Aug 8, 2006

Rootless cosmopolites

Mark Steyn looks back at a Europe that forbade Jews to own property and sees there echoes of how Israel is treated today.
For centuries, the rap against the Hebrews was that they were sinister rootless cosmopolitan types unbound by allegiance to whichever polity they happened to be residing in. So, after the Second World War, the ones who were left became a more or less conventional nation state, and now they're hated for that.

But all the hoo-ha about Holocaust denial (and granted, from President Ahmadinejad to Mel Gibson's dad, there's a lot of it about) has obscured the fact that the world has re-embraced, with little objection, an older form of anti-Semitism. Israel is, in effect, subject to a geopolitical version of the same conditions endured by Lazarus the Jew in Anthony Hope's Strelsau.

The Zionist Entity is for the moment permitted to remain in business but, like Aaron Lazarus, it's not entitled to the enforceable property rights of every other nation state. No other country - not Canada, not Slovenia, not Thailand - would be expected to forego the traditional rights of nations subjected to kidnappings of its citizens, random rocket attacks into residential areas, and other infringements of its sovereignty. This isn't about who's right and who's wrong: there are regional flare-ups all over the map and, regardless of the rights and wrongs, for the most part the world just sits back and lets them get on with it. There are big population displacements - as there were, contemporaneous to the founding of Israel, in Europe and the Indian sub-continent - but one side wins and the other makes do with what it can get and the dust settles.

The energy expended by the world in denying this particular regional crisis the traditional settlement is unique and perverse, except insofar as by ensuring that the "Palestinian question" is never resolved one is also ensuring that Israel's sovereignty is also never really settled: it, too, is conditional - and, to judge from recent columns in The Washington Post and The Times of London, it's increasingly seen that way in influential circles - the Jew is tolerated as a current leaseholder but, as in Anthony Hope's Ruritania, he can never truly own the land. Once again the Jews are rootless transients, though, in one of history's blacker jests, they're now bemoaned in the salons of London and Paris as an outrageous imposition of an alien European population on the Middle East.

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