At times of strife in the Middle East when the thousands of demonstrators appear on the streets and when Israeli embassies around the world are attacked and besieged by angry mobs we keep looking at other conflicts and asking; why us?
I think that Israel comes in for a far greater share of condemnation and column inches than any other country when it comes to conflict. Certainly on the streets of the capitals of Western countries nothing will motivate people to demonstrate and express their anger more than a conflict involving Israel.
Undoubtedly for some people reading these words the numbers speak for themselves. At time of writing there are 500 dead Palestinians, many of them civilians and 27 dead Israelis, all but two of them soldiers. This on its own presents an answer for people’s anger. But really it’s not a very good answer. People have been very quick to state that the terrible atrocities being perpetrated in Syria and Iraq by groups such as ISIS dwarf the casualties inflicted by the IDF and people barely bat an eye anymore.
But there’s a big difference between Israel and Syria. Whereas the latter is considered a pariah state among Western nations Israel is treated as a partner in many respects. Trade between Israel and Europe is second only to trade between the USA and Israel. Indeed Western leaders regularly visit Israel and make speeches before Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. The Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron made just such a speech a mere few months ago. So in this respect whereas the general public in the Western world sees countries lining up to condemn Syria they see little of the same against Israel. And still the body count rises.
But is this really why? Frustration out of a lack of action taken on the part of their governments to stop Israeli military strikes perhaps?
I find it hard to believe.
The truth is that many Jews who live through the demonstrations against Israel on their streets come to a much more simple conclusion. It’s because Israel’s a Jewish country. There is no shortage of overtly anti-Semitic material to be found at many anti Israel demonstrations. It’s a favorite among many demonstrators to bring placards talking about Hitler and making comparisons to Nazis. Many of the demonstrators appear waving flags in support of the groups Hezbollah and Hamas. Both of whom ironically stand utterly against free speech in territory they control.
Furthermore no internet campaign is as fiercely fought as that online between supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestine. In cyberspace the fighting goes on not between soldiers armed with guns but activists armed with memes, statistics and pithy comments.
The question is where are these legions of people so utterly committed to attacking the Jewish state coming from? The list of pictures taken from the conflict in Syria and attributed falsely to Palestine is long and distinguished. Even once they are verified as being fake they have entered into people’s consciousness as being from Israel.
The hatred for Israel is bigger than just one conflict in Gaza. It has been going on since long before mass media was able to cut cable news out of the equation and send images directly to Twitter feeds and Facebook pages around the world.
The expectation that Israel, as a civilized and if not Western then at least Westernized country should be behaving differently could be a reason for the hatred against her. If so then it’s fair to ask why so many other countries in the world don’t come in for the same kind of intense criticism. The Turkish occupation of Cyprus in particular is regularly ignored. But then Greek Cypriots never hijacked aircraft or blew themselves up on buses.
The other possibility is Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and Palestinians is responsible for the hatred shown to Israel. But then Israel found herself condemned for blockading Gaza rather than lauded for withdrawing from the territory. In fact according to the general discourse the Israeli blockade means that Israel is still occupying Gaza.
No points there.
While people are quick to condemn Israel there is little condemnation of Hamas who are clearly willing to fight to the last Palestinian. But lets not pretend that hatred of Israel is about this conflict in Gaza. It’s a more deep rooted and enduring phenomenon than any individual battle.
I find that I’m not prepared to argue that people hate Israel out of anti-Semitism. Perhaps that’s my own failing, or a naivete on my part. But to argue this one would have to believe that the hatred against Jews is so prolific that it really is just waiting to boil over with any spark. The shocking images coming out of Paris in particular are difficult to argue against. Yet still I can’t come to this conclusion. When real anti-Semitism was on the streets of Europe no one needed an excuse. And when the pogroms did happen they were worse than what we’re seeing now.
Perhaps people simply see this as an entirely one sided conflict with Israel as the bully boy. Like I said at the beginning the number of Palestinian dead is risiing and there’s no sign of an end to the occupation. Is this why? A lack of movement in the peace process?I guess settlement also plays a role, it’s easier to demonize Israel when people think that Israel is building on land that should be at least held in trust for a future Palestinian state.
Also the elephant in the room when it comes to the hatred of Israel played out in the cities of the West is the antipathy that Muslim and Jewish communities tend to have for one another. Hamas and Hezbollah as Islamist organizations(albeit one Sunni and the other Shia) undoubtedly tug on the heartstrings of Muslims in the West.
Again though the heat caused by the hatred for Israel in the West seems to include concern for Palestinians only in as much as it allows people the excuse to vent their rage.
Whatever reason people hate Israel the reason why people hate Israel is almost irrelevant next to the fact that they do. This isn’t something Israel can solve by having better PR. This is a phenomenon that I am not even sure can be countered at all.