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Double Standards in the Holy Land By: David Solway
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 04, 2009

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the unrelenting condemnation of Israel around the world today, among the laity as well as the political elite, is only the nihil obstat of the new anti-Semitism. The vast majority of anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli arguments should be seen for what they are: the most fashionable form of anti-Semitism going. Jew-hatred has found a way to become respectable. Even so unlikely a source as the U.S. State Department has admitted the fact. In a report published on March 14, 2008, it described the high-decibel criticism of Israel in today’s world as a new kind of anti-Semitism over and above traditional anti-Semitic acts.

Let us not waddle around the issue as those who love to censure Israel under cover of a false impartiality are given to. If it walks like a duck…. The peculiar gait of Barack Obama is a rather troubling instance of the popular idiom as it manifests in diplomatic practice and should give us pause. We should not be surprised that Obama has just awarded the prestigious Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson who, as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presided over the infamous anti-Israel hatefest at the Durban I conference of racism. We know that Obama sat for twenty years beneath Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s Jew-bashing pulpit. We recall that he was friendly with former PLO operative Rashid Khalidi, who now occupies the Edward Said Chair of Middle East Studies at Columbia University and whose oeuvre is devoted to delegitimizing the Jewish state. It is probably no accident that two of Obama’s closest affiliates are Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, Jews who might be called shtadlans (Yiddish, originally for “intercessors” or “advocates,” later for “court Jews” or “panderers”) who regard their own community with disfavor.


Obama’s much-touted “summit” of Jewish community leaders at the White House on July 13, 2009 privileged groups critical of Israel. The Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and the wacko-fringe J Street were included but important, conservative pro-Israel groups like the Zionist Organization of America, the Jewish Institute for National Security and the Lubavitcher movement were not. It is also curious, to say the least, that the American President has stated categorically that he does not wish to meddle in the affairs of other nations or dictate solutions to their internal problems, yet he has continued to interfere aggressively in Israeli affairs. He has sought to impose his prescription to resolve the so-called settlement controversy.


In her deflationary letter to Obama (Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2009), columnist Sarah Honig satirically commends the President for being willing to overlook illegal construction “if it’s by Arabs.” But it’s a different matter when it comes to those “pesky Jews”: Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and “natural growth” neighborhoods has been proscribed. One may be pardoned, perhaps, for detecting a certain Presidential duplicity at work.  


An unequivocal example of this split dynamic—declaratively working for peace in the Middle East while effectively shilling for Israel’s enemies—was provided by the actions of Spain’s socialist Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who seemed unaware that he was playing his part in a typical zarzuela, a Spanish satirical operetta. During a rally in Alicante in July 2006 protesting the Israeli response to Hizbullah’s unprovoked attack on the country, Zapatero accused Israel of using “abusive force” and then posed for the camera wearing a keffiyeh. He later lofted yet another facsimile peace plan calling for renewed dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, without addressing the issue of Palestinian recidivism.


Zapatero took a different line, however, when it came to the Basque terrorist militias on Spanish soil—militias, incidentally, which do not consider themselves as terrorists but as “resistance fighters” struggling to acquire an independent homeland in what they regard as their rightful territory. Sound familiar? After the ETA bombing of Madrid’s Barajas International Airport in December 2006, Zapatero suspended talks with the separatist group. So much for “dialogue.”


Zapatero was equally outraged when the ETA exploded a bomb outside a military barracks in Legutiano on May 14, 2008, killing one guard and wounding another four; his Interior Minister described the event as a “horrific attack, which is especially evil for its indiscriminate nature” (Helendipity Weblog, May 15, 2008). The attack was no doubt horrific, indiscriminate and evil because it occurred in Spain and not in Israel where such atrocities are perfectly okay.


After the two recent bombings in Burgos and Mallorca on July 28 and 30, 2009 respectively, wounding 60 people and killing two policemen, Zapatero denounced “these vile assassins” and vowed to bring them to justice (France 24 International News, August 1, 2009). There is no problem, it appears, with proper identification and punitive action when terrorist mayhem occurs close to home. It is obviously acceptable to apply double standards to a merely notional “outlaw country,” aka Israel, which is by every international benchmark a legitimate nation whose right to secure existence is threatened, but terrorist irruptions in one’s own country are another matter entirely. If this is not pure pharisaism and moral bad faith, then nothing is.


The question of double standards came to the fore once again with respect to the Free Gaza Movement whose boats ran the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in August 2008 with a consignment of hearing aids. Sponsored by such tainted bodies as the International Solidarity Movement, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, among others—all of them extremist groups endorsed by Hamas—the Movement’s first small but well-financed flotilla, having delivered its cargo, left Gaza for Cyprus with seven Palestinians aboard the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty.


Preachy communiqés flew thick and fast but there was not a word about 23-year-old Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, kidnapped on Israeli territory by Hamas in June 2006 and held in illegal detention since that time. There was no attempt to arrange for visits from the International Red Cross, as sanctioned by international law which has been pointedly ignored by Hamas. There was no offer to broker his release and to include him among the Palestinians given free passage on their vessels.


When it comes to the call of human rights, the members of the Free Gaza Movement might have availed themselves of the hearing aids they so generously doled out to their hosts. Or alternatively, they might have donated these amplifying devices to the international community, which is severely hearing-impaired, rather than to Hamas, whose ears prick up at the faintest whisper of complicity with the human rights of the Jewish state.


It comes down to this. There is something wobbly and unsound about the case against Israel, as any scrupulous reading of the historical record would clearly reveal. Indeed, the Israeli/Palestinian dispute is nothing less than one of the current pretexts enlisted by the Islamic world and its Western partners to expedite their campaign against Israeli interests and security. Some of the principals may actually believe they are fighting the good fight, others have only Israel’s reduction in mind. Same difference. Despite their noble proclamations, however, the major players in this asymmetrical game have no intention of straightforwardly walking the talk or are simply incapable of hearing the voice of reason and good faith.


For underneath it all reigns the same age-old suspicion of the Jew, now subtly displaced to the state of Israel



David Solway is the award-winning author of over twenty-five books of poetry, criticism, educational theory, and travel. He is a contributor to magazines as varied as the Atlantic, the Sewanee Review, Books in Canada, and the Partisan Review. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity. A new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, will be released by CanadianValuesPress this fall.

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