Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why Is Israel Demonized while Real Rights’ Violators and War Criminals Are Sanitized, Even Lionized?

By Barry Rubin

A few years ago, two unarmed Israelis, headed to camp to fulfill their army reserve duty, accidentally drove into a Palestinian town. They were seized by a mob and beaten up. The Palestinian police then took them to their station. After a few minutes, they turned them over to the mob which murdered them and tore their bodies apart. Some of the police participated.

By chance, a television news crew from Italy’s main channel caught much of this on tape and it was shown on the air. The Palestinian Authority reacted angrily and threatened to pull the television station’s credentials. At which point, the reporter wrote a humiliating letter of apology, which was published, abasing himself and insisting that he was on the Palestinian side.

There is a record of atrocities on the Palestinian side which are documented over many years. These include hundreds of terrorist attacks and the deliberate murder of civilians. Let me mention a few in passing.

--The attack on the Munich Olympic games and the kidnapping of the Israeli athletes we now know to be an official PLO operation.

--The takeover of one of the holiest of all Christian sites, the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem by Fatah gunmen, bullying the priests and nuns, while turning the church into a military base for shooting at Israelis. Rather than being jailed, these men were allowed to leave the country and now live in Italy on a 2000 Euro a month pension. (And they’re demanding a “pay” increase.)

--The seizure of the cruise ship Achille Lauro as a PLO operation which included the murder of an elderly wheelchair-bound passenger, Leon Klinghoffer. Intercepted radio communications between PLO leader Yasir Arafat and the gunmen showed his direct complicity. Several low-level gunmen were imprisoned in Italy but gradually let go over the years.

--A terror attack on a private home in northern Israel in which the terrorist, a Lebanese national working for the PLO, murdered a child in cold blood. He was released recently in a prisoner exchange and sent back to Lebanon, where he received a hero’s welcome. Lebanese leaders vied to fete him and the Syrian government presented him with a medal.

--Two young men, who owned the Up CafĂ© in my neighborhood, were activists in Peace Now and so they thought they would be safe going to Hebron to buy plants for their restaurant, accompanied by a Palestinian friend. They went to a place there for lunch, someone made a telephone call. As they left the restaurant, they were kidnapped at gunpoint, dragged into two cars, driven to a certain place on the road and both shot dead. Why was that precise spot picked to murder them? It was chosen for being just over the line where Israeli security control began so the Palestinian Authority could disclaim any responsibility.

I could fill page after page with such events. Yet for much of the West, especially in Europe and especially in the media and intelligentsia, these are of no importance and are quickly forgotten.

And the list above is only that of a few atrocities perpetrated against Israelis and Jews. What about those against fellow Arabs and Muslims as well as attacks designed to wipe out Christians in Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, and Egypt; Yazdis in Iraq; and Bahai in Iran?

Mass murders and ethnic cleansing in southern and more recently western Sudan? Media not interested. Christians being persecuted in scores of incidents? Western intellectuals not outraged. Iranian regime steals election and represses peaceful demonstrators with force? No Westerners demonstrated. Thousands of civilians killed in Sri Lanka? Moral outrage: zero. Kurds shot down by the Saddam Hussein regime in a manner unseen since what the Germans did to Jews on the Eastern Front in World War Two? Yawn, yawn, and again yawn.

Oh, and by the way, when a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel activist in Sweden wanted to write a book which, among other things, accused Israel of murdering Palestinians to steal their organs in order to sell them, Swedish government money paid for it.

Where does this attitude lead for those in the Middle East it is supposedly favoring? More suffering, violence, repression, and dictatorship.

When an Iraqi member of parliament tried to get the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union to pass a resolution condemning the Saddam Hussein regime’s murders, he was ridiculed by the delegations from other countries. One such colleague told him: We are tired of this Iraqi whining. There are mass graves in all Arab countries. So what?

There is no shortage of real war crimes, real racism, real brutality, as opposed to the counterfeited variety.

So why is there such a righteous obsession with phony ones in order to slander and demonize Israel?

--The result of a conscious and organized (though decentralized) Palestinian strategy to create such false charges as a form of asymmetric warfare.

--The dominance in media, publishing, and universities to a large extent of a post-Marxist ideology which sees Third World (mainly Islamist) radicals as the new proletariat, romantic revolutionaries fighting the very societies which have given so many benefits to those who extoll enemies of democracy and freedom.

-- Western guilt at past racism and imperialism, which ironically thus empowers historic antisemitism, Judeophobia, and Israelophobia.

--Contempt for their own societies, including an alienation from Christianity, a hatred for capitalism (even the liberal, state-regulated variety), and a loss of identity with their own people and nation.

--At times, physical intimidation, the threat of violence against those who criticize Islamists or the loss of access for reporters who write about their crimes. In Europe this means throwing away professional standards and abandoning large elements of free speech in return for pretending to be heroic in battling the non-existent power of a supposed pro-Israel lobby.

--At the same time psychological intimidation. Any criticism against anyone who is Muslim or Arab can be quickly called “racism” though a religion isn’t a race and almost all Arabs are Caucasian. There is also a Catch-22 here. Since non-Westerners were historically stereotyped as behaving brutally when some of them actually do so you can’t mention that because it seems a return to that attitude of superiority associated with racism and imperialism.

--And, finally, money. In Britain, a scandal involving Saudi Arabia was recently hushed up lest it endanger commercial relations. Now comes news that the release of the Lockerbie bomber seems to be linked to Britain getting oil contracts with the Libyan dictatorship, which by the way is tremendously repressive of its own people.

Vice never flourishes more than when it can portray itself as virtue.

Result: the West’s senses for understanding the world are simultaneously gagged and blindfolded.

Changing this situation is difficult; defining what’s needed is simple: honesty, not ideological predetermination to ignore evidence that runs contrary to the “Politically Correct.” Serving a “higher” political cause is no excuse. For scholars and journalists, honesty; reason; and a fair, realistic representation of the facts is the highest possible cause.

At any rate, the causes being served are dreadful, anti-freedom ones. And when you reward the villains, you give an incentive for more people to behave that way and encouragement for the malefactors to go even further in their crimes.

Israel may be the canary in the coal mine, but the miners are the people of Western democracies and, equally important, Third World people’s hopes for a better life not at the hands of corrupt tyrants, ruinous ideologies, and bloodthirsty extremist revolutionaries.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog.

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