Sympathy is no substitute for power

Saul Singer, as regular Power Line readers know, is the editorial page editor of the Jerusalem Post, author of the recently published book Confronting Jihad: Israel’s Struggle & the World After 9/11 , and one of our favorite columnists. In his latest column, Singer explains how Lars van Trier’s new anti-American film Dogville inadvertently contains a valuable lesson for Israel.
In Dogville, the heroine, disgusted by the world of gangsters, seeks refuge in a tiny town in the Rockies. As her reliance on the townspeople grows, they make increasingly depraved demands on the woman. The movie thus demonstrates (in addition to whatever anti-American lessons it may contain) that, in Singer’s words, ” weakness is exploited, and absolute weakness is exploited absolutely.”
Singer finds that van Trier’s allegory best fits the plight of the Jew in history and of Israel today. Just as van Trier’s heroine landed in her predicament because she voluntarily disarmed herself of power and left herself at the mercy of the town, so has Israel landed in trouble by dissociating itself from its own power in pursuit of the world’s sympathies. The only way out is for Israel to “act by its own moral standards instead of fruitlessly attempting to meet the distorted standards applied by the world.” For Israel to say, for example, that the security fence should be jettisoned because the world will oppose us is like van Trier’s woman “submitting to increasing depredations because if she does not, she will be kicked out of the community that is sheltering her.” The problem with this approach, concludes Singer, is that “the price of ‘protection’ goes up as the protection itself goes down. At some point, you have to stand up and resist. You’ll take heat, but you’ll be treated better and attacked less.”