The West owes the rest of the world an explanation as to why and how Israel has come to have such a powerful hold on the domestic and foreign affairs of nearly all Western countries. There are three reasons why.
The West is today effectively the moral, political, economic and cultural centre of the universe, and has been since at least the second half of the 1600s. After centuries of internal warring, Western countries in Europe and their outposts in the Americas and beyond have evolved a number of “universal” norms such as democracy, freedom, personal liberty, fundamental human rights, rule of law, self-determination, and so on, that effectively govern much of the world today.
These norms form the bedrock of almost all political, economic and social institutions in their own countries and are embraced or actively promoted and exported, by stealth or by force, around much of the world. These ideas and norms have energised and empowered hordes of revolutionaries and literally billions of humans in far-flung areas across Africa, Asia, Latin America and beyond to rise against various local, and often even European tyrannies, to demand freedom and participation in their own affairs for themselves. And they continue to do.
And while it is true that the West cannot claim to have invented these norms and institutions, since they had existed in other civilisations, cultures and societies long before the Western ascent, it is also true that in their present forms, they are largely Western, if not in origin, then certainly in inflection. The modern world, as we know it, is effectively Western, even if we agree that modernity itself is not.
Moreover, these norms also form the bedrock of the current so-called “rule-based” international order that govern the affairs between one country and another or others within the international system. Diplomacy and international trade, multilateral political and military organisations, as well as much of the world’s cultural exchange in sports, literature, entertainment and the creative arts, are all grounded in norms, rules, institutions and styles developed and largely run by the West, never mind the occasional brown or black faces that are often at the head of the global governance system.
Furthermore, Western multinational corporations and companies produce goods and services, from automobiles to toothpicks, and from military wares to medicines that are not only consumed but admired and bellowed across much of the world.
In addition, these corporations set the standards of practices in exploration, extraction and production of all sorts of goods and services across global markets, from finance to minerals to trade in machines or other wares. They provide jobs and livelihoods to billions of ordinary people in areas far removed from the metropolitan cities of the west where they are headquartered.
In addition, modern science and technology, transformed if not originating in the West, has revolutionised centuries-old practices in medicine, agriculture, transportation, media and communications, warfare and much else besides. Improvements in nutrition, sanitation and medicines, arising from scientific and technological inventions pioneered predominantly by Western inventors and scientists, if not all, have made people in most countries of the world to live longer and healthier lives, much the same way as advances in communications have turned the world effectively into a global village.
The West is also effectively the cultural capital of the world. Cities from London to Lisbon, and from Paris to New York continue to have a strong pull and appeal in the imagination of most of the world’s populations in a way that is not reversed or replicated anywhere else. Even if China or India throw their doors open to the world today, not many in the world will throng there; certainly not as people still do to the West, often at the risk of everything, including their lives.
Universities in London and Boston, and in Oxford and California, attract not only some of the finest minds on the planet for education but also often to find home. People go to Dubai and Shanghai, yes, but the local elites there also prefer to educate their children elsewhere in the West.
For sure, Western schools are the training grounds for the children of the world’s elite, and increasingly, even the middle class, including those from China, India, Russia and the Arab world. And for those around the world who cannot reach Western capitals in person for their education, western textbooks remain the standard across the globe’s classrooms. And yes, it is true that not everyone in the world is necessarily enamoured or enchanted by all of the Western glamour. No, not all of the world’s peoples are under the Western yoke, cultural or political. But it is also true that there are more that under it, one way or another, than not. It is also true that not all that glitter is gold in the West. Some of the world’s nastiest inequalities, discrimination, and social injustice are to be found in Western societies, as are some of the worst forms of social and political corruption in the world. But by and large, the West remains the cultural, political, economic and technological capital of the world.
Yet, all of this power worships at the feet of Israel; effectively an occupation force. Since Israel’s war on Gaza began early last month in the name of an unequal and disproportionate retaliation against the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, Western leaders have been falling over themselves to literally visit and pay homage to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister.
Through the rhetoric of “Israel has a right to defend itself” mouthed in a zombie-like manner by most Western leaders, their governments have issued not only a blank cheque to Israel to kill and maim Palestinian civilians, women and children, but have helped supply deadly weapons, including those banned by their own rules, to Israel to do so.
Their international political institutions, and the minions that man them on Western behalf, have been completely impotent, even to call for a mere ceasefire, let alone to issue out edicts calling for the heads of those who have deliberately fired missiles at hospitals, schools, civilian homes, roads and literally everywhere. Never mind that only a few weeks ago, international organisations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), were calling for Russian president, Vladimir Putin’s head in the name of his committing war crimes or crimes against humanity in Ukraine. Israel has been doing worse on live television for weeks, yet, even to say it has been impossible for Western governments and leaders.
Western media organisations, think tanks, non-profits and ‘activists’ who, the horrors in Gaza happening anywhere else, would be all over the place screaming fundamental human rights and self-determination have suddenly gone deaf, mute and blind. All the normative values and professional guidelines for news reporting established by Western media and taught to all journalists around the world as the standard for practice have been thrown out the window. In comparison to Al Jazeera, for example, Western media reporting of the war is so one-sided as to be worse than embarrassing.
And yet, they trudge on. Impotent governments and leaders. Deaf and dumb media. Subdued international institutions. All falling over themselves to please an apartheid state. The only saving grace is the one or two officials and citizens who have thronged out in the streets to protest, just about the only thing they could do. And it makes the rest of us in the world wonder how and why Israel has come to have such a hold on the West. Maybe Biden, the Zionist, can tell us.