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The Real Exceptionalism in the Middle East

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Hamas rockets rained down on Tel Aviv earlier this week, just as Nawaf Salam, President of the UN’s International Court of Justice, warned Israel not to continue its operation in Rafah—the point of entry for those rockets into Gaza. Undaunted, Israel continued its efforts to neutralize Hamas in Rafah, a process that unfortunately involved an airstrike that killed an unknown number of Gazan civilians. Hamas claimed 36 killed, but they cannot be trusted to report accurately.

Responding to the predictable international outcry over this incident, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, the IDF’s advocate general, said, “The IDF regrets any harm to noncombatants during the war.” There will be an investigation into the command decisions that led up to the attack.

Here we have a good example of the double standards Israel faces as it fights for its life. When Hamas terrorists murder Israeli civilians, they get medals, parades, and pensions funded by the EU. When Israel accidentally kills civilians, which happens in all wars, the world demands that it apologize, explain, investigate, and justify its existence as a sovereign country.

For context, on the day that Israel bombed Rafah, Sudanese rebels killed 130 civilians in a hospital in El Flasher, the latest atrocity in a civil war that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions of people. If you’re expecting an international outcry over this slaughter, you’re in for a bit of a wait.

Israel faces many exceptions to the rules of human conflict, and even human existence. The Gaza war has again stirred debates about “Jewish exceptionalism.” This anti-Zionist intellectual theory holds that Israel need not exist because the Jews can and should be excepted from the tradition of a people having its own geographically secure nation. Rather, under, Jewish exceptionalism, Jews are better off being guests in other countries. We’ve seen how well that turns out.

Yet, it turns out that Jews are not the only people in the Middle East subject to exceptional treatment. I could argue that the real exceptionalism belongs to the Arabs. The world seems eager to grant them exceptions to an astonishing range of long-settled international norms, and, in some cases, reality itself.

For instance…

…that if you make war, you get war. This fundamental precept of human civilization has held firm for millennia. When Hamas fires 20,000 rockets at Israeli civilians and commits war crimes by killing, raping, and mutilating children, the world screams in horror when Israel counterattacks. The world’s obsessive focus on the plight of the aggressors grants Hamas its exceptional entitlement to perpetrate acts of war without repercussions.

…that if you lose a war, you are not entitled to dictate the terms of the peace. The war in Gaza is the latest in a long series of consequences from an ill-advised genocidal war that Arab states launched against Israel in 1948. They lost that war decisively, along with several follow-on conflicts. Yet, with the world’s support, the losers insist on unconditional surrender. They expect Israel, the victor, to voluntarily cease to exist. This is a dynamic that cannot be found anywhere else in history.

…that the Arabs can make Israel solely responsible for the aftermath of the 1948 war, which Israel didn’t want and didn’t start.

…that the descendants of refugees from the 1948 war are entitled to settle in Israel, a right not offered at any time in history to any other people.

…that Arab states can get away with injustices against the Jews. We endlessly hear the lie about Israel’s “stolen land,” but for some reason, we seldom if ever hear demands for compensation for the 800,000 Jews who were violently expelled, penniless, from Arab states in 1948. The world seems eager to grant the Arabs an exceptional double standard regarding justice for their Jewish victims.

…that Hamas is entitled to limitless benefit of the doubt on its claims by the world media. In journalism school, they teach, “If your mother says she loves you, get corroboration.” The exception to this rule seems to be repeating Hamas civilian casualty figures without verification.

…that Arabs are exceptionally entitled to have their lies—most of which are nakedly debunkable—believed and repeated so often that no one seems to realize they aren’t true. For example, the world credulously swallows whole the canard that Israel is an “apartheid state,” when in fact the Arab citizens of Israel have equal rights under Israeli law and have representation in the government, equal access to education, healthcare, and so forth. Or, shall we talk about the Palestinian “nationality,” invented by the KGB in 1964, but treated as an ancient people by the UN, almost all governments, and the media? Or, that the Jews, the indigenous, continuous occupants of the land of Israel for over 3,000 years, are “colonial settlers,” when in fact it is the Arabs, the descendants of Arabic speaking invaders who conquered the area in the 7th century, who are the real colonizers, amongst many nations that have overrun the region.

…that the Arabs and the world should get away with blaming Israel for not negotiating with an entity that has two intractable, impossible demands: Leave or die. Would any other nation get away with making such a demand? Israel is criticized for not negotiating with Hamas over a “two state solution,” but it is Hamas that has never accepted such an idea. Arafat once generously offered to make Jews into “dhimmies,” or second-class citizens, if he took over the country. That would be actual apartheid.

…that the world can hold Israel responsible for the safety of Gazan civilians, a group of people Hamas is cynically using as human shields. Hamas’ leadership wants Gazan children to be killed for photo opportunities. Their cowardice and depraved indifference to human life seldom merits any comment from the news media, however, which appears monomaniacally focused on a “humanitarian crisis in Gaza” that is largely the result of Hamas’ unwise decision to launch a massive attack on Israeli civilians in the first place. Said “crisis” also existed before this war, the result of corrupt decisions by Hamas to steal international aid money and use it to build underground fortifications.

…that the world can justifiably demand that Israel pursue a “proportional” response to these wanton acts of racist murder. As one Israeli put it, “We can’t be proportional, because our soldiers don’t want to rape and mutilate children.” The requests for proportionality are also coming from the United States, a country that has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians around the world in conflicts with far less justification than Israel now has in Gaza.

…that Hamas can hold Israel responsible for its own unilateral decision to wage war for the 19 years that have followed Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza—a step that could have been followed by the peaceful development of the area as a prosperous Arab country if that is what its residents had wanted. Instead, they chose war.

…that the Arabs can justify holding Israel responsible for the violence of the last 20+ years, which was triggered by Arafat’s rejection of a peace deal and his claim that a Palestinian nation must be “born in blood.”

I could go on, but you get the idea. It is the Arabs who seem to want exceptional treatment in the face of their many crimes. Unfortunately, the world is giving it to them. The question, however, is why. Why are the UN, the majority of EU citizens, the US left, the news media, and many world governments so willing to buy into an Arab exceptionalism that stands against every notion of truth, justice, and human norms?

In the end, the answer seems to be that they simply don’t consider Jewish lives to be worth much, and that a Jewish state has no right to exist. If you look at the conflict from that perspective, then Arab exceptionalism is justified, no matter how much it flies in the face of everything else that these people purport to believe.

About the Author
Hugh Taylor is an observant Jewish writer and essayist whose work has appeared in The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and The Washington Spectator. He has worked at Silicon Valley startups and in the Fortune 100. He earned his BA and MBA at Harvard University.
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