Israel, like all countries, has a lot of faults; the criticism of these faults will allow the country to overcome these problems and improve as a nation. However, it is important to separate the criticisms that are meant to be constructive and improve the state and the criticisms that are destructive and serve to delegitimize the state.
Delegitimization against Israel has little to do with Palestinian rights as the activists’ claim but everything to do with hatred of the West, Israel, and Jews. This becomes apparent when one asks Palestinian/anti-Israel activists who have no personal connection to the conflict how they feel about the situation in North Korea, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, or any other oppressive society; their response will be silence. Conflicts where the death toll surpassed the entire state of Israel’s wars in a single day will be the same. Similar to queries about the occupation of Arab and Muslim lands by Morocco and China. Ditto for the tens of thousands of Palestinian deaths perpetrated by Arab states such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon; same goes for the apartheid against Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria, or the expulsion of 500,000 Palestinians from Kuwait; nobody is interested.
Every action done within Israel is closely scrutinized by non-Israelis with the hope of using it to attack the state; something that no other country faces. It has become part of the leftist ethos over the globe to join the cause. As stated by one former anti-Israel activist, when choosing which conflicts to support, there are three questions to ask: “1. Which side is the United States on? 2. Which side has all the money/weaponry? 3. Which side, overall, has lighter skin?” and that’s who the left who is going to target. Most of the conflicts in the world do not fit into this threshold and are consequently ignored by the media and public at large.
In 2011 when Gaddafi was overthrown, one of the most interesting side-effects was the release of Libya’s finances. Libya had paid a consulting firm named Monitor millions of dollars to improve Libya’s image in the west. The firm sponsored prominent western academics to visit Libya and write positive op-eds about Gaddafi and his country. This was followed by millions of dollars in donations to the London School of Economics to ensure that the school promoted favourable views of him and his country.
Similarly, most elite university in the United States and England has now received millions of dollars in donations from Arab and Muslim states. This is in supplement to the more discreet financing of charitable causes such as when Qatar paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Fenton Communications (the company where J Street’s director, Jeremy Ben-Ami was a vice-president up until the year before) for a campaign on university campuses to delegitimize Israel under the guise of promoting the plight of Gaza.
If the Arab world is paying millions of dollars for this influence, how much money would the anti-Israel views of the New York Times be worth, where there is a demonstrated 2-4.5 ratio of anti-Israel to neutral/pro-Israel articles. How much money would the delegitimization of Israel from Columbia University professors be worth? What about the writings’ of Walt and Mearsheimer? There is a reason why Human Rights Watch goes on fundraising tours in Saudi Arabia promoting their “criticisms” of Israel as their main selling point.
I do not believe that people are predisposed to hate Jews or Israel. With that said, through constant exposure to anti-Israel rhetoric in media, universities and organizations such as the United Nations, this hatred slowly grows until it penetrates ones’ worldview. In a 2012 poll produced by BBC evaluating the worst countries in the world, Israel finished third just, just “better” than Iran and Pakistan and worse than North Korea.
For those who only use the BBC to get their news, this result is not entirely surprising and actually fairly logical. That is because the frequency the BBC speaks about Israel is significantly out of proportion to other states and is done in a consistently negative manner. In 2004, the BBC coverage of Israel became so biased that they launched an internal investigation to dissect the problem, later to be known as the Balen Report. The findings were apparently bad enough that the BBC has spent close to one million dollars fighting a legal battle to prevent the report from getting released to the public.
If the BBC’s bias against Israel is bad, then another English publication, The Guardian can only be classified as abhorrent. Between 2010 and 2011, The Guardian wrote more articles about Israel than any country in the world other than America, England, France, China, and Iraq. Almost of all these were filled with clear anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic rhetoric, all of which is documented on CIFWatch. A demonstration of how skewed The Guardian is can be seen in these two articles in which it argues that that the BBC is actually bias in favour of Israel (one and two).
Over the recent years, Al Jazeera English has developed into a respected publication with high viewership in the western world. Al Jazeera’s purpose is to further the interests of the Qatari’s government abroad. Qatar has very little concern for human rights, and aside from its religious persecution, Qatar has notoriously detestable policies in regards to labour, gender equality and LBGT rights; causes perceived as being very important to the political left (this is also ignoring the environmental factors as Qatar and by extension Al Jazeera is entirely funded from oil revenues). As a country so fundamentally conflicting with leftist ideology, it is important to understand why Al Jazeera chose to adapt leftist ideology as its political slant.
In response to the reaction of the 2nd Lebanon War in Europe, a group of left-wing intellectuals from the United Kingdom published a document called the Euston Manifesto. The manifesto was meant to bring to light what the authors thought were violations of leftist principles by those supportive of leftist causes. What the intellectuals found was that the left became so consumed by anti-Israeli and anti-Western sentiments that they started to support tyrannically regimes that suppress human rights and democracy while being sympathetic to terrorism and accepting of racism and bigotry. In France around the same time period, a group known as the Red-Green-Brown Alliance was formed. Communist, environmentalists, Islamists, anti-globalists, coalesced to further their causes uniting over their shared anti-Western, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views.
Al Jazeera represents a new mentality of the left; an amalgamation of various disparate causes unifying over their disdain for the West and Israel. America is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world and is very capable of defending itself. Israel on the other hand is more prone to suffer from these attacks. With the amount of foreign funding for NGOs in Israel, activists monitoring everything that goes on, and ease of access and freedom of the press in Israel, everything thing in this country is reported in the news. To make matters worse, this information is then rapidly spread internationally often distorted to damage Israel.
Most people, whether Israeli, Jewish or anything else, do not spend a lot of time thinking about politics and when they constantly read in the New York Times or see in the BBC how awful Israel is, they will tend to believe it. Israel is an easy target and in order for the truth it come out, it is important for people to understand the source of the delegitimization of Israel today.