The Holocaust, the Fiction of International Law, and the Necessity of a Self-Reliant Israel

Nov. 29 2018

A recent article about the Kindertransport—the rescue by Great Britain of some 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria on the eve of World War II—noted that any celebration of British generosity must be tempered by the facts that London did not allow Jewish adults into the country and, at the same time, barred Jewish immigration to Palestine. In other words, writes Haviv Rettig Gur, Britain, despite this singular act of heroism, is also “responsible for the orphaning of the very children it saved, and in no small part for the trap European Jews were placed in as the Nazi grip tightened.” He draws some enduring lessons for the Jewish people and the state of Israel:

[T]his history matters, today, perhaps, more than ever. There is an inevitable corollary to the rule of universal indifference that is Britain’s true legacy from that period: . . . Jews can only rely on themselves when the danger comes. When we relinquish control over our own fate, we fall. . . . No liberal world order, no example of momentary kindness, however central it may be to some other nation’s narrative of itself, will, in the end, save us from the flames.

Israel is powerful. But Israel is also small. It may one day not be quite so powerful. It has too many enemies, and too many of them are ideological radicals and tyrannical brutes, for it to find consolation in its current power. If you want to understand why we [Israelis] seem inexplicably obsessed with our vulnerability even as we continue to advance in capabilities and achievements far beyond those of our enemies, look no farther than the very act of kindness so celebrated in the West as an example of a world that cares for the weak. Look closer. It is in equal measure an example of the self-adulation, paternalism, and indifference of the strong. . . .

In an important sense, the relatively new and equally paternalistic edifice of international law, forged in the ashes of the Holocaust, is a similar fiction, propped up by sanctimonious self-edifying illusions like the Kindertransport narrative. It is a moral code upheld by a narrow transnational elite whose sense of self seems unaffected by half a million dead Syrians, a million dead Rwandans, Bosnians, Yazidis, and so on. It is a law of convenience, a law meant to serve the moral self-esteem of the strong. . . .

It is no accident that Israel is a bigger target of international legal attention than the world’s great powers, that the Palestinian question exercises the moral imagination of the strong more than all the depravations and callousness of China, Russia, or even Britain or America on the world stage. . . . Ironically, the hollowness of this paternalistic fiction is rendered even starker when one looks at it from the Palestinian side. Given the massive attention lavished on the Palestinians and their sufferings, it is remarkable how little headway this attention has won for the Palestinian cause. What can the Palestinians show for all the decades their cause has spent perched at the top of the agenda of the international liberal order? The irony is even more striking when one realizes that the world’s weakness in coming to the Palestinians’ aid is as compelling a piece of evidence as any ever offered for Israelis’ longstanding distrust of the international community as protector, and therefore as moral arbiter of a small nation’s security policies.

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More about: Holocaust, International Law, Israel & Zionism, Kindertransport

 

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela