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"About suffering," W.H. Auden wrote, "they were never wrong, the old masters." When contemplating the terrible suffering in Gaza one is tempted to update his words. About conflicts, they were never wrong, the old Marxists.

For those on the Left, especially those schooled in the disciplines of dialectical thinking, one aspect of conflict is always inescapable - the primacy of ideology. Men may fight over land, over money, over water, over oil, but what animates fighting forces most powerfully is ideology. The most valuable piece of territory any combatant can hold is the moral high ground, even if they alone believe themselves securely in possession of such a vantage point.

The history of conflict also demonstrates that men will continue to fight when prudence dictates a different course, if they believe themselves to be warriors consecrated to a cause which is nourished by their own blood. And, crucially, the darkest chapters of our most recent history also show that ideological considerations can warp fighting priorities, leading men to abandon the last shreds of their humanity, in wartime.

Consider one, striking, example of just such a flight from humanity, driven by the demands of ideology. Towards the end of the Second World War, the pro-German government in Budapest was overthrown in a coup. But the plotters were not, as one might have expected, a group anxious to see war end and to sue for peace. They were a group of hard-core Nazis, the Arrow Cross, who wanted to see greater ideological purity in Hungary even as the Red Army's victory appeared more imminent. Their war aim was eliminating Jewish lives.

It was from the evil of the Arrow Cross that the great Raoul Wallenberg saved so many, but as striking and memorable as his heroism is the wickedness of the regime he was up against. What can make men, when their own lives and futures are at stake, place killing Jews as their number one priority? The answer is - ideology. The twisted belief system of Nazism, which made Jewry the source of all wickedness, and its elimination an overwhelming priority, had made men monsters.

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January 31st, 2009
4:01 PM
Hamas reminds me of Irgun Zvai Leumi. Th political problem is that Fatah does not remind me of the great movement which shaped the birth of Isreal.

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