Having identified “The Big Ugly,” as that phenomenon in which the ruthless are driven to organize their politics (and often their lives) around opposition to the Jews and their state, the next question is what to do with this understanding?
After all, this Big Ugly is our real enemy (even if it appears to us in different guises at different times). So is there any practical value to be gained by knowing what we’re actually up against?
Well to start with, this definition can provide us the framework to understand the various flavors of Israel-hatred we encounter (the subject of some discussion in the comments section of the last post).
To cite two examples: It can sometimes feel disorienting when seemingly kind, thoughtful people seem to display automatic contempt for the Jewish state. And the behavior of the BDSers, notably their diamond-hard imperviousness to facts and arguments that counter their worldview, can seem positively bizarre to those of us who still consider ourselves rational actors.
But if you consider the framework provided by “The Big Ugly,” all of these categories of Israel-dislikers fall neatly into place.
Starting with the naïf (the person who has strong opinions about the Middle East based on very little knowledge or understanding), they can be broken into two categories: (1) those who have simply not learned enough, but are open to new information and engagement with those holding different views, and (2) those who will grip tightly to their “blame Israel” narrative, no matter how much new information is provided.
The former is outside the grip of “The Big Ugly” (although they always stand the chance of falling into its clutches). The latter, however, can be easily understood in light of Ruth Wisse’s explanation of how, when faced with a real-world situation (like the Arab War Against the Jews) that contradicts an Enlightenment-driven world view (that everyone really thinks like us, peace is always possible, and the world can only progress, never regress), it’s easier to ignore the real world in order to preserve our beliefs.
This is especially true if you take Lee Harris’ forgetfulness into account, notably the ability to forget that the civilization we enjoy is an artificial construct protecting us from a jungle teeming with ruthless actors. Those living in such civilizations naturally start taking this protection (as well as their own comforts) for granted, which means that accepting the Israeli and Jewish condition as it truly is requires remembering what the world is really like.
This is why that class of naives characterized by hardened opinion and self-imposed ignorance, while not Harrisian ruthless actors themselves, are particularly vulnerable to manipulation and control by genuine ruthless men and women, like our friends from the land of BDS.
For the BDSer, like most full-time (or, at least full-throated) Israel haters can’t be bothered with facts or arguments since their goal is to drive home a propaganda message (that Israel is the new “Apartheid State” worthy of the fate that befell the last one), no matter what any opponent says and no matter what audience they address.
This is why they can so easily ignore any facts or arguments that counter their message since their mission is to get their propaganda message out, regardless of how indefensible it might be (which is why they never bother putting any effort into defending it, preferring instead to simply shout it louder). And this is why they will drag the Middle East conflict into every civic organization in the land since, for the ruthless actor, these organizations exist for but one purpose: to serve their will.
Again, our “Big Ugly” definition (particularly Lee Harris’ theories on ruthlessness and fantasy politics) makes this behavior perfectly understandable (if no less deplorable) since – for the ruthless propagandist – all of us (Israel supporters, members of civic organizations, Israelis and even the Palestinians they claim to love so dearly) are all just props in the propagandists fantasy-driven information war designed to achieve victory, regardless of the cost (especially to others).
As we move up the food chain to Israel’s direct foes we reach those nation states whose wealth and power ensures that Israel will be forever in the dock while her enemy’s crimes go unchallenged. With this group, we are looking at the pure distillation of “The Big Ugly,” actors driven by a desire to achieve dominance through a combination of absolutely ruthless behavior and an understanding that organizing their ruthless politics around opposition to the Jews and their state pays endless dividends.
But while understanding who we’re dealing with is useful, action is what ultimately counts. And knowing that we are up against a foe (ruthlessness) that precedes Israel, precedes Left-Right politics, precedes even Jews and civilization itself, we must come to grips with the fact that our fight is ongoing, and possibly eternal.
This means that we cannot come up with that one perfect argument, that one switch of vocabulary, that terrific pro-Israel marketing campaign, that stupendous victory against BDSers here or there, or that one groundbreaking election win and assume the battle has turned. For even if we vanquish or transform our current tormentors, The Big Ugly will simply migrate somewhere else. And once a new vulnerable host has been found, we’ll need to start the battle all over again.
The endlessness of our struggle can easily lead to defeatism or despair (which explains why many Jews either leave the fight or join the other side). But it doesn’t have to.
Why not? Tune in next time to find out in what I hope will end up the final installment of this series.