Even as late as 1973, Israel was still widely seen as the good guys and the Arabs were the bad. Sympathy was with Israel because they were being picked on and bullied. There was little consideration of the ‘legitimacy’ of Israel; it was taken for granted.
In 1967, the capture and occupation of East Jerusalem, which of course we commemorated on Sunday as Jerusalem Day, and of Judea and Samaria were accepted as a legitimate act of self-defense.
This was not true just for those of us still at school and in the fledgling days of a military career. This was the general view of British people, and of many in the West, obviously with plenty of exceptions.
Back then, in the 60s and 70s, young minds were still being shaped by traditional views of good and evil. The Valiant comic, read by most schoolboys, was all about heroic Tommies beating the treacherous Nazis or the fanatical Japanese. War films on the whole told the same stories, and without the graphic violence of today.
We had The Longest Day, The Guns of Navarone and Zulu. The BBC was neutral, and if anything supported the values of the country that paid for it. On the whole, like other UK news services of the day, it sought to convey events from the Middle East and everywhere else free of a political agenda, left or right.
In general, popular culture still reflected the long accepted beliefs and principles of a Christian society. All of this shaped the views of the majority of people.
We live in a very different world today. In 40 years the general opinion of Israelis and their Arab foes has been reversed.
What has changed? Some say the situation is different. But this is not the case.
Fundamentally the situation remains the same. Israel’s stance is unchanged from 1948. A desire for the survival of the Jewish national homeland, at peace with its neighbours.
All that has changed about this has been that Israel has made repeated costly concessions, including giving up land, for peace. Concessions which have not been reciprocated by the Palestinians, but instead exploited at the grave expense of Israel. Concessions which have not been acknowledged or remembered by the international community, who, like the Palestinians, simply and uncompromisingly demand more and more and more and more.
Nor have the Arabs fundamentally changed. We have of course peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. And the growing threats from Iran and from expanding Sunni jihadism may be leading to some temporary and below the radar mutual cooperation from parts of the Arab world.
But the underlying perspective and agenda, especially among the Palestinians, is the same as it was in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Rejection of Jewish communities in the land of Israel. The destruction of the Jewish State.
Some of the basic dynamics have altered. Before, organized, uniformed and relatively disciplined and conventional Arab armies fought under their national flag. Today the armies have been replaced by terrorist gangsters and black-cloaked jihadists.
Conventional war has been replaced by terrorist attacks. Battles fought between tanks and infantry in remote deserts have been replaced by battles fought in densely populated civilian areas and behind the protection of human shields.
In my view if such events as the Gaza conflict last summer were played out in the 1960s and 70s, the support for Israel in the West would have been greater than it was even then. The savage and murderous actions of the Palestinians are far more shocking today.
So I again ask the question, what has changed? And the answer is: The morality and values of the West. They have been transformed almost beyond recognition...Indeed. And, without meaning to, Anthony Furey, the subject of my previous post, embodies the transformation. Which is to say that, while he identifies as a libertarian/conservative, he does not "get" any of that religious stuff--the Judeo-Christian stuff--which underpins Western civilization and which is the bedrock of our morality and values.
The Ten Commandments? The Golden Rule? The Sermon on the Mount? As non-believers like Furey know, all those stodgy rules are just so old, so passé . In these hip, modern times, we eschew--and laugh at--all those silly strictures about no-bacon-on-your-burger in favour of moral relativism, "victims" as exemplars of virtuousness and anything goes (save for the secular "sins"--"racism," "sexism," "transphobia," etc.) In that sort of world--the one we're stuck with, alas--Israel, in having to constantly defend itself militarily, will always be seen as the bad guy.