Challenging double standards

Topping the Olmert-Blair talks was the Gaza beach accident, not the barrage of Kassams on Sderot.

Blair olmert 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Blair olmert 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
In the less than 24 hours since midnight Sunday to this writing, 18 Kassam rockets have fallen on Sderot and its vicinity. Residents of the Negev city say they feel they are living a kind of Russian roulette, dodging the salvos, hoping they and their loved ones won't find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert happened to be in London meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair as the rain of rockets fell. Although he did address the issue of the Kassams in answer to a question, Olmert chose to make his realignment plan the dominant subject of his press conference with Blair, along with the threat posed by Iran. One might have thought the ongoing, cross-border onslaught on Israel would have merited a more central part in the public diplomacy, and that the prime minister would have wanted to more deliberately and expansively detail the reality of a city of tens of thousands of people living under constant threat of rocket attack. For almost six years, the Palestinian Authority has presided over a terrorist offensive against Israel, stoking the hatreds and proving relentlessly disinclined to thwart the attacks. Until this week, however, the PA leadership had never directly associated itself with this terrorism. Now Hamas, via its "military wing," has openly stated that it, not other organizations, is bombarding Israeli civilians with rockets, one of which seriously wounded a Sderot resident on Sunday. Later the same day, terrorists opened fire on a van full of people on a main road linking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, killing Marwan Shweiki, an Israeli Arab from Jerusalem. The PA's prime minister, who just described as a "war crime" the tragic deaths on Friday on a Gaza beach of a Palestinian family - possibly hit by an errant Israeli artillery shell, possibly not - is openly and deliberately attempting to commit war crimes against Israelis. Olmert, in London, detailed the ongoing probe into Friday's incident, and made plain that no one in Hamas is off-limits so long as it engages in terror. But he did not make the Hamas aggression the centerpiece of the press conference and neither sought nor, consequently, received expressions of condemnation from his British counterpart for the Palestinian violence. Nor, moreover, did he win a ringing British endorsement of support for Israel's right to defend itself. Yet such support should only be the beginning of what Israel should be demanding from the international community. Israel should formally - ideally with other nations - request an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to condemn Palestinian aggression, demand its cessation and the dismantling of all terrorist organizations, and recognize Israel's right to self-defense. The UN is charged by its charter with taking action against international aggression. If the PA saw that terrorism, instead of sparking the censure of Israel, was bringing only condemnations of Palestinian violence, it might come to regard halting these attacks as being in its own interest. If the international community made plain that it was capable of differentiating the aggressor from the victim, and robustly backed Israel's efforts at self-defense, that too might come to constitute a deterrent to further Palestinian fire. Yet Israel, rather than stating the obvious facts regarding the attacks against us, often seems to be lying low in the hope that the world will not condemn us. The limit of our aspiration, it sometimes appears, is that statements like that made by France - which "deplored the Israeli bombing on a beach … whose disproportionate character cost the lives of several civilians" - are not repeated too widely or transformed into UN resolutions. Why is France chiming in with those who pretend that Israel is deliberately "bombing" beachgoers? Why is Israel publicly upbraided for protecting itself while other democracies that use less discriminating means to fight terrorism are not condemned? And why is Israel not publicly challenging such hypocrisies and double standards? The international community's refusal to support Israel and hold Palestinian terrorists and their government accountable for their increasingly brazen and direct aggression is the single greatest impediment to defeating terrorism and pursuing peace. It has cost, and will cost, untold numbers of Israeli and Palestinian lives. It is encouraging the Hamas-led PA to redouble its attacks and forcing Israel to take riskier and potentially more costly military measures. Our own leaders must understand and forthrightly say this. Otherwise we cannot expect other governments to recognize the fact. There is no point in privately bemoaning the double standards. From the prime minister on down, we need to challenge and expose them, publicly. This is the key to remaking international opinion and, just possibly, influencing regional behavior.