I am not insinuating in any way that other ills occurring across the planet should negate concern or silence demonstration against the Israeli government’s actions but it does beg the question, why choose the Israel/Palestine conflict in particular?
I know that the gravity of a conflict cannot just be measured purely upon the number of civilian casualties, but I do believe it to be a good starting point.
1000’s Muslims killed by ISIS.
6,500 Palestinians killed by IDF (in the past twenty years)
6,500 Yemenis killed by Saudi Arabia/US
10,000 Iraqi civilians killed by coalition forces (during occupation)
10,000s Muslims killed by the Taliban
15,000 Nigerians killed by Boko Haram
26,000 Afghans killed by coalition forces
61,000 Pakistanis killed from domestic terrorist violence (since 2003)
100,000 Black Muslims by Arab Muslims in Sudan
180,000 Syrians killed by Assad (in 2 years)
100,000s North Koreans killed in labour camps (over past few decades)
*These are all approximate figures but still provide a scale.
Now maybe I am just not looking hard enough, although the fact I do not have to is probably evidence in itself, but the anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli rhetoric receives much more pro-active and high-profile attention than any of the other current conflicts or atrocities listed above in the form of celebrity outrage, organised rallies, protests, Facebook groups, websites and volunteers travelling to the occupied territories. There is an official boycott Israel website but I am yet to find a boycott Saudi Arabia or boycott America one. I cannot recall seeing a protest on British streets about the 19,000 rockets and mortars fired into Israel by Hamas over the course of the past 16 years. Why? There are only three reasons I can think of:
1) Very few Israelis were injured or killed (apparently aggression is all right as long as no one gets hurt).
2) The media do not report on it a great deal.
3) Anti-Semitic animosity sees it as their comeuppance.
None of these seem rational, fair or acceptable.
Of course not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic but much of it is; the telling sign is the hateful and aggressive language that can be seen on the internet or witnessed first-hand at public demonstrations. Terms like “genocide” are often used.
“Genocide – the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” – www.dictionary.com
The hi-jacking of the term genocide by anti-Israel groups only serves to fuel its own outrage. The main objective of genocide is to eradicate a whole people from existence and the Palestinian population, in all territories including Gaza continues to grow steadily. So either Israel are particularly inefficient at genocide or the term is being wildly bastardised to self-satisfy the anti-Israel rhetoric. Not only does such an overtly abusive use of language desensitise us to the actual meaning of the term but also does a huge disservice to the victims of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, Chinese Occupation of Tibet, the Cambodian Genocide and the Rwandan Genocide but to name a few. There does not seem to be any voice within the anti-Israeli faction that attempts to moderate such hyperbolic language and attitudes.
Then there are those who themselves engage in more moderate behaviour. However, it can be hard to separate such conflated lines of reasoning, of which, both draw the same conclusion. That task will be orders of magnitude harder for the Israeli government when literally surrounded by countries that deny its right to exist and have had a history of opposing the Jews right to settle there at every turn. The incessant animosity towards the Jews long before they had an army or even a country was rife. Those sentiments are still rife and Israel has been gradually brutalised. This may not be an excuse for its actions in occupied Palestine but it is a step towards dealing with the problem in a more even-handed manner. An understanding of the modern history of the conflict should be paramount in developing an informed opinion.
1919- The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement proposed an agenda for both Jews and Palestinian Arabs to live on what was former Ottoman Empire territories.
1921- A hard-line Palestinian movement lead by Amin al-Husseini decided that Jewish immigration into Palestine was the main obstacle towards establishing a national homeland for Palestinian-Arabs. Consequently, extensive riots were carried out against the Jews in Jerusalem and Jaffa and many were massacred.
(This spawned the formation of the Haganah, a Jewish defence force which was to eventually become the Israeli army.)
1922 – The Arabs were offered eight places out of twelve on an official council set-up by the British, with two Jews and two Christians making up the remainder. The officials would be voted for by the population and presided over by a High Commissioner. However, the Arabs boycotted the election as the subject of Jewish immigration to the region was not open for discussion. When offered a second time in 1923 they refused again.
1929 – Arab leadership rioted again against the Jews which resulted in large numbers of Jewish casualties and their subsequent evacuation from Gaza and Hebron.
1935 – Leading Palestinian protagonists, al-Qassam, was killed by British troops. This lead to the 1936-39 Arab Revolt in which the British defeated the majority of resistance and many Arab leaders were forcefully expelled.
1937 – The Peel Commission was setup in order to create a partitioning of Palestine into two separate states for both races to live separately and put an end to the violence. The two main Jewish leaders, Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion accepted the proposals, the Arab leaders rejected them.
Post WW2 – In order to avoid further bloodshed and set up a home for all the Jewish refugees and Palestinians alike, the United Nations in 1947 announced a plan to partition Palestine in to a Jewish state, Palestinian state and the City of Jerusalem (to be shared). The very next day, four months of constant fighting broke out with the Palestinian forces on the attack with the Jewish forces on the defensive.
1948 – The Jews were winning and had gained a lot of territory causing a Palestinian refugee problem. Other Arab nations were roused by their Palestinian comrades’ efforts and carried out sporadic violence against Jewish settlements throughout North Africa and the Middle East causing a paralleled Jewish refugee problem.
Palestinian resentment towards the Jews was present long before the Jews had taken any action against them. Scapegoating Jewish immigration, instigating riots and subsequent violence, spreading pro-Nazi propaganda (during WW2) and showing nothing but hostility towards a decimated and scared people fleeing horrific genocide. Furthermore, disregarding pre-war proposals for partition and then reacting violently and aggressively towards the post-war United Nations proposals, by physically going on the offensive to eventually become over powered and forced to retreat, creating a refugee problem of their own making. Not to mention uninvolved Jewish settlements being attacked elsewhere in the Arab world and causing a new Jewish refugee problem. The same problem that had caused Palestinian animosity to rise again after the Second World War. At this point in history the Jews were the underdogs and there is no denying that they had been down-trodden from the holocaust and that the Arab world outnumbered them greatly. In 1947 Palestinian-Arabs outnumbered Jews approximately two-to-one.
The bombardment continued with the Arab-Israeli war and Six Day war, the latter of which saw Israel take control of the Golan Heights, West Bank, Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. Not only did they gain ground but their economy flourished and an influx of Jewish migrants entered the country. Had they been left alone those things may not have occurred. History appears to show a pattern, whereby the Arab world would be better off if they stopped playing the aggressors.
2005 – Israel’s Unilateral Disengagement saw Israel pull out of Gaza.
2006 – Hamas assume power and refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist or renounce violence, so Israel cut direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.
2007- Hamas and Fatah start fighting one another in Gaza, killing 600 Palestinians within a year.
2008- Over 3,000 rockets were fired into Israel. As a response The Gaza War broke out and saw 1,400 Palestinians killed.
Israel left Gaza in 2005 but physically aggressive provocation towards its citizens led them to return.
A former chief of staff for the IDF once said, “Until the wolf shall lay with lamb, we’d better be the wolves.” For me this sums up their attitude completely. Israel has become hardened by the character of its enemy and so it responds with more force than it is shown (they should not be shown any in the first place) in the hope that eventually they will be left alone. Peace from strength. However, this is not the case and the lesson is never learnt. It is like poking a smaller boy with a stick until he hits you and then everyone turns around and shouts at the smaller boy. Nay, in the case of Hamas, it is like poking a smaller boy with a stick until he turns around and hits you but before you are hit you place one of your brothers in the way and then everyone turns around and shouts even louder at the smaller boy and demands he be brought to justice. Moreover, that smaller boy is surrounded on all sides by the bigger boy’s friends all wielding sticks in a threatening manner. I refer to Israel as the smaller boy as their population and armed forces are much smaller in comparison than those of their immediate Arab neighbours, who collectively have attacked Israel in recent times.
Israel is constantly criticised for its actions by celebrities, social commentators and the media alike, but criticism of its antagonists pale in comparison. If peace and the well-being of ALL peoples in that region are truly what matters, then there needs to be a rivalled critic of Hamas, Fatah etc., without it there is a moral imbalance and no workable resolution. Doctrinal hate and perpetual antagonism against Israel must also be addressed:
“The Day of Judgement will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslim, O servant of God, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’” – Extract of Hamas’s Charter (taken from The Hadith)
A fair discussion would require a neutrality that can see things from both points of view and I believe that the Israeli point of view is massively under-represented, in the media and constantly lambasted by anti-Zionist rhetoric. The history is often totally disregarded at worst and at best seen as a sob story about how down-trodden the Jews used to be. Little credence is given to the hostility shown towards them through historically documented events whereby they have never been afforded the chance of a peaceful coexistence. In order to have a balanced debate about a populous that is under discrimination and oppression (Palestinians in occupied territories) it must be recognised that Israel suffers both those things as well. Discrimination in that all the aforementioned counts for very little and oppression in that 19,000 rockets and mortars have been fired upon them.
Our own foreign policy is far less justified in its actions than Israel is, who find conflict on their doorstep and have done for decades. They respond to actual domestic physical threat and we respond to bank balances, oil and geopolitical influence. Hence our own behaviour should take precedence. When I see British students holding flags saying, “Everything About Israel Is Illegal” or “Boycott Israel” I do wonder what their motivation is, why they chose Israel as their personal crusade, where they get their information from and why their “charitable” concern does not start at home?
I will absolutely concede that the Palestinian civilians living in the occupied territories are being treated very badly and that it cannot go on, Israel’s actions towards them are unethical and needs to stop. Hamas’s action are also unethical, ironically against their own people as well. Israel seized Gaza after a war that they did not start. They left Gaza until attacks upon them, which they did not initiate, caused them to return. It seems to me that unless Israel were to remain either completely passive or do everything exactly by the book (which absolutely no country in the world does during conflict, the Western countries included) then the intense scrutiny of the world will never be appeased. If Israel were to drop its defences that protect many of its citizens and the Israeli death toll were to sky rocket (excuse the pun) would that leverage more sympathy I wonder.
1) There is a huge amount of exaggerated language and attitudes which appears to abandon reason and pedal terms such as “genocide” which is indicative of either someone who is ill informed or someone who harbours an irrational hatred, both of which have no place in critical debate. Moreover, there is no effort made by the moderate anti-Israeli protesters to temper this behaviour.
2) Anti-Semitism, although not a prerequisite of having an anti-Israel stance, does nevertheless exist within these groups and so serves to attract more numbers; increasing the perceived validity of the position, lacing it with emotive rhetoric and ultimately tipping the scales away from an impartial and clear understanding of the whole situation in favour of a goody and baddy scenario.
3) One can still be misinformed, biased and open to anti-Semitic rhetoric without being anti-Semitic.
4) The history of the situation should not be disregarded or seen as purely a sob story. It displays an intolerance for the settling of Jews by Palestinians since that land was liberated from the Ottoman Empire. An intolerance spawned from deep seated religious ideologies that do not wish for a peaceful co-existence. If only we could all do away with religion, I’m sure it would remedy a lot of Global issues, after wealth that is!
There appears to be a great many people who rely on emotive imagery and indiscriminately exaggerated information, a little bit like those Daily Mail readers!