Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why Do They Single Out Israel?

"How come you single out Israel for its faults, but never criticize other governments for doing things just as bad?" This is what apologists for the Israeli government say to those, like myself, who criticize it. Their not-so-subtle implication is that critics of the Israeli government are really just motivated by antisemitism and therefore their views should not be given credence.

Since I do indeed focus more on Israel's faults than the faults of other countries, it is only fitting and proper that I should explain why. Here is why.

To start with, I admit that the Israeli government is certainly not the only government that does terrible things to innocent people, using lies to justify the unjustifiable. Nor do I claim that Israel's government is worse than others in this respect. Virtually all governments oppress their own people so that inordinate power and privileges are enjoyed by a ruling elite. The Chinese government is no exception. Neither is the Iranian government. Additionally the Russian government oppresses the Chechen people; the Saudi government is particularly oppressive of Saudi women; and the U.S. government kills innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq, not to mention millions whom it killed earlier in Vietnam and elsewhere. Lots of governments commit terrible crimes. Who can quantify the wrongness of these crimes and say "this one is the worst" and "this one is not as bad"?

Before I explain why I focus on it so much, let us at least agree about what the Israeli government is doing, whether or not it is the worst crime being committed by any government in the world today. The Israeli government is carrying out brutal and violent ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, which is a terrible thing. Millions of Palestinians are refugees--living in refugee camps in places like the Gaza Strip section of Palestine, and in other countries such as Lebanon. They lost all of the property they once owned and are refugees from their own country of Palestine--the place where they were born, or would have been born had not the Zionist military forces (that became the Israeli military in 1948) violently driven their parents, or grandparents in some cases now, out of their villages throughout the 78% of Palestine that is now called "Israel" in 1947 and 1948 and again later in1967. Israel continues this ethnic cleansing today by denying the refugees their right of return and by making life as unpleasant as possible for Palestinians (for example massacring civilians in Gaza last December/January) in an effort to make them depart from all of Palestine "voluntarily." Israel does not let these refugees return to their country for only one reason--they are not Jewish.

But why focus on Israel? Why focus on this crime above all others?

I do it for three reasons.

#1. As an American I have a duty to focus on my own government's mis-deeds more than on other government's mis-deeds ("the log in my own eye, as opposed to the mote in my neighbor's eye," as a wise man once put it), and my focus on Israel is actually a focus on the wrongness of my own government's over-the-top and virtually unconditional support for the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing. It is my government, not I, who has singled out Israel from all other countries to receive military, diplomatic (all those UN vetos!) and economic (no-strings-attached loans!) aid far surpassing that given to any other nation.

#2. Also as an American, I want to expose the Big Lie that the American ruling class uses to control ordinary Americans. The Big Lie is a) that there are lots of evil people who commit terrorist violence against us and against Israelis simply out of an irrational hatred of freedom and an antisemitic hatred of Jews and of anybody who defends Jews from such hateful violence, b) that our government is waging a War on Terror to defend good people against these evil people, and c) that we must obey our leaders during this war and surrender basic freedoms we once held dear in order to win it.

Exposing this Big Lie requires focusing on Israel because one of the main reasons Americans believe the Big Lie is that they see so many news reports about Palestinians violently attacking Israel and they do not understand the true reason why Palestinians do this. Our corporate-controlled mass media never explain that Israel, as a Jewish state that uses ethnic cleansing to ensure it has at least an 80% Jewish population, oppresses Palestinians because they are not Jewish. Nor does the media explain that Israel defines itself as a state of the Jewish people and not a state of all its citizens, that it enacts laws that discriminate against non-Jews, and that Palestinian anger at this is not hateful antisemitism but simply anger at being ethnically cleansed from their own country. By portraying the justified anger of Palestinians (and of all the Arabs and Muslims who share it) as unjustified irrational antisemitic and "anti-freedom" hatred, our rulers try to persuade us that the War on Terror is a real war against a real enemy when in fact it is an Orwellian war of social control. To expose this lie one must "focus on Israel" to explain the truth about Palestinian (and Arab and Muslim) anger at the U.S. and Israeli governments.

(One must also focus on Israel in order to have a serious discussion of the wrongness of terrorism (violence targeted against non-combatants) whether it is carried out in the name of Zionism or in the name of "resistance to Zionism." I discuss this topic here and here and here and here and here.)

#3. Even were I not an American, however, and even if the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing were not being used by the American ruling class to force Palestinians into a conflict with the Israeli government that enables our mass media to portray them as a "bogeyman" hateful terrorist enemy, there would remain one more reason to focus on Israel, which is this.

The Israeli government's crime of ethnic cleansing is, in one important respect, worse than the crimes that other governments commit. When other governments oppress people they of course lie about their reasons, but they almost never equate opposition to such oppression with bigotry and in the rare cases when they do so this assertion is not taken seriously by most people in the world. When Americans opposed our government's invasion and bombing of Vietnam, nobody ever accused them of being bigots for it. When people oppose the Saudi government's oppression of women, nobody ever accuses them of being bigots for it. When people oppose the Chinese government's oppression of workers and peasants, nobody ever accuses them of being bigots for it.

But when people oppose the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the entire spectrum of political and corporate and academic leaders in the United States equate that righteous stand against oppression with antisemitism! People are labeled antisemites and thereby have their reputations smeared just for defending the 13th article of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." (It doesn't say "except Palestinians.") The Israeli government is the only one that commits its particular crime in the name of righteousness, in the name of fighting racism and bigotry. It carries out ethnic cleansing of non-Jews in the name of fighting antisemitism. And it uses organizations with righteous names like "Anti-Defamation League" to accuse anybody who opposes this crime of being an antisemite.

Think about it. When many crimes are being committed, but only one of those crimes is done under the cover of "fighting bigotry" and only one of the criminals dares to equate opposition to their crime with bigotry, then is it not reasonable to focus on that crime, even if it is in other respects not the worst one? The victims of the other crimes will get support from the many good people of the world who oppose injustice and oppression. But the victims of a crime carried out by a criminal who persuades the world of the lie that the crime is actually a battle against antisemitism will not receive the support they deserve. Good people of the world, to their great credit, detest antisemitism and will support the side they believe is fighting against it. This is precisely why it is so important that those who do understand what is actually happening, who do understand that the crime is a crime and not a righteous defense against antisemitism, focus on exposing the lie. This means focusing on the crimes of the Israeli government.

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