coming soon; we believe the messiah is coming soon. The difference is that you believe it will be the first coming, and we believe it will be the second coming.” [Gershom Gutenberg. “The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount.” Apple Books 2000]. This conversation is representative of thousands of sermons and writings that establish a common bond between Christians and Jews which rests on the principal belief that the building of the temple of Solomon is a biblical prophecy. The reconstruction of the temple is not the job of the Christians. It is up to God who will direct His actors, the Jews, to build it. But Christians cannot just remain spectators. They feel that it is a Christian obligation to nudge and help the Jews to begin the final act. Since the foundations of the old temple are likely to be found under the old city’s Muslim Quarter where the Temple Mount is located, the Christians cannot stop the Jews of Israel from establishing their sovereignty on East Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine, which are a breeding ground of Palestinian resistance and the main obstacle in the fulfilment of the biblical prophecy.
The Muslims on the other hand, do not have any eschatological narrative about the temple of Solomon replacing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount, although a severe battle is foretold in the prophesies between the Muslims and the Jews, who will join the army of Dajjal the Deceiver, the Muslim Anti-Christ before the second coming of Jesus.
The Quran warns Muslims against taking Christians and Jews as their bosom friends. “O believers! Take neither Jews nor Christians as guardians—they are guardians of each other. Whoever does so will be counted as one of them. Surely Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people” [Chapter 5, Verse 51]. However, the Quran makes a distinction between the followers of Moses (Hebrew Testament) and Jesus (the New Testament). It says: “And among the People of the Scripture is he (a Christian) who, if you entrust him with a great amount of wealth, he will return it to you. And among them is he ( a Jew) who, if you entrust him with a single silver coin, he will not return it to you unless you are constantly standing over him to get it back. That is because they say: ‘There is no blame upon us concerning the unlearned (Gentiles). And they speak untruth about Allah while they know it. [Chapter 3: Verse 75].
The Quran also says that the hearts of Christians are filled with compassion and mercy. [Chapter 57: Verse 27], but the Jews are people who were punished by God for killing their prophets and disobeying the teaching of Israel and the commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Prophet of Islam was disappointed with the Jews of Madinah who showed no sympathy toward the new monotheistic religion which respected their Patriarchs and made belief in Torah a fundamental tenet of Islam. It took the Muslims of Madinah 14 years to overcome Jewish resistance after their victory in the battle of Khaybar.
Today Muslim States and people have good relations with the Christian States and people but there is a mutual lack of trust between the Muslims and the Jews, and this mistrust predates the Palestinian conflict. The Zionist Movement and the prevailing conflict over land in the OPTs makes this religious divide and mistrust deeper and worse.
As the Scripture of each religion is considered sacred and divine by its believers, any conflict that has political, economic or security dimensions is automatically placed in the fixed silos of the religious perception of each community. What is common among the three faiths is the return of the Messiah and the end of the world. The Jews call it the Day of Yahweh, Christians call it the Rupture, and Muslims call it Qayamat.
A Doomsday Scenario
Of the above mentioned factors, the most dangerous and imminent factor is the clash of civilisations. The rapid rise of ultra-right extremists in Israeli politics makes the doomsday scenario a horror story. Prime Minister Netanyahu recently invoked the biblical reference of Amlak in the Hebrew Bible to justify the non-stop killing of over 4000 children in Gaza. No one can cut the mustard with Israel except the US and the UK. In the One Thousand and One Night Stories the life of a devil is not in his corpus but in the corpus of a peacock far away. Israel’s lifeline comes from the West. Israel listens to no one except the West. The West should rethink its strategy of giving a free hand to Israel and cut off all support to the present nationalist fundamentalist government. Until Israel is reclaimed by secular politicians, it will continue to pose a serious threat to global peace and security by self-fulfilling the prophesy of the Apocalypse.
*Syed Sharfuddin is a political analyst and a former Pakistani diplomat.
Why The West Suports Israel