I didn’t go to Lady Gaga’s concert in Tel Aviv. Showing my age, I guess. But I’m feeling I should have made the effort — especially after I read Debra Kamin’s Times of Israel review of the show. “Put your hands up and cheer for yourselves,” Kamin quoted the good Lady telling the crowd at the end of her performance. “You are strong, you are brave, you are confident, and I f*cking love you, Israel.”
“I f*cking love you, Israel.” Maybe she says the same kind of thing everywhere she goes. But you know what? That was a great thing to say to Israel, to Israelis, at the end of this awful summer. I don’t remember anybody else saying anything remotely like it.
I do remember US Secretary of State John Kerry sneering to a colleague, as Israel’s air force sought to stop Hamas firing its thousands of rockets at us, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”
I remember French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius equating Israel and Hamas when saying, “In Israel and in Gaza, the situation is very hard… Nothing justifies continued attacks and massacres which do nothing but only claim more victims and stoke tensions.”
I remember Britain’s Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband declaring that, while “I defend Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks… I cannot explain, justify, or defend the horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, including children and innocent civilians… This escalation will serve no lasting purpose and will do nothing to win Israel friends.”
And these are our ostensible international partners.
Significantly, the US, France and the UK are at the forefront of new efforts to tackle the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In that cause, evidently, airstrikes and other contemplated international military actions, far from being unjustified and horrifying, are apparently moral, laudable and essential.
It doesn’t really make much sense, does it, from a moral perspective?
The world’s self-styled moral guardians and barometers of international legitimacy ignore President Bashar Assad when he slaughters hundreds of thousands of his own Syrian people. Similarly, IS, ISIL, ISIS or whatever it’s calling itself these days kills thousands of civilians in the region over the past decade and yet its existence barely registers on the Western consciousness. President Barack Obama, by his own admission, neglects to so much as prepare a strategy for dealing with it. Only when it starts beheading individual Westerners does it suddenly become a terrorist threat “beyond anything that we’ve seen” in the words of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
We don’t have the luxury of withdrawing from the Middle East, America-style, if our military campaigns run into difficulty. This bloody, pernicious, unstable region is our historic neighborhood
Meanwhile, Hamas murders hundreds of Israelis in a strategic campaign of suicide bombings at the turn of the millennium, is subsequently elected by appreciative Palestinians to run numerous West Bank local councils and secures most of the Palestinian parliamentary seats in Gaza, ousts the Western-backed Mahmoud Abbas from the Strip in a brief orgy of murder, and steps up indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel. It then sets about turning Gaza into a terrorist enclave, arming itself with thousands of rockets and numerous cross-border attack tunnels, in pursuit of its openly declared goal of annihilating Israel. When Israel and Egypt impose a security blockade aimed at preventing yet more weaponry flooding into the Gaza terror state, Israel (though not Egypt) gets castigated internationally.
Then, this June, under instructions from Gaza, a Hamas terror cell in the West Bank kidnaps and kills three Israeli teenagers. And when Israel starts arresting suspects, Hamas steps up the Gaza rocket fire, plunging us into 50 days of conflict.
While the US doubtless regrets that its military intervention in distant Iraq and Afghanistan has led to tens of thousands of civilians being killed there, it saw this as the deeply unfortunate consequence of the imperative to tackle the Islamist terrorism that threatens America, its allies and its values; indeed, it christened its campaign in Afghanistan “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Yet Israel’s attempts to protect its civilians from an Islamist terror state right next door — and to do so while seeking to minimize the civilian casualties in an enclave where Hamas incontrovertibly fired from hospitals, mosques, schools and homes — garnered the most grudging endorsement of its “right to defend itself” from its vital American ally, along with a (still) suspended missile shipment; the threat to halt arms sales from its slightly less vital British ally, and ill-informed condemnation from just about everywhere else (except Canada).
The horrors of this summer may not actually be over
We don’t have the luxury of withdrawing from the Middle East, America-style, if our military campaigns run into difficulty. This bloody, pernicious, unstable region is our historic neighborhood. Indeed, the critical importance of the revived Jewish national homeland as the only guaranteed place of refuge for Jews has been bitterly reconfirmed this summer, with Jews from countries such as France and Belgium — who until very recently thought they had the luxury of contemplating whether they might like to choose to immigrate — now increasingly looking to Israel as an essential safe haven, given the growing impossibility of living safely as publicly identified Jews amid the post-war wave of anti-Semitism.
Whisper it, but even in the United States of America some Jews worry that they are witnessing a significant resurgence of the oldest disease, often presenting in the guise of the anti-Zionism now especially virulent on university campuses. Not everyone is quite so sure anymore of the hitherto barely questioned assumption that at least Jews in America, if almost nowhere else in the Diaspora, could look to the medium term and beyond with confidence.
The horrors of this summer may not actually be over. Hamas still has thousands of rockets and, more pertinently, thousands of killers praying they’ll be granted their heartfelt wish to perish in the act of murdering Jews. To our north, Hezbollah is ten times as strong as Hamas ever was. It has 100,000 rockets, and an estimated 5,000 precision missiles, with only one address — Israel — to be launched when the time is deemed to be ripe. And to our east, Iran, which will tell Hezbollah when to launch, is spinning its ever more sophisticated centrifuges en route to the bomb, while privately delighting that the short-sighted West, shocked by those brutal beheadings, now seeks to woo the ayatollahs in the struggle against Islamic State. The enemy of my enemy, it need urgently be remembered, is not always my friend.
I’ve no idea how much of this is known to, or even interests, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta — aka Lady Gaga. I do know that this summer, when all other artists about her were canceling their Israel visits, or having them canceled by our rocket-battered homefront authorities, the good Lady kept her head… and kept her Tel Aviv date optimistically in her calendar. So that when the rocket fire did subside less than three weeks before showtime, and we were finally able to emerge from our bomb shelters, she could fly in, perform, and tell us she loved us. (Kudos, as well, to Tony Bennett, a special guest at the Gaga show, and the star of his own sold-out Mann Auditorium concert on Sunday night.)
That took strength, bravery, confidence and more clear-headed morality than any international statesman managed to muster this terrible summer, when world attitudes to Israel ranged from half-hearted support to vicious, unjustified criticism. If they’re inclined to search for their moral compasses, Messrs. Kerry, Fabius, Miliband et al might care to consult with the singing star our reviewer magnificently described as “pop’s most promiscuous provocateur.” So thank you, Lady Gaga, and we f*cking love you right back.
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