There is little doubt that the Palestine supporter’s favourite word is “disproportionate.” Everything Israel does in battle is disproportionate, as if war is like playing video games with a ten-year-old child wherein being the grown-up you need to let him win a few times (or if you’re Israel and the ten year old happens to be a terrorist organisation you should let him land a few rockets on your hospitals and schools).
A few days ago Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was in the news accusing Israel of not playing fair. Fully aware that his career is in tatters having gotten into bed with his ideological nemeses the Tories, Clegg perhaps sensed an opportunity to score some points with Britain’s left wing by taking a hard line with the world’s only Jewish country: “I have to say though I really do think now the Israeli response appears to be deliberately disproportionate.” Brave words from the captain of a sinking ship.
Since critics of Israel like proportionality so much, let’s be really, methodically proportional. Thousands of protestors turned out in London a couple of days ago in apparent solidarity with the plight of the people of Gaza. Some put the figure as high as 10,000. All this solidarity for a Gazan death toll of 500. You might think that Londoners just really, really care about Palestinians. But then you see the Palestinian bodycount in neighbouring Syria where 2,000 Palestinians have perished. Now, being all proportional about things, this should have resulted in a protest outside London’s Syrian embassy of around 40,000 people. But you don’t need me to tell you this protest never materialised.
Mahmoud Abbas, the multimillionaire leader of the Palestinian Authority, accused Israel last week of engaging in genocide in Gaza. He is not alone. The leaders of Turkey, Venezuela and Bolivia suffer from a similar delusion, as do plenty of Westerners who really ought to know better.
Most reasonable people understand genocide as the systematic destruction of a people. The natural result of such an appalling crime against humanity is a severe decline in that ethnic group’s population. That’s just common sense, right? But Gaza’s population has increased from 600,000 in 1990 to 1.2 million in 2000 to 1.8 million today. If Israel is committing genocide then it is absolutely awful at it. Europe’s pre-WWII Jewish population was 9.5 million. After the Holocaust only 3.5 million Jews were left. That is genocide. If we use the Gaza genocide (sic) as a yardstick and are appropriately proportional about the matter, Europe’s Jewish population should have increased at least a couple of million during Hitler’s reign.
The loss of innocent life in Gaza is of course to be mourned, but 500 deaths is not a genocide or ethnic cleansing or anything like it, and people who bandy those terms around should be ashamed of themselves when the murder of half a million Tutsis in Rwanda is still fresh in the memory.
The most baffling lack of proportionality when it comes to Israel and Palestine is just how much attention it gets. This year alone 5,000 people have died as a result of an Islamist insurgency in Nigeria. That dreadful conflict was briefly brought to our attention a few weeks ago when some righteous Facebook users vowed for six days or so to bring 200 enslaved schoolgirls home. (Update: the girls still aren’t home.)
How many of those protesting (and/or rioting) in European cities have heard about the hundreds of thousands made homeless in Central African Republic and the more than 1,000 people killed this year? How about the fact that more people have been killed in Libya this year than in Gaza? Most shocking of all is that more people have died in Syria this year than have died in the Israel-Palestine conflict since it began. Syria’s death toll for 2014 so far stands at almost 30,000. Cumulative fatalities in Israel and Palestine since 1948 are 22,000 (that figure counts the dead on both sides).
All of this death and misery and bloodshed in the world and the only thing truly disproportionate is how much focus there is on Israel.