For biased critics of Israel, even its defensive actions violate human rights
Legitimate debate is one thing. But reflexive bias against Israel means even basic security efforts to defend innocent civilians are criticized as violations of human rights.
In 1947, when excusing Soviet totalitarianism had become quite the rage in fashionable progressive circles, George Orwell eviscerated a British politician who consistently defended totalitarians but nevertheless denied that he was a defender of totalitarianism. “But of course he does,” Orwell wrote. “What else could he say? A pickpocket does not go to the races with a label ‘pickpocket’ on his coat lapel, and a propagandist does not describe himself as a propagandist.”Skip to next paragraph
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Orwell’s point holds true for today’s debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His pickpocket metaphor seems particularly applicable to those critics of Israel who can always be counted upon to decide that Israel has behaved miserably in defending herself, regardless of the suffering of Israeli civilians that their government is seeking to prevent and regardless of the actions of those who have caused that suffering.
These are individuals who nonetheless stoutly deny that they are in any way biased against Israel.
In fact, these critics view the very pointing out of what looks very much like anti-Israel bias as an affront.
Those who point out the critics’ seeming inability to ever locate a justification for Israeli actions, let alone a legitimate Israeli interest in self-defense, are dismissed as part of the “pro-Israel lobby,” who simply cannot tolerate anyone who has “the temerity to criticize Israel.” And as for the suggestion that they harbor any bias against Israel, very much like Orwell’s defenders of totalitarianism, they deny it, adamantly.
To be sure, there ought to be ample room for legitimate debate about Israeli policies. But there does appear to be a determination in certain quarters to hew to an anti-Israeli line on every issue, without exception.
Where's the context?
Often, this occurs through a failure to explain the rationale or context for Israel’s actions – even actions that are emphatically defensive in nature.
For example, earlier this month, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof managed the feat of devoting an entire column to calling upon Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza, while mentioning not one word about the rocketing of Israeli civilians that had brought about the blockade, and whose recurrence the blockade is intended to prevent.
Indeed, for much of the past decade, Israel has been forced to defend itself from charges that defending itself is a crime.
From 2000 to 2004, the Palestinian leadership organized a suicide bombing campaign aimed at killing and maiming as many Israeli civilians as possible. Innocent Palestinians were recruited to kill innocent Israelis, using bombs packed with nails to do the maximum harm.
About 1,100 Israelis were blown to pieces and 5,000 more were wounded or maimed. This is the rough proportional equivalent of about 55,000 Americans killed and 250,000 Americans wounded or maimed. The launching of this campaign followed the Palestinian rejection of major Israeli concessions at the 2000 Camp David Summit, including an independent Palestinian state consisting of all of Gaza, virtually all of the West Bank, and a capital in East Jerusalem.
After asking the Palestinian leadership to stop this bombing campaign, and calling upon others to call upon the Palestinian leadership to stop it, and waiting for nearly two years in vain for it to stop, the Israelis began to construct a fence intended to bring the bombing to an end. A bombing campaign whose very purpose was to take innocent human life should have triggered universal condemnation of Palestinian violence.
It didn’t. In progressive quarters, the Palestinian bombing of Israeli civilians for the purpose of taking innocent life and terrorizing civilians wasn’t deemed a human rights violation. But Israel’s construction of a purely defensive fence was. That, according to several critics, was the real human rights violation.