Gaza war – a battle for nothing less than liberal democracy
Frans Cronje is an independent economic and political analyst who chairs the European-based BRE-DE-RE initiative that identifies and counters threats to liberal democracies. The SA Jewish Report sat him down to discuss Gaza, Iran, the South African government, and the future of the South African Jewish community.
Why do you say the Gaza war has causes and implications well beyond Israel and Hamas?
I don’t think of the war as a conflict taking place in Gaza between Hamas and Israel. It’s better understood, as conflict between Iran and Western liberal democracies fought partly in Gaza but chiefly in cities across the Western world.
In that conflict, Iran represents a dark pre-democratic age of superstition and oppression. Western liberal democracies represent a civilisation of states based on Judeo-Christian values, given that liberal democracy came into being as a direct consequence of the Reformation and the Enlightenment.
In championing religious freedom, the Reformation paved the way for the political tolerance of free expression that led directly to the idea of individual rights being something of moral value. Prior to the Reformation, the idea of people having individual rights and of governing authorities respecting and valuing those rights, was quite unknown. People were instead seen as belonging to ethnic or religious groups wracked in perpetual conflict. The subjugation of the weaker group by the stronger was seen as the natural order of things, and not particularly wicked or immoral. The wickedness of such subjugation arose only from the idea that individuals had the inherent right to choose how they wished to live. This idea is the primary building block of Western liberal civilisation, and remains unique to that civilisation.
The Enlightenment paved the way for reason, logic, facts, and the scientific method to trump superstition. It was, as a consequence, the basis of the scientific progress and modern economics that has allowed Western liberal democracies to achieve standards of living beyond anything recorded by any other type of society.
Just as the joint results of the Reformation and the Enlightenment brought Western liberal democracy into being, the survival of liberal democratic societies hinges on the survival of the political values of the Judeo-Christian ethic.
You’ve argued that attacks on these values explain the massive protests against Israel in Western cities. Explain.
A generation of kids growing up in Western liberal democracies has been taught to despise their societies and the values that underpin them.
At schools and universities across Europe and America and also in wealthy South African communities, kids are increasingly taught that success in life arises not from hard work and individual responsibility but from oppressing someone else. And likewise, that poverty isn’t a result of making bad choices but is instead the consequence of being persecuted. Both lessons tell young Westerners that individual responsibility matters little. Instead, many kids are encouraged to adopt a perspective that divides the world into binary groups of oppressors and victims pitted against each other. Wealthier people are the oppressor group, and poorer people the victim group. They are further taught that Western institutions – from schools and universities to economic systems and cultural norms and values – are designed to maintain oppression of one group over another.
The consequence is that a generation of young Westerners has been groomed to side with what they are told are oppressed groups and to aid these in attacking and breaking down Western liberal institutions.
Beside them, a generation of immigrants has been encouraged to believe that there’s nothing innately superior to Western culture, that Western liberal democracy is in fact deeply defective, and that it’s therefore correct to come and live in the West while seeking to undermine Western norms and values.
The coming together of this indoctrinated Western generation with a generation of anti-Western immigrants is why you see many young people in cities from London to New York to Sydney siding with Hamas, and chanting “Glory to the martyrs!” and “Gas the Jews!”
Do you think they mean what they say?
Oh entirely. The propaganda has been successful beyond measure. Polls show that 51% of Americans aged 18-24 think Hamas’ 7 October attack was justified. These are kids who delighted in the 7 October killings, and who see no irony in groups such as “Queers of Palestine”. For them, the Jews, as a successful minority, are automatically cast as arch persecutors, and Gazans as their victims. Reason, logic, the fact that “Queers for Palestine” would all be thrown off the nearest Gazan building by Hamas fades into irrelevance. Instead, great numbers of Western kids believe that the poverty and underdevelopment of Gaza must be a direct consequence of Jewish success, and that by siding with Hamas to destroy the Jews, the Gazans will be liberated.
Do you think Iran is behind such propaganda?
Yes. Both Iran and China run sophisticated information-warfare projects in Western societies as they understand that by undermining the twin Reformation and Enlightenment pillars, such democracies can be weakened from within to a far greater extent than might be achieved by any attack from without.
What’s Iran’s objective regarding Israel?
There are twin objectives. The first is to poison Western opinion against Israel to the point where the United States Congress will baulk at future military support for Israel. The second is to inflict sufficient psychological damage on young Jews by painting them as a race of bloodthirsty child killers to fracture internal Israeli consensus on security policies. If both objectives are met at about the same time, Israel can be overrun by Iranian proxy forces out of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq or struck with a nuclear weapon.
What role does the South African government play in this conflict?
It’s allied with Iran and Hamas, and provides them with political and likely material support. A specific South African role, given the history of the country, is to cultivate the apartheid accusation against Israel to an end point where Israel, as an institution, can be declared a crime against humanity. This will stigmatise Jews to an extent that vast numbers of people come to believe that Jews deserve to be attacked and that they brought the ensuing pogroms upon themselves. For Iran, this is a critical part of its propagandising kids in the West and inflicting psychological damage on young Jews.
What should the local Jewish community do?
Vastly raise its analytical and strategic abilities. Understand that your adversaries are operating on a strategic plain far beyond anything you presently conceive. Learn the political skill of distinguishing between an ally and an adversary. Then learn the political skill of deterrence. There’s still opinion in the community that the war is a distant conflict fought with guns and bombs in Gaza, that Cyril Ramaphosa is an ally, and that it may be best for the community to keep its head down and allow this to pass. These are fatal miscalculations. All politics is about establishing balances of power. A deterrence policy backed by hard economic, diplomatic, and political power is easily achieved and will restore such a balance.