It should be patently obvious to anyone with a passing interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the Western pro-Palestinian movement has long since gone beyond the bounds of justifiable criticism and moral acceptability.
Israel is of course facing ever-increasing hostility at every level internationally. This immense hostility has largely been brought into effect by the populist successes of the Western anti-Israeli/pro-Palestinian movement so it is time to expose this collective entity to greater scrutiny – to ask difficult questions due to the significant power it now wields. This article seeks to establish that hatred is the driving force behind many elements of this movement, and since Israel is the sole existing Jewish nation, serious questions need to be asked about anti-Semitic sentiment.
A particular, rather unique haughtiness is one of the most notable features of Western attitudes towards Israel. Fellow Irishman Donnchadh O’Liathain wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post in 2004 describing the European attitude towards Israel: a dichotomy of “good Israelis” and “bad Israelis” – those who are pro-peace and those who are less so. The theme of his article was the invasiveness of attitudes towards Israel, an intense meddlesome desire to impose a solution on the conflict without proper recognition of Israel’s needs. It is indeed galling when the citizens and leaders of larger secure states that have luxuriated in peace for many decades, bar the occasional fracas in distant lands, pass judgement so readily on a tiny state surrounded by continuous extreme hostility, which is clearly not as a consequence of its actions but of its very existence. If we consider the fear experienced in the US after the tragedy of 9/11, and also consider the trauma and political changes experienced in other nations after very serious terrorist attacks, it is not difficult to see how such countries would respond if faced with similar conditions.
There are several forms of pro-Palestinianism which can be categorised in terms of extremism. Moderates think the Palestinians are largely the victims in this conflict and do not advocate terrorism at all and may even support a fairly just two-state solution. The second group support the Palestinian cause without endorsing the more extreme acts of Palestinian terrorism but nonetheless tend to find them “understandable” and may demand solutions that nullify Israel’s Jewish identity, e.g. the “right to return.” The most extreme group supports all acts of Palestinian terrorism no matter how debased or destructive to Israeli civilians. By implication they support a one-state solution – namely, a Palestinian state or a greater Jordan/Syria. This article focuses principally on the latter two groups of Palestinian supporters, which have grown greatly in popularity in the last decade. Such people are often highly vocal and may campaign vociferously for the Palestinian cause. The opinions of these people may require some interpretation as they might not be completely forthcoming with their views on the conflict. Those who have extreme opinions often appear to present their views as being milder than they truly are, hence the usual contention that they support peace. This would be especially important if they hold positions of power in influential political institutions or the media.
A pertinent question needs to be asked: what is the primary motivation of the Western anti-Israeli/pro-Palestinian movement? Is it a genuine concern for human rights, which is always admirable if not necessarily justified, or is it a rank anti-Semitism masquerading undercover of darkness as a concern for the Palestinians? Obviously, I subscribe to the latter opinion but whichever view the reader may endorse, one question should be addressed in order to clarify the matter at hand: where does legitimate sensible (i.e. reasonably fair and moderately justifiable) criticism of Israel end and become abusive condemnation that overtly goes beyond what is evidential? The answer indicates the sincerity and intent of the pro-Palestinian movement, for their words and actions ought to be their measure.
It is indeed important to recognise that no state should be above criticism, just as no individual or group should be above criticism for the simple reason that all agents have the capacity to commit acts that are harmful to others. Thus, the question here is not should Israel be criticised generally speaking but rather how is Israel being criticised?
A detailed understanding of the contrast between reasonable criticism and abusive condemnation would be useful – of course other word use with similar meaning is also applicable. Something is considered abusive where coercion or bullying occurs, where there is a desire to cause distress or harm. Abuse is described as the “Improper treatment or usage; application to a wrong or bad purpose; misuse; perversion; … verbal maltreatment; An unjust, corrupt or wrongful practice…; … insulting speech; abusive language.”/ [Wiktionary]. Condemnation is of course censure by attributing blame, strong disapproval or even demonization. An abusive condemnation would be highly damaging, distressing and motivated by ill intent, in which case it could well deliberately exceed what is clearly indicated in evidence. This would not simply be applicable to Israel as a state. It would apply to its citizens, its interests, and by its very nature the malicious intent could apply to Jewish people generally, of which Israel is principally composed.
While many conflicts are compared with World War II and aggressors are compared with the Nazis, this motif has never been more widely used than when judging Israel. No pro-Palestinian demonstration is complete without the symbol of the swastika within the Star of David on badges and placards. Indeed, this symbol more so than any other has come to represent the pro-Palestinian movement. Since the Star of David is also the prime symbol of Judaism it can also be clearly interpreted as a symbol highly abusive to the Jewish religion and those that constitute the Jewish people, especially due to the tragedy of the Holocaust. Comparing Israeli figures with leading Nazi figures is also not uncommon. In Ireland, during Operation Cast Lead, Sein Fein (IRA) member Aengus O’Snodaigh repeatedly compared the Israeli ambassador to Ireland with Josef Goebbels, the master propagandist, for merely trying to explain that the invasion was due to continued attacks. Divisive figures such as disgraced Scottish politician George Galloway declared during a UK protest last year: “Today, the Palestinian people in Gaza are the new Warsaw ghetto, and those who are murdering them are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1943.”
Palestinian sympathisers make it abundantly clear that Israel does not have a right to defend itself. Clearly some will say this is a misrepresentation: that in fact they criticise Israel’s response as being heavy handed. This may be true for some but the dominant theme in the pro-Palestinian monologue is that Palestinians have a right to “resist” as they put it, while Israel has no essential right to respond. This is clear time and time again in their argumentation.
Judging by the views held by more extreme pro-Palestinians it would appear that Palestinian terrorists have a right to do whatsoever they wish to Israeli citizens. We see very extreme language used in the media and even more so on internet websites throughout the West. It does become essentially irrelevant or morally justifiable if Hamas rains missiles on Israeli citizens because according to so many pro-Palestinians, Israel is (to borrow their commonly used terminology) a “pariah”, “colonial”, “apartheid”, “fascist”, “criminal”, “nazi”, “jihadist”, “terrorist” state. Israel is a state that butchers women and children, harvests Palestinians for body parts, and of course has “ethnically cleansed” the Palestinians. Israel has committed many “holocausts” against the Palestinians, so accordingly some even think it more reprehensible than the Third Reich. With such extraordinarily twisted extreme black and white understandings of the conflict that contravene the most obvious truths, it is little wonder that no justification of Israel’s right to defend itself will satisfy such individuals. No reasoned argument based on facts will be sufficient.
Considering such information, it is fair to say that very many (probably a majority) of pro-Palestinians have a very real hatred of Israel. Some may protest that this is not so but, for example, would any reasonably impartial observer with a modicum of fairness deny one state the right to respond to continued extreme aggression when it is a genuine affliction to its citizens? Would such a fair, impartial observer not accept that Jihadist Palestinian terrorism is part of the problem and its moral legitimization not a solution? To take a recent issue, many pro-Palestinians defended the Goldstone report because it is now yet another weapon in their arsenal to bash Israel. Would any impartial observer accept such a report when a Mrs. Mary Robinson, primary architect of the Durban I anti-Semitic hate-fest, declined to accept the biased brief? Any impartial observer would obviously accept justice must be fair, so why support it? Other than ill-intent, there can be no justification for continually propagating severe exaggerations and outright lies.
The issue of proportionality was frequently raised by Palestinian supporters during Cast Lead. It was often said that the rockets fired into Israel were actually home made or little more than flares. However, the principal rockets were Grad rockets supplied by Iran and simple yet quite potent Kassam. While such rockets have basic guidance systems they are nonetheless of a military grade. Grads have the capacity to destroy a house, for example. Hundreds raining down on towns leading up to the Israeli response was clearly not sustainable. Condemnation and talk of a holocaust swiftly followed even before the ground invasion. The association of Gaza with the Warsaw ghetto was a common motif. Pro-Palestinians characterise the dead in Gaza as primarily innocent civilians but it is worth noting various sources indicate 70 to 74% of those killed were males between the ages of 15 and 40 – the most relevant for combat. Clearly the only acceptable Israeli response for Palestinian sympathisers was to put up with it, other than the ideal of surrender to Hamas. The inference that Israel had no right to defend its citizens can be asserted because no other rational conclusion to such arguments can be arrived upon. The issue of proportionality cannot be answered by simply discussing casualty figures. If the citizens of any state are exposed to intolerable conditions where they cannot go about their daily lives with a basic level of safety for an extended period of time, that state has a moral obligation to stop the forces causing that situation. Therefore, a proportional response is to take the necessary action to stop the attacks and prevent them from reoccurring within a reasonable timeframe; nothing more and nothing less.