Raymond M. Berger
Real Bullet Points

Compared to What?

Lawyer: So you decided to drive your car on the freeway, even though you were not aware of the cars around you?
Witness: But I was aware.
Lawyer: You say you were aware, yet you also claim you did not see Mr. Smith’s car before you crashed into it. Is that right?
Witness: Yes, but….
Lawyer: In your estimation, how many hours of sleep did you get on the night before you crashed into Mr. Smith’s car?
Witness: Well….I don’t remember.
Lawyer: So even though you could not remember if you got enough sleep the night before you crashed your car into Mr. Smith, you still chose to drive on the freeway. Is that right?


The above is my best recollection of a conversation I had with an acquaintance who is a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer boasted, “On the witness stand, I can make even the most innocent defendant look guilty.” The above cross examination was proof of that.

It is not hard to make anyone look like a bad guy. All it takes is a few leading questions, selective presentation of facts, implied accusations, and manipulating the victim to admit things that make him look guilty….even when he isn’t.

The impact of the accusation is amplified by taking advantage of the human tendency to generalize. Talk about a few bad people in a country, pretend that most everyone in that country is like that, and the accuser has made a convincing case.

America the Ugly or America the Beautiful?

Even the most innocent individual can be made to look guilty. In the same way, the most guiltless country can be made to look downright evil.

Every country is a collection of millions of individuals. At any given time, at least some of them act badly. And over the course of every nation’s history, there are inevitably chapters in which the country—-its leaders, its armed forces, its people—-have acted immorally. But does that make the country a bad actor? Does it make the country illegitimate?

Consider the United States. Those who demonize the US have no difficulty in finding evidence for its faults.

The US was born in sin when it kidnapped and imported black African slaves and then exploited their labor. In the early years of the nineteenth century, the US Navy attacked Muslim groups in North Africa. Later it expanded westward by slaughtering and displacing native peoples. In 1846-1848 it invaded Mexico on a pretext and then incorporated most of northern Mexico into its own territory, and invalidated the land claims of its Mexican residents. In the twentieth century it invaded Latin American countries and interfered in their governance.

During the Second World War, the US attacked the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs, killing hundreds of thousands. During the Korean and Vietnamese Wars, US soldiers carried out massacres of civilians. In its 2003 invasion of Iraq it killed thousands more.

Some have concluded that the US is an evil country.

And yet, year after year, millions of migrants and immigrants seek desperately to enter the US and become citizens. Many millions more long to come.

The US has built one of the world’s greatest democracies. Its people are freer than most others across the globe. Its standard of living is the envy of the world.

The US abolished slavery in 1863. Although it is rarely acknowledged, for years afterwards, the US used its navy to help abolish black African slavery in Europe, Africa and Asia. After the Second World War, the US rebuilt a shattered Europe into the modern, democratic and affluent region it is today. Despite accusations of imperialism the US has helped to bring freedom to more people around the world than any other country.

So, is the US a moral country or is it evil? It depends who you ask. Above all, it depends on which historical facts you choose to highlight.

What about Israel?

Despite Israel’s tiny size, since its founding, much of the world has maintained a laser focus on it. In recent years, the liberal Western press and intelligentsia have emphasized Israel’s faults and ignored its moral strengths.

For example, Western commentators often cite numbers of Palestinian civilians arrested, injured or killed by Israeli soldiers. They often omit counterbalancing facts. These include:  massive foreign-funded efforts to use violence to kill Jews and ultimately to expel them from the Middle East. These efforts come both from Europe, as well as religiously-motivated Islamic countries such as Qatar, Turkey and Iran. In addition, in many of their attacks, terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas deliberately use civilians—-including children—-as human shields. While they protect their terrorist leaders in underground bunkers, they attack Israel and then leave their own citizens without shelters when Israel takes defensive actions. They misuse religion to encourage young people to die fighting the infidel Jew.

In the Western press we hear little about the risks Israel takes in allowing Palestinians to enter Israel for work in order to improve their economic conditions. We rarely hear about the electricity that Israel supplies for free to Palestinians, or the medical care provided, even to leaders of Palestinian terrorist groups.

We in the West often hear the complaint that the Israeli-Arab conflict is due to Israel’s refusal to “end the occupation.” And yet, every informed person in the region knows that Israeli territorial withdrawals have led to more, not less, war.

Liberals in the West love to excoriate Israel for its “racist” treatment of black African migrants. They complain that Israel built a fence to keep them out because Israel is a racist country. They complain that Israel rarely grants asylum to these migrants, and that it deducts a small portion from their wages, to be refunded when they leave the country.

These liberals focus on the small number of African migrants who have been deported, rather than the great majority who live safely in Israel with jobs and free health care. Migrant children attend schools alongside Israeli children. I have yet to see a report in the Western media about the lavish celebrations held by these migrants, with copious food and colorful native clothing. That does not fit the anti-Israel narrative. Nor does the Western press give attention to the high crime rate among African migrants in Israel.

But most telling is the hypocrisy of the Western media in faulting Israel for an imperfect but humanitarian migrant policy. By contrast, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian troops take advantage of the appearance of clusters of African migrants to machine-gun them to death. Bedouin smugglers kidnap the defenseless migrants, torture them and demand ransom from their families. When the families are unable to pay, the smugglers hand over their hostages to traffickers who sell them at a slave auction in Libya.

No wonder these migrants are desperate to reach Israel rather than seek refuge in neighboring Arab countries. And this is true even though Israel does not share a border with the countries the migrants are fleeing.

Bottom line: Observers may fault Israel’s refugee policy, but it is worlds better than anything that migrants face in any other country in the region.

Compared to What?

My gripe with all those who hate Israel is that they zero in on Israel’s faults, while they ignore the faults of all other countries, including their own.

Humans are a bad lot. The world is rife with examples of man’s inhumanity to man. So it is easy to pick and choose events to show that a particular person, or a particular country, is downright bad.

Just as my lawyer friend made a decent man look evil, many commentators make the decent country of Israel look evil.

My message to those who hate Israel: Go ahead. Criticize Israel all you want. But do me a favor: Apply the same standard to Israel that you apply to every other country in our morally defective world.

About the Author
The author is a life-long Zionist and advocate for Israel. He believes that a strong Jewish state is invaluable, not only to Jews, but to the world-wide cause of democracy and human rights. Dr. Berger earned a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has twenty-seven years of teaching experience. He has authored and co-authored three books as well as over 45 professional journal articles and book chapters. His parents were Holocaust survivors.
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