Pollster Frank Luntz briefly generated shock waves this week with a survey showing the abysmal view of Israel held by Democratic opinion leaders. Inter alia, 47 percent deemed Israel racist, with only 32 percent disagreeing, and a whopping 76 percent said Israel has too much influence on U.S. foreign policy. But in truth, it shouldn’t be news to anyone by now that anti-Israel sentiment, like its kissing cousin anti-Semitism, is primarily the province of the liberal elites. I’ve written before about a German study showing that educated elites, rather than the far-right fringes, are the wellspring of anti-Semitism in that country; just last month, another study found that the same is true for anti-Israel sentiment. And the reason for this goes beyond the obvious fact that anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are related.
The background to the new German study is a series of polls showing shocking levels of anti-Israel sentiment among ordinary Germans: For instance, fully 35 percent “equate Israeli policies toward the Palestinians with Nazi policies toward the Jews.” Given the vaunted “special relationship” between Germany and Israel, such findings raise obvious questions about how so many Germans developed such warped views.
So a group of German and Israeli researchers decided to analyze German textbooks to see what exactly German schools are teaching their students. They examined 1,200 history, geography and social studies textbooks from five German states, and concluded that these books portray Israel almost exclusively as a militarist, warmongering society.
Israel’s robust democracy, respect for human rights and other achievements are absent in these books. The illustrations consist of “tendentious and one-sided photographic presentations” of Israeli soldiers threatening or inflicting violence on Palestinians.
“Occupation and settlements” are depicted as the main obstacles to peace; the fact that both Israelis and Palestinians have claims to the land goes unmentioned, and Palestinian terror gets a free pass – or as the report puts it, most of the authors “find it difficult to unequivocally call Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians acts of terror.”
In short, it’s not surprising that so many Germans have such negative views of Israel, because that’s precisely what they are taught in school. True, the textbooks don’t actually compare Israel to the Nazis, but the comparison doesn’t require a big leap of logic for graduates of these schools; after all, to a German, the paradigmatic example of a militarist, warmongering society is Nazi Germany. So once you tell students that Israel, too, is a militarist, warmongering society, the Nazi analogy comes naturally.
But who writes the textbooks that give these pupils such a warped view of Israel? Hint: It’s not the neo-Nazi skinheads. It’s the liberal elites.
This brings us to the question of why liberal elites so loathe the only Mideast country that, as Julie Burchill once wrote, any of them “could bear to live under.” The answer can be found in a comment made by “a senior European diplomat” last month about a seemingly unrelated topic: the upcoming British referendum on whether to stay in the European Union.
“The nation state is a very old concept and perhaps the British have not fully recognized that it may be slightly out of date,” the diplomat declared. And that, as I’ve noted before, is the heart of the matter: In the dogma of the modern liberal elites, the nation-state is passé.
The fact that most of the world still consists of nation-states in no way challenges this dogma; after all, you can’t expect benighted regimes to have reached this level of enlightenment yet. Israel, however, is a potent challenge to the dogma: It’s a modern, Western, democratic, human-rights-respecting country that nevertheless proudly proclaims itself the nation-state of the Jewish people.
And there’s only one way for liberal elites to resolve the cognitive dissonance this causes without sacrificing their cherished dogma: by sacrificing Israel. Or, in other words, by painting it as a racist, warmongering, benighted country no different from all the other unenlightened nation-states.
Originally published in Commentary on July 10, 2015