Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality 

Abandoning a Sinking Ship

By David G. Young

Washington, DC, April 16, 2002 --  

The tens of thousands of people who gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol yesterday to rally support for Israel are on the leading edge of a doomed fight. No matter how loudly they chant, they are powerless to change world events that are rapidly diverging the interests of Israel and the United States. It is only a matter of time before American support for Israel will wane.

To the United States, the importance of Israel has been declining for years. When the Soviet Union ceased to exist, several Soviet-oriented Arab states lost their alliance with America's enemy, and much of Israel's strategic importance disappeared overnight. Only a year earlier, during the Persian Gulf War, Israel had for the first time become a liability to America. The United States had to go to great lengths to restrain Israel when Saddam Hussein repeatedly launched missiles at Tel Aviv in a manipulative effort to break the Arab coalition against Iraq.

Today, however, Israel has become a much, much greater liability. The seething Arab anger that led to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon stems largely from America's support for Israel. Arabs watch on television as their ethnic brothers are slaughtered by Israeli soldiers wielding American-supplied arms. This makes Arabs furious, and it's hardly difficult to understand why.

For 35 years, Israel has imposed its military rule on Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians suffer poverty, high unemployment, the indignity of occupation, and absolutely no hope for a future. It is exactly this hopelessness that leads young Palestinians to inexcusably blow themselves up in their desperate and wicked attempt to kill a few of the Jews who they have grown to hate so bitterly.

Of course, Israelis have plenty of explanations for the terrible behavior that has caused this hatred. They rightfully point out that the territories were captured when the Arabs attacked them first. They persuasively explain the geo-strategic risk of withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders. They correctly add that before the 1967 war, Palestinians had no democracy under the rule of Jordan or Egypt. They truthfully state that whatever their sins, they do not target Palestinian civilians for death. It all sounds quite reasonable. But it does nothing to excuse Israel's rampant violation of the basic human rights of millions of Arab people over the past several decades.

When looking at maps of areas where Israel once granted Palestinian civil control in the West Bank, I can't help but see the glaring similarity to the Bantustans of Apartheid South Africa. Through the 1980s, the South African government cut-out scattered, non-contiguous bits of territory and assigned all black people to them as autonomous "homelands." Using this tool of repression, the white elite was able to claim that blacks were not citizens of South Africa, and therefore not eligible to vote in a democracy that was reserved for people of Indo-European heritage. Israel is doing exactly the same thing to the Palestinians.

The similarity with the Apartheid regime doesn't end there. Israel's defenders like to point out that, unlike the rest of the region, the country is free, democratic and shares the Western culture of America. Of course, this is only true for the Jews and Arabs lucky enough to be granted Israeli citizenship. Just as in Apartheid South Africa, millions of people are forcefully kept out of this democracy, and therefore eligible for nothing but repression. If South Africa deserved sanctions for this kind of behavior during the time it was a valuable Cold-War asset, then it's hard to understand why Israel does not deserve the same treatment at a time that it is an expensive liability.

Given these new realities, the only thing that Israel still has going for it in America is a strong ethnic constituency. Like the Armenians who lobby for aid to Armenia, there are ample American Jews who will always lobby to support Israel.

But while it's understandable that American Jews support Israel, it's quite telling that most don't choose to live there. The European-descended elite that started colonizing Israel a century ago did so with full knowledge of the backwardness and instability that has plagued the region since Ottoman times. In essence, they took the risk of moving into a bad neighborhood, and that risk that is now going bad. Israelis have chosen to continue fighting for their declining neighborhood, but in the end, it just isn't worth the trouble.

Even if Israel's brutal tactics manage to give it some temporary semblance of physical security, it may eventually be for naught. Israel's most desperate problem is demographics. Like people of many Western societies, Israeli Jews just don't have enough children to maintain their population. The Arabs who co-inhabit the West Bank, Gaza, and even Israel itself, have much, much higher birthrates. And the Arab population is growing rapidly.

At current trends, Arabs could become the majority the areas occupied by Israel in only five years.1 In vast areas of Israel proper, including Jerusalem and the entire north, Arabs will be a majority within 50 years,2 and eventually throughout the entire country. There is no way that even a pseudo-democratic Jewish state can long exist under these conditions. It is only a matter of time.

This is a terribly painful reality for Jews, whose historical persecution and Diaspora make them acutely aware of their vulnerability. Hence, they will be the last to face this reality. Denial, however, does nothing to change the facts. Even if the current round of bloodshed eventually wanes, and a peace treaty is signed, it will only be a temporary peace before demographics one day turn the tide. Israeli Jews are on a sinking ship. America must cut its ties before it is pulled down as well.


1. Le Monde Diplomatique, MIRAGE OF PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD, Demographic stakes, April 1999

2. Ibid.