Israel and the war against the West

Koos Malan on the common threat facing Jews, Afrikaners and Westerners more generally

The West is under siege, especially self-imposed cultural-intellectual siege from within its own ranks. However, especially in some centres in its geographical periphery, the assault is mostly from outside.

By the West, I do not mean the Western military alliance of NATO, nor simply the values of individual freedom, however important and strongly ingrained in North America and Western Europe, as well as in the West’s peripheral outposts.

By the West, I mean the West in its most authentic and durable embodiment, namely the Western civilization with its roots in the Classics.

Until the advent of political decolonization after World War II, the geographic reach of the West was far larger that it is today. Yet, it is still large. We can distinguish between the core of the West in Western Europe and, over the past four hundred years or so, North America. Then there is the outlying periphery of Western civilization in Australasia, Southern Africa and in a certain sense also in Israel.

The title of English public intellectual, Douglas Murray's 2022 book, War on the West, aptly encapsulates the siege that Western civilization is under, both at its core and at its periphery.

Baleful ideological extremism, assaulting the fundamental cultural temperament of the West, has always been the West's arch-menace. In the 1930s and 1940s it was from the right: National socialism.

However, the most constant assault has always been leftist extremism. It traces back to the anti-culture of the French revolution and since then has been embodied in several mutations of far-left anti-culture, especially in waves of Marxism washing against the West. Currently, this is expressed in the ideology of wokeness. This involves psycho-intellectual decadence, which is enlisted to reduce the West to the nihilism of anti-culture.

Peripheral outpost

In particular, two threatened peripheral centres of the West are relevant in the present discussion:

(1) the deposits of one of the West's oldest roots, the Jews in Israel;

(2) The West's youngest offspring, namely the Afrikaners (and similar Westerners – white and non-white) in Southern Africa, specifically South Africa. These Westerners – first the Dutch, followed by French, Germans, English and others – settled at the southern tip of Africa since 1652. Here, as NP van Wyk Louw, the great Afrikaans writer of the middle of the twentieth century, said 72 years ago, they embarked on the "great adventure" and "mighty task" to form an "own type of Western civilization here (in southern Africa)."

Oldest deposits

The mere existence of the Jewish state fills its archenemies in the Middle East, as well as numerous forces in the West itself, with such revulsion that they clamour for the destruction of Israel. From Luthuli House in Johannesburg, the headquarters of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), ANC-South Africa similarly distinguishes itself as a zealous warrior against the Jewish state.

That there might be weighty grounds for objections to the Israeli government may be clear. In its state of siege and given the Jews' checkered history of repeated victimization over the centuries, the Israeli government indeed shows a proclivity towards drastic action, of which its allies are also critical. However, this is no reason to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and exterminate the Jews. Moreover, I clearly distinguish between the Jews and the state of Israel on which the focus is falling here, in contrast to Israeli government of the day.

The destruction of Israel is of course easier said than done. The Jewish state is truly redoubtable, and is supported everywhere by strong, influential, resolute, and resourceful Jewish communities. Moreover, Israel, "the only Jewish state in the world", as many Jews often emphasise, also has the support of the powerful USA.

Youngest sprout

Several decades ago, the Westerners and the Afrikaner-dominated government in South Africa were similarly under pressure to surrender to a non-Western majority government. The white government's position became untenable over time. Due to the growing post-war liberal consensus, it came under fierce criticism about apartheid and therefore the exclusion of black people from equal rights.

In the face of a heightened internal rebellion, the rule of law came increasingly in the fray as drastic measures were imposed to maintain white rule. Over time, the majority of whites, including Afrikaners, lost faith in the feasibility and justifiability of their own policies and in 1994 gave way to a black government under the almost hallowed figure of Nelson Mandela and the ANC.

Pressure from the West - the USA, Britain, and Western Europe - was an important factor that caused the white government to eventually surrender. Thus, unlike in the case of the "only" Jewish state, the only (partly) Afrikaner state in the world disappeared from the scene, in the rather naive belief that individual rights in a supposedly supreme constitution could be a sufficient substitute guarantee for minimum political power.

The overall context: The West

The earliest origins of Western civilization trace back to Christian faith, the Athenian passion for learning and philosophy, and the Roman zeal for law and statecraft. This is epitomized in three classical fount cities of the West: Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. It is there where the foundations of the Western intellectual and spiritual goods and the cannon took form, in time encapsulated in the Bible; the great literary and philosophical works of classical Greece such as the writings of Homer, Plato and Aristotle; and the Roman Corpus Iuris Civilis (especially the Digest); and in time the other Great Books of the West.

These foundations were brought together in a synthesis during the Middle Ages to form a coherent Western civilization. During the Middle Ages several more fount cities and centres were added to the initial three classical ones. Several of them over time surpassed the initial three in intellectual and cultural gravitas, prestige, and influence to collectively becoming the main bearers of Western civilization.

They grew everywhere in the then expanding West, also in its periphery, including in South Africa where centres of Western culture, including universities, libraries, modes of governance and legal administration and many other modalities of Western culture and science have been modelled on the older European and American examples, epitomising symbols of civilizational achievement in the broadest sense of the word.

Since approximately 1500 AD, emanating from its exceptional élan vital (Afrikaans: lewensdrif), the West has registered extraordinary achievements in every field of life, including science, technology, culture, economy, politics, the military and similar fields - the highest of all people in all times, many will be able to convincingly claim.

Their zeal made Western powers expand over almost all corners of the earth and left distinctive marks of the West prominent everywhere. The current continued use of the European languages, especially English far beyond their cradle in Western Europe, still bears witness to the indelible impact of the West. The same applies to Western science and technology, government, the law ... in fact in every imaginable area.

However, the greater the potency of a civilization, the stronger is its capacity not only for achievement but also for malperformance, to such an extent that one can possibly argue that there appears to be an almost directly proportional relationship between achievement and abuse; the more potent the élan vital, the chutzpah of (a person) or a civilization, and the more it accomplishes, the more its sin may be felt – all a function of high performance and far reaching impact. This applies to all such communities in the long course of history: Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Chinese, Macedonians, Romans, the Mongolian nomadic "empire", the French empire, the Dutch trading empire, the British empire...the list goes on.

This happens because élan vital / lewensdrif and chutzpah and finally assertiveness and even aggression is a natural part of life. Just read the history, like William McNeill's magnum opus, The rise of the West, Arnold Toynbee’s A study of history and many more great works of history and soon it will be crystal clear that a minimum degree of aggression in addition to other vital ingredients are conditional for all high-performing history-making communities.

For as much as person, community or civilization may be praised for their achievements, they may also be reproached for their sinfulness. However, at present the West, owing to envy, revenge, hatred as well as self-hatred; attracts no praise for its singularly superior feats; only repugnance and a sustained crusade for its annihilation.

Thus Susan Sontag, left-wing American public intellectual in an outpouring of Western self-hatred, expressed her revulsion at the West in 1967 as follows:

"The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al, don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world.”

Since the West's achievements have been so extraordinarily magnificent, its sins are perceived to also have been extraordinary, and therefore the insistence on penance, destruction, and self-destruction is as boundless as ever.

What is of course also true is that the West has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for self-correction and self-improvement, as is expressed, among other things, in the enormous improvement in the quality of life of people wherever there is a Western footprint. Unwittingly Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now profusely (2018) attests to that.

Revenge against the Western core

The annihilation drive against the West goes back a long way, already to the time of the French revolution and in time to the rise of Marxism.

After World War II there was the decolonization of the former Western colonies in Asia and Africa. Initially, this involved the understandable insistence of former colonial territories to free themselves from the political rule of the former Western colonial powers.

Soon, however, over the past decades, the extermination project against the West began to gather steam in its fullest extent. One of the key code words for this is precisely decolonization. Now, however, "decolonization" strikes infinitely deeper and wider. This entails that the West must be destroyed politically, but more especially that Western man must completely renounce and abandon Western culture for its infection with the abomination of Western superiority, the ideology of whiteness, that is, white supremacy. Westerners must cease being Westerners and Western civilization must liquidate itself.

The cry of annihilation rang clear on January 15, 1987, 20 years after Sontag's outburst, when Jesse Jackson and 500 protesters at Stanford University cried out:" Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ (Civilization) has to go!” The target of the slogan was ostensibly limited: aimed at the freshman course in Western culture at Stanford (and other American universities). The insistence was on "diversity" in place of the offending exclusive Western focus. In the final analysis, the scope of what followed was infinitely broader, namely to undo Western civilization as such, among other things by ensuring that the USA renounces its self-conception as a Western state.

Since then, this zeal to destroy the West has mainly come from within the Western core itself – from within Western Europe and North America - namely from an assortment of extremist leftist ideological forces, of which wokism is the latest mutation. This involves Western self-hatred as it finds expression in the insistence on the annihilation of the West through, among other things, the encouragement of mass migration of non-Westerners to the Western core and the liquidation of Western culture under the banner of decolonization and similar extremist-leftist forces enlisted against Western civilization.

Currently, the cultural battle for the soul of the West is in full swing, to the extent that the erstwhile cultural consensus according to which the USA was a Western country has disappeared. The question posed in Samuel Huntington's 2005 work Who are we? - The challenges to America's national identity with reference to who Americans actually are, and therefore where they culturally belong, have therefore since been answered.

The answer is captured in a phrase that Huntington himself used before, namely that the USA has become a cleft state in which irreconcilable antagonistic views on civilization challenge each other. In the present case, it is Western civilization and anti-civilization (in the malformed guise of wokism) that clash against each other. The other part of the Western core, Western Europe and Britain, similarly gave up its cultural coherence, to the extent that Douglas Murray in 2017 in The strange death of Europe – Immigration, identity Islam could testify in detail to the drastic decline of Western Europe.

Rage against the Western periphery

On the Western periphery, the anger against Israel, which is experienced at least in part as a Western outpost, takes the form of armed conflict.

In South Africa, Westerners must contend with extremist left-wing ideology from within their own ranks. Helen Zille has in her 2021 book, Stay woke go broke, given a good breakdown of this. Left-wing extremism is in full swing in South Africa, as in the Western core, similarly to dismantle the Western cultural presence by clamouring for so-called decolonization.

In South Africa it also takes on the nature of the partially Marxist inspired "national-democratic revolution" and transformationism: supposed affirmative action, black economic empowerment, land confiscation under the banner of expropriation without compensation, and hate campaigns against so-called white monopoly capital and genocidal cries against white people (for which Julius Malema, irascible leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), among others has earned notoriety), transformation, and decolonization of the of the educational curricula. It also takes the form of a sustained cultural attack against Afrikaners' cultural goods and language, as now again with the infamous totalitarian Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill.

One common existential challenge

The diverse antagonisms in the various states (the USA, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Israel and South Africa and others) are bound together in a comprehensive existential, civilizational challenge against the West in its core as well as on the periphery.

There may be convincing grounds for criticism against the present Israeli government, just as there were once grounds for opposition to the Western rule in South Africa under its erstwhile white government. This is the kind of criticism that should be considered and heeded by suitable adjustments.

However, the criticism does not detract from the fact that Westerners, whether in the core or in the periphery, essentially face the same political-cultural crisis, are threatened by similar ideological-cultural forces, and are, to a large extent, dependent on each other. This is the most important issue of our time.

Koos Malan is a constitutional jurist from Pretoria.

The basis of this article was published in Afrikaans in Netwerk24/Beeld/Die Burger.