Support for Israel is all about support for human rights

The making of modern Israel is the beautiful history of Jews successfully fighting for their human rights: The right of indigenous people to live on their own land, the right of a people to self-determination, the right of a people to defend itself against unprovoked aggression, and the right of each individual to live one’s culture and religion free of discrimination or persecution.

Anyone who supports human rights should support Israel and should be proud to do so.

At the same time, however, “support for Israel” should be clearly understood. It means supporting Israel’s right to exist and to effectively defend itself against attacks and threats. It does not mean agreeing with every action that Israel undertakes, and it certainly does not mean agreeing with every policy advanced by Israeli politicians.

In some cases, if one supports Israel, one must oppose some actions or policies by some Israeli politicians if they seek to reduce Israel’s high standard of human rights. Does this translate to supporting Israel only when it has its hands tied behind its back? Maybe, to some extent. Conforming to a high standard of human rights is constricting, but it is what allows us to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

Some supporters of Israel wish that it used less restraint when defending itself. They say that because Israel is fighting an enemy that upholds no standard of human rights, Israel is disadvantaged when it insists on upholding the highest standard. Such criticism has been directed for example at Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, accusing him of having put soldiers’ lives at risk in order to spare Gaza civilians when he was chief of the IDF.

Others have suggested that Israel should annex Judea and Samaria and either deport its Arab residents or allow them to remain without the right to vote. Some even support deporting Arabs who already hold Israeli citizenship. This is the policy of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party which supports the deportation of all Arabs who are not “loyal to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, which by the party’s own estimate is over 99% of Israeli Arabs.

The rationale given for such policies is that Israelis should behave more like Arabs if they want to survive among Arabs. Since Arabs deported all Jews from Judea and Samaria and from east Jerusalem when Arab armies occupied those lands during the war of 1947/48, why shouldn’t Israel deport Arabs? Since Palestinian terrorists target civilians, why should the IDF put its own soldiers at risk to avoid casualties among Palestinian civilians? Since the very few Jews left in the Arab world have been terrorized into invisibility, why should Arabs be equal citizens in Israel?

These ideas are by no means mainstream in Israel at this time, but there is a growing push towards them. Israel’s High Court of Justice, which barred the leader of Otzma Yehudit, Michael Ben Ari, from running in the recent Israeli election, is one of the forces in Israel that maintains Israel’s high standard on human rights, but the New Right party promised to reduce “legal and judicial oversight in general, and specifically over IDF actions”.

Whenever there is any risk that Israel’s high standard on human rights could be diminished, it is not only acceptable for supporters of Israel to object, but it is necessary.

If Israelis behaved like Arabs, as some people wish, Israel would no longer be Israel, and it would not be worth supporting, just as the Palestinian leadership is not worth supporting.

There are many forces in Israel fighting against such disgraceful changes, including political parties, legal institutions, and human rights groups. All those who support Israel should stand with them and not shy away from fear of appearing to side with its enemies.

Lowering Israel closer to the level of its enemies would bring it no advantage, and it would harm its interests because it would deny Israel its most precious and most distinct attribute – the high moral ground.

Picture: The port of Jaffa. Jaffa’s population includes one third Arabs and two thirds Jews.

About the Author
Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. Fred supports Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he supports a liberal and democratic Middle East where all religions and nationalities, including Palestinians, can co-exist in peace with each other and with Israel, and where human rights are respected. Fred is an atheist, a social liberal, and an advocate of equal rights for LGBT people everywhere. Fred Maroun writes for Gatestone Institute.
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