Often when discussing the subject of Israel with someone who is, to put it lightly, not so keen on the country I find myself bringing in topics that at first glance may seem unrelated. What I mean by this can be seen all the time on almost any interview an Israeli politician gives to a foreign media outlet. Everyone I’m sure is accustomed to the following flurry of retorts with regard to the question of the Israel – Palestine conflict;
“Israel is the only democracy in the Middle-East”.
“Yes but look at Syria, the government is butchering its own people”.
“Ok, but Israel treats women and homosexuals as equal citizens and there is no discrimination against them, try and find that somewhere else in the Middle-East”.
There are of course many more of these responses and to some extent I agree with them but I certainly understand them. What is lacking, however, is a more adequate explanation for the necessity of such responses. When a politician gives one of the above quotes, or something along those lines, as an answer it is often in a knee-jerk, hasty fashion. This gives the wrong impression, as if such a response was intended to avoid a question which, admittedly, it probably is sometimes. At any rate what will then follow, and I have both experienced this and seen it on television, is the counter-argument;
“That may be true but it does not change what Israel is doing”.
This is true but from my perspective it misses the point as to why the original answer was necessary in the first place. By this I mean that when one gives such an answer it is not to defer blame or to change the subject. The reason, at least from my point of view, that such an answer is necessary is because it shows that many of those who so love to criticise Israel will not apply the same reasoning to criticise other countries or political bodies. There are many situations in which I think this applies but I will detail only a few here. Many will say Israel stole land in order to establish itself and murdered a fair few people in the process. Aside from disagreeing I would reply by saying that if this point were true why do you not criticise Turkey in the same way? No honest person is going to say that the legitimacy of Turkey is constantly questioned in the same way that is with Israel and most likely my opponent won’t either. This is despite the fact that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians in its efforts to establish itself as a legitimate state and to this day treats its large Kurdish population with contempt in order maintain that legitimacy. Whenever I have made this point the reply will usually be something along the lines of;
“Yes but I don’t know enough about that”. Well I suppose ignorance is bliss then.
Another common line of argument is that in Israel non-Jews are second class citizens. Again let us say that this was the case. If it is so then why do these people not say anything about Saudi Arabia or Iran? Aside from treating all religious minorities miserably, women in these countries are second class citizens. In that case, when we take into account minorities, more than half their population are treated as second class citizens. The chances are, however, you have never seen an anti-Israel demonstration move to the Iranian embassy and protest against the fact that women can’t leave the house without a veil and a husband or first-degree male relative. You’ve also most likely never seen the crowd of ‘human rights’ protesters outside the Israeli embassy also discussing the fact that Christians and Jews are not allowed to practise their faith in Saudi Arabia.
All of this is not to say that I think Israel is the most wonderful country in the world as I believe some do. There are certainly problems and certainly things that the government here deserves to be criticised for as there are in every country. The issue I have is that far too frequently those who shout and yelp at Israel with regard to an incident or political situation won’t do so in a situation that is similar but perhaps even worse in another place. That is not something detrimental to those who are pro-Israel but to those who are anti-Israel. Their arguments have become sagged not only with philosophical inconsistencies but with the drivel of the anti-Semites and the lynch mob. You won’t see mosques or restaurants attacked after Iran sentences some young men and women to lashing for making a video dancing together. You won’t hear anyone screeching for the boycott of Turkey as they continue to deny genocide or to Saudi Arabia as they behead tens of their citizens for the most trivial of crimes. When Israel acts though prepare for the Shoah to be denied. Prepare for blood libel claims, a loud mob vying for the death of the Jews and Synagogues to be attacked. Those who wish to criticise Israel should feel free to do so but they should also start to criticise other injustices that occur around the world. If they do not then they will start, as I fear has already begun, to find themselves tied up with the most creepy and most poisonous of irrational hatreds.