Israel Has Been Singled Out By Israel’s Defenders, Ctd

by Freddie deBoer

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border

Continuing the conversation about our culpability in Israel’s actions, this email sums up a lot of reader sentiment:

Your explanation is valid as far as Americans go, since they provide so much financial and more importantly, diplomatic, support to Israel.  That’s not true for people in other countries.  As just one example, let’s look at the civilian casualties and other atrocities in Syria, which are orders of magnitude greater than those caused by Israel.  Did the Latin American countries who recalled their ambassadors from Israel to protest civilian casualties in Gaza similarly recall their ambassadors from Syria?  Have there been any mass protest demonstrations at Syrian embassies in Europe? We can look at other recent atrocities and find similar absences of outrage around the world, yet consciences everywhere seem to miraculously awaken when Israel is involved.

I am a supporter of Israel as a country, but not of many of the policies of its government.  Many of Israel’s actions in the West Bank are not only immoral and illegal (and illegal under Israeli law, yet they go unpunished), they are also stupid and self-defeating. Far from asking to end to criticisms of Israel, I join in many of them, provided they are based on an informed understanding of the situation. Too often they are not – people see some footage of civilian casualties, read some blog posts, and are suddenly instant experts on the Middle East.  I expect people who offer an opinion to know what they are talking about.  When I hear mischaracterizations (or disregard) of Hamas’ ultimate aims, ignorance of the chronology and reasons for Israel’s blockade of Gaza, wholesale swallowing of Hamas’ propaganda re civilian vs. military casualty figures, and most infuriating of all, minimization of the threat of invasion/terror tunnels and the effect of thousands of rockets used exclusively against civilian targets in Israel, I don’t see much reason to value their opinions.

Here is the fundamental question we’re considering: is Israel the same as other countries? Or is it different from other countries? The answer from my critics seems to switch depending on which would be more useful for defending Israel at that moment.

Though many have complained that I use terms like “killing children,” no credible source doubts that Israel has killed hundreds of civilians in Gaza in this most recent campaign, or that many of them have been children. Instead, we are still to defend Israel despite that fact because Israel is different, because it is the only democracy in the region and a more moral nation than the ones we identify as bad actors. And yet here we have this emailer defending Israel because it is better than Syria. That hardly seems like living up to the standard of the region’s only democracy. “Better than the Assad regime” does not strike me as a particularly enthusiastic endorsement.

So which is it? Are we required to support Israel because it is a more advanced, democratic, moral nation? Or are we expected to hold it to an identical standard as Assad’s Syria? You can’t have it both ways. If you think Israel exists on a higher moral plane than its neighbors, then you have to insist that it act morally. For all of the many ways in which Israel’s democracy has been undermined by the rise of ultra-nationalists and ethnic supremacists in the past decades, it remains subject to democratic review in a way that Syria’s regime simply doesn’t. Israel could become a freer and more just nation through loud and committed democratic engagement, but that can’t happen if we excuse all of its bad deeds in the name of defending it.

(Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)