06 January 2009

Why we support Israel

The tolerance of Western politicians and media for Israel's crimes in Gaza is remarkable. The inmates of Gaza include almost a million UN-registered refugees -- victims of Israeli ethnic cleansing. Their response to this incarceration -- firing off ineffectual rockets -- well illustrates the hopeless state they have been reduced to. Nonetheless, they are cruelly punished for their sorry protest as Israel launches a reign of terror, complete with reckless assassination and mass murder. The West reacts with at most cushioned criticism or even support for the brutality. North Americans in particular seem to place Israel above serious censure regardless of what it does. There are commanding reasons behind this bias:

The most common justification for unequivocal support of Israel is its status as the only democracy in the Middle East. Certainly this creates both a powerful tie to its fellow democracies as well as a powerful responsibility to defend that democracy. The tie isn't only democracy of course. Israel's Jews are essentially a European people with a long European history and a European sensibility. They have in fact contributed disproportionately to European culture -- in the arts, sciences, business and politics -- and remain a major part of it. This common experience quite naturally creates a bond with their fellow Europeans as opposed to the more alien Arab/Muslim culture of their neighbours.

A second reason is the massive burden of guilt that Europeans feel for centuries of mistreatment of the Jews culminating in the ultimate atrocity, the Holocaust. It is the Palestinians bad luck they have to bear the brunt of this guilt.

North Americans were not responsible for the Holocaust, so it is somewhat puzzling they should feel guilty about it, but anti-Semitism has invaded our shores, too, and like any infection creates a reaction. In any case, North Americans have another bond with Israel. We, too, stole our countries from the native inhabitants. As fellow colonizers, we feel an empathy with the Israelis as they build their settlements among hostile natives.
Winston Churchill, a strong supporter of a Jewish state in Palestine, once declared that like the "Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia," the Palestinians would be replaced by "a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race."

And then there is the power of the Israeli lobby in North America. Dominated by hard line organizations such as
the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and fundamentalist Christian groups, this highly influential American lobby consistently supports an expansionist Israel. Here in Canada, one intensely pro-Israel family controls almost half the private mass media. Courageous would be the politician or political party that would brave the wrath of the Asper family's media empire. On top of all this is Israel's own highly-sophisticated propaganda machine.

The result of the above is an overwhelming bias unrelentingly in favour of Israel. Western, particularly North American, politicians are so terrified, so abjectly terrified, of being accused of anti-Semitism, one almost wonders if they are capable of contributing to peace in the Middle East.

So as Israeli soldiers march into the ghettos of Gaza to have their way with the Palestinians, the Western world either tut-tuts a modest disapproval or clucks consent. The victims of Israel's ethnic cleansing and its apartheid mentality now endure collective punishment. In the Old Testament, Moses (or was it Charlton Heston) said unto Pharaoh, "Let my people go" and, after Egypt suffered ten plagues, Pharaoh did indeed let them go. The Palestinians could use a Moses with his ten plagues (or at least better rockets). Or a fair hearing from the West.

1 comment:

  1. "The most common justification for unequivocal support of Israel is its status as the only democracy in the Middle East."

    Which speaks not well of democracies. Particularly given that in Canada, and as reported from some European countries, the majority view of the people is not represented by their political leaders.