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Jewish World Review May 1, 2002 / 19 Iyar, 5762

Diana West

Diana West
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Consumer Reports

Western self-loathing numbs us to violence | Two things that happened last September are key to what happens from here on out -- and both incidents occurred after Sept. 11.

First: On Sept. 23, 2001, Hamas supporters at a Palestinian university marked the anniversary of the year-old return to war against Israel with an exhibition celebrating terrorism. Highlights included an installation re-creating the lunch-time attack on a Jerusalem pizza parlor, killing 15, which came complete with body-part props, fake pizza slices and a black-masked "bomber" who obliged passing spectators by setting off play-explosions. Another tableau featured a mannequin dressed in the garb of an ultra-Orthodox Jew standing behind a large rock -- a large TALKING rock -- that said, "O believer, there is a Jewish man behind me. Come and kill him."

In other words, this was a real West-Bank crowd-pleaser. But while the show may have gone over in Nablus like Monet at the Met, it repelled the West -- at least the small segment that actually got wind of it. Despite relatively scant coverage, the genuine revulsion generated by this exhibition indicates that two weeks into the new age of terror, a celebration of civilian carnage, whether in New York or Jerusalem, was still shocking in the extreme and utterly incomprehensible.

Second: A few days later, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi remarked that the West -- at that point still definable by its unmitigated outrage over terrorist attacks great and small -- should take heart from a demonstrable superiority to Islamic society.

"We should be confident of the superiority of our civilization," Berlusconi said, because "it consists of a value system that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it, and guarantees respect for human rights and religion." Such respect, he continued, "certainly does not exist in Islamic countries."

Judging by the widespread outrage Berlusconi sparked -- outrage emanating from the highest government levels in Europe and burning beyond the West -- he, too, had defined an outer limit of acceptable behavior. The Italian leader may have been addressing himself to the new world of Islamist terror, but he was also speaking in the old era of multiculturalism, where openly boosting representative democracy over repressive theocracy and dictatorships was also shocking in the extreme and utterly incomprehensible.

And now? To be sure, there have been no more Berlusconi-style bloopers. The assault on the West by radical Islam is more or less depicted as a security issue, not the "clash of civilizations" that it is. The open glorification of terrorism throughout the Islamic world, however, has only grown more brazen. While Westerners still wouldn't line up alongside Palestinians to see the exploding pizza-parlor exhibit, it's fair to say that many in the West, Europe especially, have become strangely numb to terrorism, particularly as practiced against Israel, and have even embarked upon a barbarous process of rationalization that seemed unimaginable just seven months ago. Back then, a chamber of horrors like the Hamas terror show would still end a debate, not -- now that the shock is over -- open one.

What accounts for the change? The answer may lie closer to the spontaneous chorus of enlightened disgust that greeted Berlusconi's affirmation of Western civilization than to a newfound affinity for terrorism itself. Writing in The Times of London, Mick Hume makes a point along these lines by describing the "anti-Israel turn in Western opinion" as a "symptom of the West's loss of conviction in itself." This is a profoundly important observation. As Hume -- a self-described Palestinian sympathizer, by the way -- goes on to explain, "In the eyes of many today, Israel's crime is to be the most forceful expression of Western values. The Israeli state is seen as a beachhead of Western civilization in a hostile world.

"That used to be its greatest asset," he continues. "Today, however, Western civilization has fallen into disrepute even within its own heartlands, and Israel's image has suffered accordingly."

For decades now, the relativist school of thought known as multiculturalism has been pushing Western civilization into disrepute. Maybe it has finally fallen. Something has shifted, certainly, reshaping the global topography to the point where most of what counts as the free world now gravitates toward the repressive forces of terror that surround a vibrant democratic society engaging, however fiercely, in self-defense.

That just might make this, then, the penultimate triumph of multiculturalism. In other words, don't count on the battle ending at Israel's borders, wherever they ultimately lie. "A global consensus against Israel has taken shape among all those who hate the values of Western society," Hume writes.

What we didn't fully realize in September was how much of Western society that also includes. Which doesn't, needless to say, bode too well for the rest of us.

JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


04/29/02: It's the misconduct, stupid
04/24/02: Medal of diss-honor
04/17/02: Holy sanctuary or terrorist shield?
04/12/02: Egyptian clerics solicit martyrs for murder
04/09/02: Defining terrorism down
04/05/02: The Wilder life
04/02/02: Acting, equality and the Academy
03/31/02: Speeding to conclusions
03/25/02: Hard to remove blood (libel) stains
03/21/02: The tale of Nixon's tapes --- again
03/19/02: The Big Lie lives on
03/15/02: The tunnel vision of '9/11'
03/13/02: The American Auschwitz?
03/08/02: Hating the indoctrination of hate
03/05/02: Clinton and Enron: Old friends
03/01/02: Pickering doesn't polarize, the process does
02/26/02: Destiny's prefabricated child
02/22/02: The White House heist
02/20/02: Making the grade
02/11/02: Studying student visas
02/06/02: Understanding arrogance
02/04/02: The professor's war
01/29/02: Disconnected dialogue
01/23/02: Anti-Indiscrimination
01/18/02: How much is enough?
01/15/02: Oh brothers, where art thou?
01/10/02: Air on the side of caution
01/04/02: Blacks seeing red at Harvard
01/02/02: Clinton's campaign continues
12/26/01: A tale of two exhibitions
12/24/01: Taliban Idyll
12/19/01: Right is right
12/17/01: Hillary strikes out
12/13/01: Lost files, lost presidency
12/10/01: Revolutionaries never grow up
12/05/01: Immigration reform talk is not just for 'haters' anymore
12/03/01: A new symbol of justice
11/30/01: Beyond morality
11/26/01: Can't keep a good man down
11/20/01: Tough talk at the United Nations
11/19/01: Hollywood's other battle
11/14/01: What's the matter with Sara Jane?
11/09/01: A beef with bin Laden's Beef Noodles
11/07/01: Facing up to the FBI's past mistakes
11/02/01: A school that teaches patriots to shutup
10/30/01: The gap between Islam and peace
10/26/01: The ties that bind (and gag)
10/24/01: This war is more than Afghanistan
10/22/01: The fatuous fatwa
10/19/01: Left out
10/16/01: Whose definition of terrorism?
10/11/01: Post-stress disorder
10/08/01: How the West has won
10/01/01: Good, bad or ... diplomacy
09/28/01: Drawing a line in stone
09/21/01: Prejudice or prudence?
09/14/01: When our dead will finally rest in hallowed ground
09/07/01: We want our #$%^&*() audience back!
08/24/01: The transformation from Green Mountain State to Green Activist State is all but complete
08/17/01: Enlightenment at Yale
08/10/01: From oppressors to victims, a metamorphosis
08/03/01: Opening the dormitory door: College romance in the New Century
08/01/01: How-To Hackdom: The dubious art of writing books about writing books
07/20/01: Hemming about Hemmings
07/13/01: Justice has not been served in the Loiuma police brutality case
06/22/01: When PC parades are too 'mainstream'
06/22/01: When "viewpoint discrimination" in our schools was not nearly so gnarly a notion
06/15/01: Lieberman flaunts mantle of perpetual aggrievement
06/07/01: Is graciousness the culprit?
06/01/01: The bright side of the Jeffords defection
05/29/01: Campus liberals should be more careful
05/18/01: 'Honest Bill' Clinton and other Ratheresian Logic
05/11/01: Dodging balls, Bugs, and 'brilliance'
05/04/01: Foot in mouth disease and little lost Tories
04/20/01:The last classic Clinton cover-up
04/20/01: D-Day, Schmee-Day
04/06/01: For heaven's sake, a little decency!
03/30/01: The sweet sound of slamming doors and clucking feminists
03/23/01: America's magazines and the 'ick-factor'
03/09/01: Felony neglect
03/02/01: Who's sorry now?
02/23/01: 'Ecumenical niceness' and other latter-day American gifts to the world
02/16/01: Elton and Eminem: Royal dirge-icist meets violent fantasist
02/12/01: If only ...

© 2001, Diana West