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Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Double Standard: Why some killings matter and others don't

Last week, I published a story about the fate of some 700 'Palestinians' who are stuck in no-man's land between Iraq and Syria. In conclusion, I noted that
"When push comes to shove, the Arabs could not care less about the 'Palestinians.' They are just a tool."
In the weekend edition of the Jerusalem Post, Sarah Honig took up the case of the world's indifference to the death of Yihyeh Abu Bakra, a 2-year old infant who was killed in one of the battles between Fatah and Hamas last week to prove a similar point. You should absolutely read Sarah's entire article, but here is the bottom line:
Only the outcry was missing. Yihyeh's untimely demise made no headlines. His mother's grief tugged no heartstrings. PATV didn't sanctify his sacrifice, and the world continues as it had smugly before. Not a ripple. Nothing out of place. No pandemonium. No commotion.

Why? Because there was no opportunity to claim that Israelis pulled the deadly trigger. Yihyeh fell victim to terrorist infighting.

We always realized the world retains incredible composure when Arabs deliberately target Jewish babies. We now learn that it's also unmoved when Arabs murder Arabs - even when the casualties include juvenile Gazans.

Bottom line: it's not who's slain but by whom. If Jews cannot be implicated, it doesn't matter.
Richard Landes (Hat Tip: Pajamas Media), who has made heroic efforts to expose the fraud behind the death of Muhammed al-Dura in 2000, expands on Sarah Honig's comment:

This is exactly what Charles Jacobs argues lies at the core of the Human Rights Complex. It doesn’t matter who the victim is, or how badly he’s suffering, but who the perp is. If the perp is white, then outrage is the order of the day, if the perp is “of color”, then let’s not make too much of a stink. This is the core of the moral rot that is eating away at the human rights community, making it, by both ommission — ignoring all the places people suffer terribly at the hands of “third world” “insurgents” — and commission — getting morally hysterical when, for example, Israel, in defending itself against people who fire from behind their own civilians, kills civilians in collateral damage.

I suspect this is directly related to the off-hand remark by Richard Cohen in the article that won him a place with Tony Judt and Tony Kushner in Alvin Rosenfeld’s analysis: “There’s no point in condemning Hezbollah.” Why? Because they have no conscience and will, at best, laugh in your face, at worst, shoot you?

What if these folk, whom everyone will agree, inhabit cultures profoundly concerned with honor and shame, had their misdeeds denounced before the world? What if when something like Qana happened, the press reported on their shooting from inside civilian residences, and laid out the ghoulish ways they abuse their dead children to get photos before the camera, so people like Richard Cohen can write editorials telling Israel it was a mistake, and “intellectuals” like Jostein Gaarder can call for Israel’s destruction?

How does Mr. Cohen know they won’t respond? They’re willing to kill people to get good coverage and to avoid bad coverage. Let’s have the MSM try an experiment. How some moral outrage for the revoltingly wanton resort to violence on the part of both Hamas and Fatah, say 1/10 what they aim at Israel for its carefully gauged violence against their wanton effort to kill Israeli civilians? How about some reflections from Messieurs Kushner, Lerman, Judt on whether the Palestinians deserve a state given that they are already drenched in the blood of civilians before they even get an army? And then we’ll see if there’s “no point” in condemning these people.

Even if they don’t have a conscience, they do care how they look to the outside world. Why else do they kidnap and kill reporters?

Of course, Richard and Sarah are both correct. But what bothers me even more is a different issue. Sarah hints at it; Richard may not have noticed.

Sarah's article compares the killing of Yihye Abu Bakra to the killing of Muhammed al-Dura and speculates (quite realistically) how the mainstream media might have reacted were there any hope of holding Israel responsible. Towards the end of her hypothetical, she notes the following:
Israel is laden with shame. IDF top brass and otherwise hyperactive government mouthpieces hem and haw, yammer and stammer, own up to an unmeasured degree of culpability, pending a thorough, slow, lugubrious investigation.

Our in-house guardians of other folks' conscience - representing a plethora of platitude-spouting bleeding hearts from all left-of-political-center niches - mercilessly beat their fellow Israelis' breasts and boastfully broadcast embarrassment for their affiliation with this accursed collective. They thereby bask in the glowing limelight of the unstinted outpouring of enlightened universalist approval for post-Zionists raking their benighted compatriots over the coals.
Richard doesn't say it quite so openly, but note the names of Israel's critics whom he cites (I've bolded the relevant ones where I quoted from Richard's post): Richard Cohen, Tony Judt, Tony Kushner and Anothony Lerman (more fully discussed here). And they all have in common that... based on their last names they are all Jews....

Why is it that our own people are so zealous to prove the correctness of the prophet Isaiah (49:17) that "those who would break and destroy you will come from among you?" Why do we as a Jewish community continuously spawn so many self-hating Jews?

In this week's Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, editor Jonathan S. Tobin takes up my issue:
The controversy rose when the UPZ chose to sponsor a speaking tour of Israeli critics of their country's policy in the territories on the coalition's dime. Their program, titled "Breaking the Silence," repeats a view that is often heard on the extreme left of the Israeli political spectrum, and speaks of the small nation's measures of self-defense as illegitimate and illegal. The speakers are Israeli veterans who believe that the Israel Defense Force counterterrorism mission is, as practiced, dehumanizing and immoral.

...

But when [Zionist Organization of America President Morton] Klein, of all people, spoke up as their principle accuser when he petitioned the coalition's governing board to expel the UPZ for promoting an anti-Israel agenda, the reaction from other groups was eminently predictable. A committee that deliberated on the subject unanimously refused last week to contemplate banning the leftists. Nor was it prepared to revisit the coalition's membership criteria or mission statement.

It's no surprise that they wouldn't listen to Klein, who has been playing the proverbial dog in the Jewish organizational manger since the signing of the Oslo peace accords. The fact that he was right about that issue hasn't improved his popularity. In recent years, ZOA's highly critical attitude toward the Israeli governments led by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert has effectively marginalized it again. As such, the chances that most other groups would join ZOA to do something that could be labeled as censorship were slim and none.

But in this case, was he really in the wrong?

...

But perhaps the question we should also be asking is: What exactly is the difference between a Jewish group bringing in Israeli extremists who bash Israel, and an Arab group bringing in a Palestinian to do the same thing?

And if Jewish-Arab dialogue on campus, or anywhere else, is defined as Jews and Arabs agreeing that Israel is awful, then aren't such exchanges doing more mischief than good?

Moreover, is it appropriate for a coalition that was created expressly for promoting Israel's defense at a time when the press and campus radicals were undermining it with disinformation and out-of-context stories, to pay to bring in speakers who, echo the same distortions the group was founded to oppose?

It is all well and good for Klein's critics to say the right shouldn't be allowed to decide who is pro-Israel enough to speak. But where are supporters of Israel, no matter where they stand on the political spectrum, prepared to draw the line? If groups that are partners in this coalition, like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, are okay with being effectively made co-sponsors of presentations that defame Israel, how can they complain when others do the same thing?

And if they agree there is a campaign to delegitimize Zionism that has seemingly won over mainstream opinion in Western Europe and established a foothold in this country principally on college campuses, how can they be unwilling to take a stand against those who question the Jewish state's right of self-defense, even if they are Israelis?

...

These days, Israel-bashing in academia requires no courage, even if it's done by Jews who say they love Israel. What takes guts is to walk onto a campus and say that Israel is in the right.

Rather than acquiescing to a frame of reference that sees Jewish rights as inherently illegitimate and Israeli self-defense as morally indistinguishable from terrorism, what campus coalitions ought to be doing is finding the courage to challenge this notion altogether.

And if it can't agree to do that, then frankly, who needs it?
Tobin is right. Until the organized Jewish community is able to rise up and relegate those Jews who would destroy it to the fringes and beyond, we will continue to be destroyed from within, and the 'organized Jewish community' therefore has nothing to speak for its existence. The only group that has been relegated to the fringes up to now is Neturei Karta (and I would argue that is because they are religiously right wing nearly as much as because of their anti-Israel message). Are you on the governing board of your local Federation or Campus Jewish coalition? If so, this ought to provide you with some food for thought.

1 Comments:

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Richard Landes said...

i couldn't agree with you more about the direction you take the argument. in fact the reference to lerner is to anthony lerman, now the head of the only british jewish think tank, who has openly declared israel shouldn't exist. i mentioned all this in the previous post of mine in response to the controversy about Alvin Rosenfeld's essay on how self-destructive certain kind of hyper-"self"-criticism of the jewish left.

indeed, it's time to criticize the hyper-critics as harshly as they criticize israel.

 

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