Why can’t Israel’s self-styled friends understand that the things they say about Israel are not in fact the sentiments of friends but of enemies? Whenever someone says “As a friend/candid friend/staunch ally of Israel...,” you know that what’s coming is a vicious kick to the head. Delivered, of course, purely in a spirit of friendship.
The Canadian foreign minister Stéphane Dion, describing himself as a “steadfast ally and friend to Israel,” criticized both the Palestinians’ unilateral pursuit of statehood and the Israelis’ settlement construction. “Canada is concerned by the continued violence in Israel and the West Bank,” he said.
“Canada calls for all efforts to be made to reduce violence and incitement and to help build the conditions for a return to the negotiating table.”
Dion seemed to be suggesting that Israeli terrorism victims were somehow asking for it and that Palestinian murder attacks were to be equated with Israeli self-defense.
Doubtless he thought he was being studiously even-handed and therefore fair, wise and just. But in the battle between victim and aggressor, legality and illegality, truth and falsehood, even-handedness inescapably entails blaming the victim and tacitly endorsing illegality and lies.
A few days later the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did something similar. While condemning the current wave of Palestinian stabbings and other attacks upon Israelis, he claimed the perpetrators were driven by “alienation and despair.”
“It is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism,” he said.
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed outrage at such an apparent justification for Palestinian violence, Ban appeared genuinely affronted. His words, he said, had been twisted. Palestinian attacks and incitement were reprehensible and he condemned them.
Yet having stated, “Nothing excuses terrorism,” he then repeated the excuse for Palestinian terrorism. “No one can deny that the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair, which are major drivers of violence and extremism and undermine any hope of a negotiated two-state solution.”
Well actually, no one who pays the slightest regard to reality could maintain such a thing. Whatever the provocation, it is not “human nature” to set out to murder as many innocents as possible, including women and children.
Ban’s apparently real bewilderment that anyone could possibly think he supports terrorism arises from two things. The first is his fundamentally false view of the Arab war against Israel. The “occupation” does not cause Palestinian violence. It is unending Palestinian violence that prolongs the “occupation.”
The Palestinians aren’t driven by despair at the absence of their state. How can this be so, when they have turned down repeated offers of such a state since the 1930s? Isn’t it more logical to assume that the relentless incitement – to which Ban himself alluded – which tells them falsely that Israel plans to destroy al-Aksa and that their highest calling is to kill Jews and conquer the whole of Israel has rather more to do with it? Moreover, this is not an occupation in the normally accepted understanding of the word. Israel has not occupied another people’s land, because the disputed territories never belonged to another people.
Nor is Israel there out of an aggressive colonial impulse. The Jews are entitled to hold and settle the territories under international law several times over, both as a legally permitted defense against continuous belligerence and from their never-abrogated entitlement to do so – as the only people for whom this was ever their national homeland – under the terms of the Palestine Mandate.
These false premises about Israel’s “occupation,” however, are widespread.
This helps explain the distressing fact that most of the almost daily Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis aren’t noted at all in the Western media.
Few realize that Israelis going about their everyday lives are routinely being murdered or wounded by stabbing, shooting, rock-throwing or cars driven into bus queues.
This onslaught is not being reported because, to the Western media, it is the understandable response to occupation. The settlers have chosen to put themselves in harm’s way, goes the thinking, and other Israelis have also brought this upon themselves merely by being Israelis.
So to the West, these Jewish victims of terrorism just don’t exist. At the same time, the Western media never reports the near-daily Palestinian incitement of the mass murder of Israeli Jews. That doesn’t fit the narrative of Palestinian victims of Israel.
For identical reasons, the media also ignores the victimization of Palestinians by other Palestinians. According to Palestinian Media Watch, last year the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights received 292 complaints of torture, maltreatment and physical assault in the West Bank and 928 in the Gaza Strip.
The West remains almost totally ignorant of the tyrannical abuse Palestinians inflict upon one another. But why is its Palestinian narrative thus hermetically sealed against the truth? Here’s the second reason for Ban’s bewilderment. Progressives subscribe to universalizing agendas. These by definition deny any hierarchy of cultures or moral values. So Palestinian society cannot be held to be innately hostile to human rights, and Palestinian terrorism is equated (at best) with Israeli defense against such attacks.
Thus on Holocaust Remembrance Day, of all things, Ban equated anti-Semitism with anti-Muslim bigotry. But the two are not remotely comparable.
Of course there are some who are irrationally bigoted against Muslims.
But most anti-Islamic feeling is a rational response to Islamic violence and aggression. By contrast, anti-Jewish hatred is true bigotry as it is based entirely on lies, myths, and paranoid and deranged beliefs about Jews who have never posed an aggressive threat to anyone.
Ban and others committed to universalism think this equation is fair. In fact, it diminishes Jew-hatred and sanitizes Islamic aggression. Which is why progressives who think they are pure because their hearts so conspicuously bleed for the oppressed are not pure at all. They are morally corrupt.
They aren’t driven by compassion for any kind of victim. What drives them instead is hatred of supposed victimizers in the “powerful” West.
Their purported even-handedness thus camouflages a moral degeneracy.
For while denouncing Israel, they support Palestinians who throw gays from the top of tall buildings, who abuse women and children, who jail, torture and kill dissidents. They support the racist ethnic cleansing of Jews from a future state of Palestine. They help incite false grievances that kill.
They have the blood of innocents on their own hands.
But they think of themselves as fair, decent, progressive. This is where they are vulnerable. For like Ban, they also tend to be remarkably thinskinned.
That’s because their image of themselves really is all that matters to them. They don’t care about the world’s victims. They care about being seen to care.
They think of themselves as nice people. We have to show them that they are not. Self-regard is everything to them. It is therefore their Achilles’ heel.
We should puncture it.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).