I do believe that the Palestinians have been treated atrociously--brushed aside by European superpowers carving up the Ottoman Empire after World War One and again by the United Nations after World War Two. I find specious the common argument that Arab states are to blame for not resettling dispossessed Palestinian refugees after the creation of Israel. Though Italian Catholicism is my cultural heritage, I am an atheist who passionately identifies with ancient Mediterranean paganism. Since I am not a Christian, I have little interest in the sacred sites of Jerusalem, aside from their archaeology. (I subscribe to Biblical Archaeology magazine, in fact.) That detachment from the religious basis of Judeo-Christianity also means I do not understand the rationale for Zionism. By the same logic, my people, descended from fierce Volscian tribesmen, could lay claim to most of the region between Rome and Naples. Over a decade ago, I began arguing for a global core curriculum - an education based on world religions (which I respect and admire as profound symbol systems far more complex than poststructuralism). Mutual understanding, I hoped, would be a basis for world peace. I proposed that Hinduism and Buddhism be taught and that the Koran, as well as the Bible, be made central texts in public schools. (Without the Bible - unrivalled for the quantity and quality of its poetry - students cannot comprehend great Western literature and art from the Middle Ages on.) Hence I was surprised and alarmed by the reluctance of moderate Muslims to make their presence consistently felt in the period (now almost a year) since 9-11. At first I disdainfully rejected the idea that we are engaged in a global clash of civilizations - Islam versus the West. It seemed impossible and medieval. I saw Arab culture as richly informed by its brilliant past, with its interplay between Bedouin stoicism and Moorish cultivation. But as a chain of suicide bombers steadily blew up buses and restaurants in Israel over the past year, my sympathy for the Palestinian cause has gradually diminished. War, declared or undeclared, justifies attacks on military targets. But the massacre of civilians - in the World Trade Center or at a Jerusalem market - is barbarism. What kind of state could be formed by people who tolerate and cheer such atrocities? When moderate factions are so feeble, who can believe that a Palestinian state would not be the staging area for missile attacks on Israel? My reading of history - based on the rise and fall of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Rome, and Byzantium - is that the world has embarked on a long period of uncertainty, a century or more of grotesque contrasts. There will be years, even decades of Western affluence and peace, then scattered outbreaks of violence and chaos, put down by assertions of military and police power, verging on the fascist. Should there be severe climatic shifts affecting food production (a subject I harped on in my Salon column), the world economy would be destabilized, and complex societies would unravel. The hopes of my 1960s generation for a progressive, ethical politics have been dashed. We're back to realpolitik--which requires the mind and not the heart. No matter what the flaws and misjudgments of the Israeli government (including its winking enabling of settlements in Palestinian territory), the West has common cause with Israel. World Islam, it has become clear, is a totalizing creed that, whatever its spiritual beauties, invades politics and stifles dissent. Europeans find it difficult to understand the intricate interconnection of American politics with Israel. Indeed, over the past three decades, there has been an intensification of simmering resentments among working-class African-Americans about what is perceived as Jewish power in media and business. This should have been more directly addressed in the 1980s, when members of the black Nation of Islam were blocked from appearing on American campuses. That decade's speech codes (banning "offensive" speech) proved foolishly counterproductive in this case, since it allowed anti-Semitic ideas and outright myths to spread unchecked under the national radar screen. Since 9-11, vastly more open debate about Israel, pro and con, has been permitted in the American mainstream media. Unfortunately, a strident polarization, close to hysteria, has also developed. Support of Israel on the far right sometimes blurs into religious and therefore undemocratic presumptions - the fundamentalist view that the Christian shrines of the Holy Land must be kept out of Muslim hands. Before 9-11, even faint criticism of the Israeli government could provoke baseless charges of anti-Semitism. But real anti-Semitism has now emerged or rather reemerged as a powerful, irrational force in Europe. Aside from overt terrorist attacks, nothing more dangerous has reared its head since the end of the Cold War. The Arab states, riddled with bureaucratic corruption, have not shown they can control or contain the fanatics in their midst bent on the West's destruction. If Europeans, along with the pro-Palestinian U.N. establishment, continue to undermine Israel, the next generation, or the one after it, will reap the whirlwind. Not all Jews endorse the expansionist policies of the current Israeli leadership; on the contrary, Jewish leftists around the world generally support the Palestinians. But the cruel suicide bombings in Israel, along with the revival of European anti-Semitism, have forced distant observers to choose. Because of my own massive lifelong influence by Jewish-American culture - in the arts, media, and entertainment industry as well as law, science, and medicine - I have concluded that, for me, only one moral imperative is possible: to support Israel.