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Selective Sympathy in Israel/Palestine

by Prof. Lawrence Davidson:

 

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.
The mainstream U.S. media often reveals its bias by selecting some personal tragedies for saturation coverage while downplaying or ignoring similar horrors to “others,” such as the massive attention given to the search for three kidnapped Israeli teens
Published on Sunday, June 29, 2014 by Consortium News

The display of anxiety and aggressive agitation in Israel, triggered by the kidnapping of three young men from an illegal settlement on the West Bank, seems to be accompanied by a near total denial of any legitimate relationship between government actions (the occupation) and Palestinian reactions (the kidnapping).

No matter what the Israelis do to the Palestinians, the Israelis insist that those actions are justified, and no matter how the Palestinians react, the Israelis insist those actions are never justified. By objective standards this Israeli attitude borders on the pathological.

There are multiple tragedies that result from this disconnect. The tragedy of the three Jewish kidnap victims is the one that is foremost in both Israeli consciousness and also in the Western media, accompanied by speculation that the young men were taken as hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.

As if to put out the message that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu will not play that game, the Israeli military is arresting hundreds of Palestinians, including some who had been released in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The military is also destroying Palestinian property in a wholesale manner, wounding scores and even murdering a steady number of Palestinians in the search for the kidnap victims.

But all this mayhem, which only deepens Palestinian hatred, may be based on an Israeli false assumption. Quite likely this kidnapping was not carried out to set up some future exchange. Quite likely it was an opportunistic act of revenge, striking back against exactly the kind of repression that the Netanyahu government is again carrying out.

Many Zionists cannot fathom the fact that there are literally millions of Palestinians desiring vengeance for Israeli acts of abuse. That blindness is part of their denial that their own actions define much of the Palestinian reaction. This denial is reinforced by the gambit of labeling nearly all Palestinians as “terrorists.”

Another tragedy, which gets much less media attention, is the tragedy of the collectively kidnapped people of Palestine. That is the phrase used by Avraham Burg, a disillusioned Zionist who, apparently, is slowly but surely replacing his old ideology with contemporary disgust.

As Burg puts it, “All of Palestinian society is a kidnapped society … many of the Israelis who performed ‘significant service’ in the army … entered the home of a Palestinian family in the middle of the night by surprise, with violence, and simply took away the father, brother or uncle .… That is kidnapping and happens every day.”

No doubt some Israelis deeply resent the fact that much of the world has come to agree with Burg. More and more, those on the outside know that the Israelis have created the context for this latest kidnapping. These people across the globe no longer believe Zionist justifications for Israeli behavior. The result is that the Israelis are increasingly isolated in a misshapen world of their own.

For instance, an editorial in the Jerusalem Post dismisses the world’s principal human rights organizations as hypocrites because they did not express “immediate outrage, demand action, and even demonstrate at the United Nations demanding the immediate release” of the “three Israeli teens.”

Alas, the major human rights organizations, which have in fact expressed disapproval at the kidnapping, cannot do as the Jerusalem Post editorial wishes because they understand the degree to which Israeli policies have contributed to these tragedies. This fact makes very difficult, for many people, the otherwise natural sympathy that they feel for the personal plight of the three teens, the sentiment that the Israelis insist upon.

This may help explain the frustration of M.J. Rosenberg, a liberal American Zionist commentator who now takes to task American supporters of the Palestinian cause for what he calls their lack of humanity when it comes to the fate of the kidnapped Israelis. Rosenberg tries to lay out his objection in absolute moral terms:

“There is no justification for harming kids [the ages of the victims are 19, 16 and 16] no matter what the cause. Never. …. The test of your humanity is whether you condemn the harming of children without caveats and quasi-justifications. If not, just shut up.”

Idealism Destroyed by Reality

Perhaps Rosenberg’s rather harsh demand brings to the surface yet another tragedy inherent in the present situation – the tragedy of insisting on moral ideals which, while admirable, are just not realizable under the present circumstances.

To be succinct: There is the world as we say it should be (the ideal) and there is the world as it actually is (shaped in large part by state practice). The rule of law and most principles of morality seek to move the world in the direction of the ideal. However, if a state demands the sympathies of those who take seriously the ideal, it must at least demonstrate national behavior that does not purposely contradict the ideal.

Thus, in the hypothetical case of an Israel moving in the direction of an inclusive society based on genuine democratic behavior, we would condemn out of hand not only this kidnapping but all the prior instances where Israelis – men, women and children – had suffered and died due to communal violence. However, there is no such Israel. If anything, we have the real Israel moving away from genuine democratic practice and toward the status of an exclusive apartheid state.

But what about the children? After all, children “have no agency” and therefore should not be held responsible for the conditions created by their elders. But again, the Zionists cannot demand such an exception while agents of the Israeli state regularly arrest and incarcerate Palestinian children. This is a sad truth of the world as it actually is: double standards make ideals impossible.

This moral predicament may be tragic but it is quite consistent with how ordinary people act and react all of the time. People usually do not act with sympathy toward bullies, overtly egocentric individuals, or those who threaten their neighbors. By extension, whole groups of people who support such behavior, either because of a distorted perception of history, the improper teachings of religious ideology, or simply because they are conditioned to “follow orders” cannot be readily sympathized with either.

The Zionists can complain about the unfairness of this situation, but the only thing that will make a difference is a change in their own behavior.

____________________________________________

 Gideon Levy: “The world is sick of Israel and its insanities: Israel is discovering that it’s no longer the center of attention as it always was before.”

Haaretz      June. 26, 2014 | 3:50 AM |   30What a cruel world: Three yeshiva students were kidnapped, and the world isn’t interested; three mothers are crying out, and the world doesn’t answer. It’s all because the entire world is against us; it’s anti-Semitic and hates Israel. The Anti-Defamation League is already preparing a report. But the truth is, that’s just the way things are: When you openly thumb your nose at the world for years on end, eventually, it thumbs its nose back.

The three mothers went all the way to Geneva. One of them went abroad for the first time in her life to go to the United Nations Human Rights Council. But the world, and the council, went on their merry ways. It’s the irony of fate: About two years ago, Israel officially suspended cooperation with that council; together with the Marshall Islands, Palau and the U.S., it opposed the council’s very establishment. But now, in its distress and the mothers’ distress, it has turned to the council, which is indeed hostile to Israel and spends more time on it than on any other country. Suddenly, Israel needs the world. It even needs the UN, which all of a sudden isn’t the worthless body Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion once termed it.

It takes considerable effrontery to demand that the world interests itself in the fate of three abducted Israelis, and considerable chutzpah to be disappointed by the fact that it has kept silent. Granted, Israel tried to move heaven and earth, and its ambassador/propagandist at the UN gave a moving speech in an effort to scrape up a few more public diplomacy points against Hamas. But once it was paying attention already, that bizarre world was more interested in the campaign of collective punishment imposed on thousands of West Bank residents after the kidnapping.

That’s the way things are with the world-that’s-entirely-against-us: It’s more interested in the half-century-old occupation; it’s more upset over the fate of three million Palestinians than the fate of three Israelis. The world has no lack of kidnapping victims, but none of them ever got the attention received by kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. With the three current kidnap victims, however, Israel no longer had a chance. Over the last two weeks, which I spent in Sweden, I didn’t run across a single  mention of the abduction in the media. Not one.

That’s what rotten fruit looks like. The world has no reason be more interested in the fate of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gilad Shaar than it is in the fate of their age mate Mohammed Dudin, a boy of 15 who was killed by live fire from Israeli soldiers in Dura last Friday.

It has no reason to be especially moved by the haunting words of Rachel Fraenkel, who related that her Naftali is a good boy who loves to play guitar and soccer, when Mohammed was also a good boy, who helped his father build their house during his school vacations and sold sweets to help support his family. Rachel wants to hug Naftali? Jihad, Mohammed’s bereaved father, also wants to hug his son. Incidentally, nobody brought him to Geneva. He remained alone with his mourning, at the wretched house whose construction hasn’t yet been finished, and perhaps never will be.

The world is a mess, as they say. In Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and even Ukraine, the situation is far crueler. Yet the complete lack of interest in the kidnapped Israelis doesn’t stem from that alone. It’s impossible to demand sympathy from the world when Israel ignores the world’s decisions; it’s impossible to demand action when Israel is perpetuating the occupation; and it’s impossible to demand solidarity with the fate of Israeli victims when that same victimized Israel continues to kill, wound and arrest innocents as a matter of routine.

Now Israel is discovering that it’s no longer the center of attention as it always was before, and that the fate of its kidnapping victims no longer stops the world in its tracks, not even in the United States. The world is sick of Israel and its insanities. Unfortunately, the world has also lost interest in what happens here. When Israel was a more just country, the world identified with its victims. It continued to do so even when Israel became less just. But now, when Israeli rejectionism is hitting new heights and its oppression of the Palestinians is returning to what it was during the very worst periods, the world has started getting tired of it all. Even the kidnapped Nigerian girls interest it more.

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.601243

 Israel Drops anti-Hamas Lollipops in West Bank

by Chris Carlson –
1 of International Middle East Media Center Editorial Group Report   Monday June 30, 2014 01:
    The Israeli state has found it appropriate to drop hundreds of anti-Hamas lollipops in Nablus and Ramallah, in what Ma’an News Agency has deemed “a renewed attempt to incite Palestinian popular opinion against the Islamist political group”.
Residents of the West Bank’s two largest cities discovered, on Sunday morning, that hundreds of lollipops had been dropped in the streets and alleyways of the cities. The candy was decorated with the phrase “Ramadan Kareem … Some sweets, after Hamas has made life in the West Bank bitter.”Witnesses in Nablus told Ma’an that the lollipops were seen to be distributed Israeli soldiers.They believe the lollipops to be an attempt, by Israel, at a kind of psychological warfare aimed at inciting Palestinians against Hamas, which has been accused of having kidnapped three Israeli teens.Last week, during a raid on Nablus, the military dropped match boxes in the streets with a phrase in “colloquial Arabic” which read: “Beware! Hamas is inflaming the West Bank”.

 

Robert Fisk: How on earth can Israel tolerate this filth from B’nai Brith Canada?

Four million Canadians carrying the anti-Semitic ‘disease’? We’ve heard this kind of despicable propaganda before
The Independent       Monday 30 June 2014

Not long ago, I was handed the most outrageous, vile, dishonest and slanderous calumny uttered against the people of Canada. It was contained in a full-page advertisement in the National Post (founder, Conrad Black), a newspaper handed out – free, I’m happy to say – on my Air France flight out of Toronto. Here is the headline: “Almost 4 million Canadians are afflicted by this disease.”

Beneath this title is a half-page, very blurred and uncaptioned colour photo of a large crowd – they could be football supporters, rush-hour commuters in Vancouver, you name it; they are mostly white males but include women and with at least one dark-skinned man close to the camera. Beneath the picture, this incredible ad continues: “Left unchecked, it [the disease] can result in violence tendencies. Many times, those infected haven’t been diagnosed and may pass it on to their children, grandchildren, colleagues or friends. Please help stop the spread of this disease before it contaminates your community.”

This is frightening stuff, of course. Could this refer to some of the six million Canadians who may be living with HIV/Aids? Or the 4.5 million Canadians affected by arthritis? Or the 2.5 million Canadians believed to have diabetes? Or even some of the estimated 7.8 million Canadians treated for depression each year? Nope. This is far more serious. For the “disease” afflicting “almost 4 million Canadians” is “anti-Semitism” and this disgusting advertisement – published without comment by one of Canada’s leading right-wing newspapers – was produced by B’nai Brith Canada and the “Jewish Christian Alliance”.

“At the first sign of anti-Semitism,” this appalling ad concludes, “call the B’nai Brith Canada Anti-Hate Hotline…” In other words, this pro-Israeli Jewish group – whose exaggerations and hateful propaganda have been rightly condemned by Jewish Canadians – claims that four million of their fellow-countrymen and women are sick, racist neo-Nazis. What other conclusion are we supposed to draw if almost 9 per cent of the Canadian population is “diseased”, “infected” and “contaminated”.

Now let’s forget that B’nai Brith regards any criticism of the state of Israel – however justified, however mild, made by Jews and non-Jews alike – as anti-Semitic. Let’s forget previous protests by Jewish Americans against the organisation’s grotesque exaggerations. Let’s even ignore its equation of Palestinians with Nazis, a comparison that led it to publish a bowdlerised version of the infamous photograph of the wartime Grand Mufti of Jerusalem meeting with Hitler – the Nazi dictator was “moved” in the B’nai Brith version of the snapshot about three feet closer to the Palestinian so that Hitler appears to be almost sitting on his visitor’s lap.

And let’s not ask why the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, did not immediately leap to the defence of his own Canadian people when confronted by this disgusting statement of “disease”. For alas, Harper told the Israeli Knesset last January – while archly claiming “criticism of Israeli policy is not in and of itself necessarily (sic) anti-Semitic” – that condemnation of Israeli policies amounted to anti-Semitism. This included those who supported the boycott campaign against Israel or referred to it as an apartheid state. “On some campuses,” said Harper, “intellectualised (sic) arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students.”

“Sickening,” Harper called this. Yes, the Canadian Prime Minister himself was using the “disease” metaphor employed by B’nai Brith. And why not? Because there’s another reason Canadians can expect no protection from their own Prime Minister, who in his speech might have been a member of the Knesset rather than a guest of its members: Stephen Harper was awarded the “International Presidential Gold Medal” for “his commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel” in 2008 – by B’nai Brith.

But what, we have to ask, possesses Israel’s “friends” to publish this pernicious material about 4 million “diseased” Canadians? Does B’nai Brith Canada not realise that these very same despicable lies were used by the Nazis in their hate propaganda against the Jews of Europe? In Hitler’s Germany, Jews were described as microbes. Jews, according to Julius Streicher, were “the carriers of disease and vermin among men”. In August 1941, Goebbels called Jews “the carriers of infectious diseases” and two weeks later referred to Jews as “parasites”. By November, he was calling them “lice”.

But now, 4 million Canadians carry “disease”. Undiagnosed “infections” will be passed on to children and grandchildren. The “community” is in danger of being “contaminated”. If this stuff was not so revolting, it could be laughed off. It’s not just a question of how Stephen Harper can tolerate this garbage. How can Canadians? And – here I draw only on my own experience of visiting Israel itself dozens of times – how on earth can Israel tolerate this filth from B’nai Brith Canada? Disgrace is the word that comes to mind. And it prompts two grim thoughts. If this dangerous material is really supposed to defend Israel, then Israel must be in much greater danger than it believes. And with a Canadian outfit such as B’nai Brith and the National Post as its “friends”, Israel doesn’t need Arab enemies.

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