That is a provocative title, perhaps excessively so. But I want to spark some introspection and debate on a set of closely related issues. A few weeks ago Boko Haram kidnapped 200 Nigerian schoolgirls before embarking on a spree of murder and terror in Northern Nigeria. Kenya is the target of endless terror attacks and deaths from the extremist Jihadist groups littering her borders. In the entire MENA region, not to mention large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, the steady drum roll of Islamist atrocities against “their enemies” – of whom there seems to be no end – is relentless and horrifying.
Western leftists find this a serious embarrassment. The sheer savagery of these terror activities undermines all the carefully orchestrated accusations of Western (and, naturally, Israeli) imperialism and oppression. Furthermore, it may require action, military action, in order to save their own societies from the ugly fusion of religious fanaticism and fascism which unites these movements. Such a course of action is anathema to the remarkably selective doctrine of non-violence, Western guilt and multi-culturalism which permeates the minds of media chatterboxes and some academics.
So faced with these unpleasant realities crowding their Utopian ideologies, they have two course of action: don’t connect the dots and pretend that these events are simply regrettable but inexplicable features of life without any discernable common factor – in, let’s say, Islamic doctrine or, at least extremist, offshoots of such doctrine. The other tactic is to blame, or to least redirect attention to, the very handy Israelis. Thus there has been a proliferation of anti-Israeli screeds in the Press of late from a bunch of wannabe “Chemical Alis” and from the BDS. It is an uphill task for them except for the fact that they need not say anything new, just recycle old slogans and misinformation permeated by an endless overtone of grievance and outrage.
Most people are sick of them. Most people see a mad and horrifying world in which endless brutal atrocities compete for attention. Thus it is a waste of time for Jews to work themselves up into a frenzy when media talking heads minimise or justify anti-Jewish attacks. Those who are unsympathetic believe the Israelis deserve it. Those who are neutral, or even the sympathetic few, feel that the anti-Jewish atrocities are little different to the general round of brutality and viciousness – and less than many. Don’t “protest too much”. It may rally Jewish sympathies but it won’t have much of an impact on the rest, inundated as they are by even worse elsewhere. The broader population and even the Jews don’t need repetitive outrage accusing the world of hypocrisy. There is a danger we begin to sound like our enemies.
Let Israel do what it is doing without inflated self-justification. It is perfectly clear to all normal people that no state can tolerate an enemy kidnapping its citizens and holding them for blackmail. Israel must do what it need to ensure that the boys are found and to catch and punish the perpetrators, and to remind the Palestinians that vile acts of aggression will have unpleasant consequences not only for those directly involved but for those facilitating such actions.
But this is a fraught road. It can turn into collective punishment where the genuinely innocent are punished – and radicalised. For Palestinian terrorists it is a win-win situation. Get away with blackmail or provoke the Israelis into over-reaction whereby they radicalise the broad Palestinian population, cause internal division within Israel and lose shaky Western support. Israeli leaders, I’m sure,understand this perfectly.
Thus, rather than outrage, simply point this out and clearly state that Israel will not be coerced into inaction. With the general meltdown in the ME and further provocation from the Palestinian leadership, an opportunity may yet arise to achieve a stable and sustainable political solution. This may not include the Palestinian “State” that was once there for the taking – but I, for one, no longer care.
What are your thoughts on this?
Having argued against the unproductive use of the “anti-semitism” card, the fact is that it exists. Below is one outstanding reply to a typically anti-semitic/ignorant comment made on an Internet thread. I have included the comment and the response:
How can our USA have moral authority and respect as we continue supporting Israel while it steals Palestinian land, defies international law and human rights?It thumbs its nose at us and the world community, protected by our veto in the Security Council and none of our elected leaders has the guts to speak up. We feed the incubator of extremism. It evolves into terrorism. We react with our military and feed the fires of violence. BDS appears to be the only solutions.
Allen Z. Hertz to Chips Shutt
Replying to Chips Shutt: You seem to imagine that moral authority particularly requires targeting the national homeland of the Jewish People. Are you a little bit like Hitler who thought that all problems (domestic and international) flow from the Jews?
You naively refer to “international law” as if therein lies some certain credo that definitively informs what is absolutely right and wrong. However, a more sophisticated understanding of international law and relations teaches that international law is akin to “an ongoing discussion about rights” in which every country and NGO has its lawyers, and every law professor and layman an opinion. In this regard, try thinking about the differing views on China’s expansive claims to the South China Sea, as professed by international lawyers in Beijing and Washington.
In addition, try this experiment — imagine that you are a sincere supporter of Israel. What are some of the international legal arguments that you might make on Israel’s behalf? For example, think about the aboriginal, treaty and self-determination rights of the Jewish People.
A then self-identified, specifically “Jewish” People was born in the Holy Land around the 6th century BCE. From that time until today, there have always been some then self-identified “Jews” both in the broader Mideast (one million in 1900 CE), but also in their aboriginal homeland. For 26 centuries, there has never been a single day when then self-identified “Jews” were entirely absent from their native land.
Between 1917 and 1924, a series of declarations, resolutions and treaties formally recognized the historical connection between the Jewish People and its aboriginal homeland. Those treaties specifically created “a national home for the Jewish People” between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Today, Jews are once again no longer a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. At a minimum, this means that the Jewish People can also derive some enhanced benefit from the political and legal doctrine of the self-determination of Peoples which normally assigns territory with reference to the ethnic character of the current local population.
And make no mistake — the Jewish presence in its own homeland has never been colonial in character. Whether a thousand years ago or today, Jews returning to join other Jews in their own aboriginal homeland cannot be compared to the 17th-century “Pilgrim Fathers” who went to build English “settlements” in America, where they had neither native kin nor ancestors. Nor can the Jewish People in its own aboriginal homeland be compared to the Dutch “Boers” in White South Africa or to the French “colons” in Algeria.
Of all extant Peoples, the Jewish People has the strongest claim to be “the” aboriginal People there — just as the Inuit, the Metis and the First Nations are in Canada constitutionally recognized as “the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.”
The foregoing is what we call a reasoned political and legal argument. For sure, all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea remains hotly disputed. You have your arguments and I have mine. However, at the very least, if you listen carefully to the argument of the other side (audi alteram partem), you can appreciate that your categorical reference to “stealing” so-called “Palestinian land” is legally doubtful.
But let me ask why you in particular are so focused on this one territorial dispute, of which there are literally hundreds of others globally? Though you yourself may perhaps not be an antisemite, those who do hate Jews find it psychologically plausible to persistently target Jews and/or Israel and to persistently apply to Jews and/or Israel a standard more exigent than regularly applied to other Peoples and countries, in the same or similar circumstances.
Do you persistently target Israel? Do you persistently apply to Israel a more exigent standard than you regularly apply to other countries in the same or similar circumstances? If so, ask yourself “why?”
Allen Z. Hertz was senior adviser in the Privy Council Office serving Canada’s Prime Minister and the federal cabinet. He formerly worked in Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department and earlier taught history and law at universities in New York, Montreal, Toronto and Hong Kong. He studied European history and languages at McGill University (B.A.) and then East European and Ottoman history at Columbia University (M.A., Ph.D.). He also has international law degrees from Cambridge University (LL.B.) and the University of Toronto (LL.M.). This article was first published in the Times of Israel on February 19, 2014.
See his website at http://www.allenzhertz.com/.
Mike Berger … signing off