By Jonathan Rosenblum, JWR
If recognition of a problem is half its cure, rectifying the remaining starts with serious analysis of the situation
All forms of anti-Semitism are not the same. Robert Wistrich, the greatest living scholar of anti-Semitism, deals with different types of anti-Semitism in his recent 1,000-page-plus The Lethal Obsession, which frighteningly is focused almost entirely on the last 20 years. Most dangerous of all is the type of anti-Semitism exemplified by Hitler, ym”sh. Hitler was obsessed with Jews: he invested them with demonic qualities, saw Jews as the moving force behind every historical trend of which he disapproved, and viewed history as moving towards an apocalyptic struggle between Jews and Aryans, in which only one could survive.
What Wistrich terms “exterminationist” anti-Semitism is heard today from Iran — indeed it is widespread throughout the Muslim world. But apart from the context of anti-Israel demonstrations, where slogans like “Jews to the ovens,” are apparently considered within the realm of poetic, or left-wing, license, it is not yet acceptable for non-Muslims to voice such sentiments in the West. Instead anti-Israel Western elites content themselves with manipulations of international law that would leave Israel incapable of defending itself.
That is not, however, to suggest that the old obsessions with Jews have not returned in force. They have. As a British lord told journalist Penelope Wyatt a decade or so ago, “Thank G-d, we can once again say what we want about the Jews.” Haters of Israel feel less and less constrained not to express themselves in explicitly anti-Semitic terms. Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz was unofficially boycotted by all of Norway’s major universities on a recent visit to Norway, even when he offered to waive his normal high fee entirely. The first signatory on a widely circulated academic boycott petition against the pro-Israel Dershowitz — so much for academic freedom and open-minded inquiry — wrote that “there is something immensely self-satisfied and self-centered about the tribe mentality that is so prevalent among Jews.” The petition began, “Since 1948, the State of Israel has occupied Palestinian land,” implying that Israel in any borders has no claim to existence.
In 2003, Jose Saramago, a Portugese Nobel Laureate in Literature, signed a petition, along with various other literary figures, accusing Israel of seeking “the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.” Nor was he bashful about openly attributing Israel’s “sins” to the religion of its people. Jews, he wrote in 2002, are “contaminated by their monstrous certitude that there exists a people chosen by G-d. . . . The Jews endlessly scratch their wound, to keep it bleeding, to make it incurable, and they show it to the world as a banner.” He compared Israel’s military campaign in Jenin, in which all of 52 Palestinians — the majority of them combatants — were killed, to a contemporary Auschwitz.
These elite attitudes, continually recycled by the BBC and other respectable media outlets, have permeated popular opinion to a remarkable degree. Not only do 63% of Poles answer affirmatively the question — “Do you think Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians? — but so do 47.7% of Germans, who could be expected to know a thing or two about wars of extermination. When asked, “Do you understand why people do not like Jews?” 55% of Poles and 48.9% of Germans respond affirmatively. Several European polls over the last decade have named Israel as the greatest threat to international peace.
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THE MAIN POINT ABOUT claims that Israel is waging a genocidal campaign against the Palestinians or that Israel practices apartheid is that they are demonstrably delusional. We are not talking about matters of policy about which rational people can disagree, but about claims that are obsessional in nature.
Genocide has not been eliminated from the world. The slaughter of 800,000 Tutsi tribesmen by their machete-wielding Hutu neighbors in Rwanda, in a few months in 1994, is one such example. The ongoing murder of up to 400,000 black Muslims in Darfur by the Arab janjaweed, which has left 2,000,000 in miserable refugee camps, is another example. But these have attracted relatively little attention, and in neither instance did the world do anything to prevent the genocide.
Yet at the same time, the world is obsessed with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. More Muslims have been killed by Muslims, Arabs by other Arabs, Shiite Muslims by Sunni Muslims, than the total number of Arab casualties in the Arab-Israel conflict since 1948: approximately 60,000. The total number of Palestinians killed over that same period is about 9,000, approximately the same number of Bosnian Muslims killed by Bosnian Serbs in Srebrenica in 1995 alone. The total number of casualties in all the Arab-Israel wars and battles since 1948 ranks about 50th on the list of all major conflicts over the last sixty years, with twelve or more involving over a million casualties.
Yet it is Israel that grabs all the attention. The UN General Assembly passes more resolutions against Israel annually than against all the rest of the nations of the world combined. Seventy per cent of the country specific resolutions passed by the UN Human Relations Council are against Israel. Only Israeli policies are a permanent agenda item; only Israel has its own Special Rapporteur to report on its human rights violations. Meanwhile China, North Korea, Iran, and a host of brutal Arab dictatorships escape censure nearly completely. Until very recently, Libya headed the UNHRC, and was given a favorable report for its human rights recorded. (The report has now been quietly tabled.) And Saudi Arabia was recently praised by the UNHRC for its treatment of women. Women, incidentally, are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
The claim that Israel is conducting genocide against the Palestinians will suffice to fully capture the total irrationality of the discussion of Israel. The following facts should be known to every Jew who cares about the fate of the six million Jews in Israel, if only to allow them to ridicule anyone who raises such a claim as a lunatic. But those same facts also demonstrate that the claim of Israeli genocide belongs to the realm of obsessional anti-Semitism, not that of rational discourse. During the course of Israeli administrative control of the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian life expectancy increased 50% — from 48 to 72. Infant mortality declined 75% — from 60 per 1,000 live births to 15. Israel built seven universities in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian illiteracy dropped to 14%, as compared to 69% in Egypt and 44% in Syria. Palestinian GNP rose tenfold between 1967 and the beginning of the Oslo process, and the West Bank had the fourth fastest growing economy in the world. By any standard, a genocide in which the victim population’s life expectancy increases 50% over the course of three decades is a very peculiar sort of genocide.
As with genocide, there still exist apartheid-like policies in the world; in fact, the Palestinians themselves are subject to apartheid policies. But not by Israel. Arab League Resolution 1437, passed in 1959, forbids Arab countries from “granting citizen[ship] to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their assimilation into those countries.” With the exception of Jordan, Palestinians are not only denied citizenship, but barred from university and learned professions in most of the Arab countries surrounding Israel, and confined to refugee camps in some.
Arab Spring has ironically revealed that the only country in which Arab citizens can freely criticize the government, even to the point of sedition, and in which they enjoy full political rights, is Israel. Arab citizens of Israel are represented in exactly their percentage of the population in Israeli universities, and they have access on an equal basis with Jewish citizens to some of the world’s best medical care.
COMPARITIVE ANALYSIS SIMILARY reveals the hypocrisy behind the claims of Israel’s alleged “war crimes.” Within hours of any Israeli counter-offensive in response to terrorist attacks either from Hizbullah (i.e., the Second Lebanon War) or the Palestinians (Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and Operation Cast Lead in early 2009), the international community is quick to condemn Israel’s disproportionate response — a claim invariably buttressed by citation of the fewer Israeli casualties. That, of course, has nothing to do with proportionality in international law. There has never been and never will be a doctrine of warfare that an army may kill no more of its adversaries than it loses itself.
Rather proportionality refers to the collateral civilian damage measured against the military advantage of a particular action. As long as civilians are not directly targeted, virtually any legitimate military objective will suffice. Even proportionality thus defined is a new doctrine. The Allied carpet bombing of German civilian targets at the end of World War II assumed that damage to civilian targets was a legitimate means to bring the war to a swifter conclusion. The same assumption underlay the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The UNHRC resolution establishing the Goldstone Commission condemned Israel’s “massive violations of human rights of the Palestinian people” in Operation Cast Lead long before the first testimony had been taken. It typifies the hypocritical treatment applied to all Israeli efforts to defend itself against terrorism. Significantly, the time frame for the investigation completely left out the 8,000 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza from 2000 through 2008, and the accelerating rocket fire from Israel’s Gaza withdrawal in 2005 to Operation Cast Lead. Yet, without any context for the Israeli action how could it possibly be evaluated?
Significantly, critics of Israel’s “disproportionate” responses or to the civilian casualties resulting from Israel military actions never specify what Israel could do to defend itself. And they completely ignore that in international law civilian deaths are attributed to the party that fights from amongst a civilian population and locates military targets or weapons in civilian structures. The failure to specify what Israel can do to defend itself is not just a technical objection: It goes to the heart of the criticism of Israeli actions. In the eyes of the critics, it does not matter if Israel can defend itself under international law (as they interpret it when Israel is involved). The reason is simple: They do not really believe Israel’s existence is legitimate, and would prefer to see it left without means of self-defense.
Aware of this, Israel shows restraint that no other country ever has before defending itself. Not until 139 Israeli civilians were killed March 2002 — the equivalent of over 6,000 American citizens — did Israel launch Operation Defensive Shield. What other nation would have allowed such a huge number of citizens to be killed without moving to remove the terrorist infrastructure. Similarly, would any other nation have tolerated five rockets launched at its civilian population, much less several thousand, without responding, as Israel did prior to Operation Cast Lead.
Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, has said that no nation in the history of warfare has ever made the same effort to avoid civilian casualties as Israel did in Operation Cast Lead, including dropping nearly a million leaflets and thousands of phone calls to civilians warning them to evacuate in advance of military operations. Every Israeli military operation includes in its battle plan a legal analysis of the legitimacy of every potential target, and the circumstances under which they can be attacked, prepared by the legal branch of the IDF. No other army in the world does that.
By Hamas’s own admission the ratio of fighters to civilians killed by Israel in Operation Cast Lead was about 7:4. And the vast majority of those civilian casualties were attributable to the terrorists’ decision to fight from civilian areas. For a point of comparison, a Sri Lankan operation against Tamil terrorists, launched around the time of Operation Cast Lead resulted in 20,000-30,000 civilian casualties versus only 1,200 combatants. Russian troops killed more than 100,000 civilians in Grozny.
Yet neither of the latter operations came under international scrutiny or condemnation, as did Israeli actions in Operation Cast Lead. In the Balkan Wars of the mid-’90s, U.S. and NATO forces relied almost exclusively on air power, killing 1,200, only a small percentage of whom were combatants. In the 1989 capture of Panama’s strongman, Gen. Manuel Noriega, the U.S. killed between 1,000 and 2,500 civilians according to internal U.S. army memos.
The point is that only civilians killed by Israel, even when acting to defend its citizens from a repeated threat, count in the world’s eyes. Where were the European protests and mass demonstrations when Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad’s forces killed between 20,000 and 40,000 of Syria’s own citizens in Hama in one week in 1984? Where are they today? Who in the West has even heard how the Lebanese army killed 300 and left 33,000 homeless in attacks on terrorist groups operating out of Palestinian refugee camps in 2007.
WHAT ABOUT THE CLAIM that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace? Not soon-to-be-nuclear Iran, which is busy testing missiles capable of reaching Europe, and is governed by an explicitly expansionist ideology; not North Korea, which continues to develop and export nuclear weaponry, even as more than a million of its own citizens live on the verge of starvation; not Pakistan, which can no longer secure its own nuclear arsenal from Islamist elements in the military and intelligence services.
In point of fact, the opposite claim — that Israel contributes more to the well-being of the world per capita than any other nation — would be far more plausible. In an increasingly parched world, Israel is the uncontested world leader in water recycling and desalinization. As described by George Gilder in the July 5 Wall Street Journal, Israel “is the global master of microchip design, network algorithms and medical instruments.”
Israeli scientists developed a vaccine against juvenile diabetes, and have produced important drugs alleviating Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Israel hi-tech attracts more venture capital per capita than any country in the world — thirty times the venture capital per capita as Europe, eighty times that of China. Israeli cows have the highest milk yields in the world, twice the European average, and Israeli palm trees produce over ten times as many kilos of dates as the average Middle Eastern palm.
In pure humanitarian aid, no country in the world comes close to Israel. After the Haitian earthquake in 2009, Israeli rescue and medical teams were among the first and largest contingent to reach Haiti — a fact studiously ignored by most of the world media, when they weren’t claiming that Israeli physicians were harvesting body parts. Israel set up a special rehabilitation center for amputees in a country that had none. Unfortunately, Israel’s many wars and terrorist attacks have given it more expertise in this area than any other country. Over 1,000 Haitians have been treated there, and 100 fitted with prosthetic devices, many in Israel itself. Israel set up the first field hospital in Japan after the recent tsunami. Israeli doctors came to the aid of Tutsis being slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands in Rwanda and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Whenever there is a major disaster anywhere in the world, Israel is at the helm of providing assistance.
Bottom line: the double standards applied to Israel and the claims about Israel genocide and apartheid reveal an animus to the Jewish state that is beyond the range of rational discourse. Indeed it is just a new form of obsessional anti-Semitism.