Meretz officials have found something new to complain about: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent Knesset speech was too pro-Israel. The absurd suggestion deserves a Yiddish comeback: di kalleh iz tsu shein (can a bride be too pretty)? My message for Zehava Gal-On is about the most basic principle of gratitude that every parent teaches his child: “just say thank you.”
Gal-On had hoped Harper would address “the occupation, the lack of freedom of movement in the West Bank and human rights of Israeli Arabs.” Is the magnifying glass that Israel’s enemies hold over it not large enough that we must press our allies for scrutiny? Talk about diplomatic malpractice. Israel can’t quite afford to isolate its friends, who are few (if any) and far between.
From a social standpoint, Israel was rated one of the least popular countries in the world in BBC’s 2013 World Service poll – only less popular were North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. In fact, only 21 percent of participants had a positive view on Israel, while 52% viewed the country unfavorably. Iran, in comparison, won the favorable opinion of 15% of those who answered the survey.
Diplomatically, Israel remains an island. In 2013, 21 United Nations resolutions were adopted against Israel; only four on the rest of the world combined.
To quote Geneva-based UNWATCH’s website: “The four that do not concern Israel are: one on Syria, a regime that has murdered 120,000 of its own people, and one each on Iran, North Korea and Myanmar.
There were zero UNGA resolutions on gross and systematic abuses committed by China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Zimbabwe, nor on many other major perpetrators of grave violations of human rights.”
Since 2007, the UNHRC has made criticizing Israel’s actions a permanent agenda item, effectively granting impunity to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon voiced disappointment for the agenda item.
The UN isn’t the only place where Israel dwells alone. Thanks to the BDS movement, which thrives on demonizing the Jewish state, Israel is marginalized in the academic, cultural and trade spheres. Just this week, popular American-Jewish actress Scarlett Johansen was knocked for her involvement with the Israeli company SodaStream. The antithesis of human rights, the BDS movement unequivocally targets Israel, undermining dialogue, cooperation and freedom of speech.
Singling out Israel is exactly what Harper insisted his government refuses to do.
So why call on our most congenial and reliable friend to underscore Israel’s (disputed) flaws? “I thought Harper had a terrific, empathetic speech,” Gal-On said. “Who doesn’t love hearing how wonderful their country is? I just thought there was a lot he should have said. I felt his head is in the sand and he hasn’t seen what’s really happening here.”
The truth is, there’s a lot happening here – Harper simply chose to use the podium to highlight the positive, to reinforce Canada’s support and shared values.
Could he have reiterated his country’s position on the settlements, as French President Francois Hollande did in November? Yes. Could he have snubbed the Knesset for a more politically neutral venue as US President Barack Obama did in March? Yes. But instead, in an address that led to an unprecedented number of standing ovations, Harper chose to stress his unwavering support for Israel.
And for this, Israeli MKs have the chutzpa to call him out.
As a people so accustomed to criticism, and self-criticism, maybe we ought to work on biting our tongues. The Left need not fear Israel’s case will seem less legitimate when its praise isn’t “balanced” by the usual, clichéd critique.
There won’t lack opportunities for everyone else to vilify Israel. So let’s, rightists and leftists, give Harper one more standing ovation, listen to our mothers, and “just say thank you.