Peace Now — Peace in Our Time

Mr. Neville Chamberlain (center), Pg. Joachim von Ribbentrop (left), Führer Adolf Hitler, Sept. 28, 1938

History has not been kind to Mr. Chamberlain. The agreement with Hitler that he so proudly displayed on his return to Britain proved to be worthless. In a way, mutatis mutandis, Chamberlain was the Barack Obama of his time: confrontation is noxious and dangerous, he believed, negotiation is the only reasonable way to go. Of course the situation then was not the situation today, and today’s foes are not identical to the foes of 1938; Obama’s path today may yet prove to be the wise one that his admirers hope it will be.

But there is something eerily similar between then and now. Hitler’s Nazi movement made an appeal to dark human passions that sweet reason could not assuage. Sweet reason — can’t we all just get along ? — does not solve all issues, pace Chamberlain, Obama, and the bienpensant liberals of our day. Today, I fear, our (mostly liberal) chattering classes, so intent on getting on with negotiation and avoiding confrontation, simply fail to notice that Islamism, in this respect not unlike the Nazism of yore, appeals to passions that are not provided for by rational-man images of bourgeois society.

Today’s New York Times tells us that “at least 6 die as Islamists clash with Hamas” in the Gaza territory. The story of bloody mayhem, members of one Islamicist faction killing those of another, is buried on page 7, with the front page taken up by more important news: “retailers see slowing sales in key season,” “idle Iraqi date farms show decline in economy,” a shooting in Harlem, etc. But the violence of Palestinian Islamicists against one another gets swept under a page-seven rug. And New York Times’s readers are spared a confrontation with uncomfortable reality.

The sweet-reason, can’t-we-all-just-get-along movement in Israel is called Peace Now, and is promoted by left-wing parties like Meretz. Peace Now was founded some thirty years ago with the proposition that if only Israel were nicer to the Arabs, the Arabs, in turn, would be nicer to Israel. If Peace Now has a guiding principle, it is that radical, uncompromising Islamicism is to be strictly ignored. But, alas, while Israel has tried to be as nice as possible to the Arabs (most notably at Camp David in 2000 and at Taba in 2001), more or less following Peace Now prescriptions, there have been no positive results, peace now being more elusive than ever. Consequently, as explained by Carlo Strenger in a recent issue of Haaretz, Peace Now has virtually disappeared from Israeli politics.

Update on the intraIslamist violence in Gaza (Haaretz, 8/15/09):

Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said 24 people were killed, including six Hamas police officers and an 11-year-old girl. At least 150 people were wounded, he said.

When Everything is Black or White: Caldwell’s book on Islam in Europe

In the Photoshop program for editing photographs, there is a facility by which one can increase or decrease the contrast of an image. I took a black-and-white portrait of my youngest granddaughter, and then dialed up the contrast to a maximum. The result is a picture, interesting in itself, but lacking all nuance of shading. Everything is black or white.

I thought of this ability to rev up contrast, with its result of utter distortion, as I read the book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe” by Christopher Caldwell. Caldwell is upset by the large Muslim populations in Europe, and, indeed, there are real enough problems. But Caldwell sees everything in black and white. The Muslim populations, he claims, have not assimilated, AT ALL, to European culture. Caldwell is not a scholar, and his use of statistics (and other data) is tendentious and naive. I think that he does point to things we need to worry about, but his highly contrasty portrait will not help us think about the problem intelligently.

I have reviewed this book for Amazon.