Friday, May 03, 2002
Voicer of "disproportionate" complaint....................Time since my email
Peter Hansen (UNRWA)...........................................................10.5 days
Bill Graham (Canada Foreign Minister).................................10.5 days
Francine Lalonde (Bloc Quebecois foreign policy critic)....10.5 days
Chris Patten (EU Commissioner, External Affairs)..............9.25 days
Mikhail Margelov (Council of Europe).......................................6.5 days
Ray Murphy (Irish Times contributor).......................................1.0 day
I was particularly struck by this passage in Murphy's article:
The use of suicide bombers against Israel and its citizens must be condemned, but it does not give the government of Israel the right to take acts of reprisals.
This sounds a lot like "The attack on the WTC must be condemned, but it does not give the U.S. the right to respond militarily against Afghanistan." (Or maybe "The attack on Poland must be condemned, but it does not give Great Britain the right to respond miliarily against Germany.")
Today, he brings his keen insight to bear on the "mystery" of why the U.S. is so supportive of Israel. A hint is given in the provocative title, "Partnership of Chosen Peoples:"
The U.S. and Israel: There is a mystery to the strength of the bond between Israel and the United States. One felt it this past month, when U.S. President George W. Bush ordered Israel to quit its invasion of the West Bank. Israel calmly defied all his demands, and the U.S. just backed off, while constantly reaffirming its bias for Israel. Recently, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated he would abandon none of the settlements, a move the U.S. says is central to a solution. Again, no reaction. This is abnormally indulgent behaviour for a superpower toward a financially dependent ally.
I see a different mystery: The U.N, EU, et al. and Israel: There is a mystery to the strength of the antipathy with which the U.N., EU, et al. view Israel. One felt it this past month, when U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned Israel for its invasion of the West Bank with barely a word about Palestinian terrorist attacks. In prior months, on rare occasions, the U.N. has expressed "horror" about Palestinian terror attacks. The Palestinian Authority calmly defied these condemnations, and the U.N. just backed off, while constantly reaffirming its bias for the PA. In fact, on April 16th the U.N. revisited this issue, passing a bill that apparently supports the use of "armed struggle" by the PA. This is abnormally hostile behaviour for a world body toward a member.
I call it a mystery because I find most explanations unconvincing -- for example, that Israel is a fellow democracy. There are many tyrannies the U.S. has supported, and democracies, such as Chile in 1973, which it has overthrown. Nor do I think the power of the Jewish vote or lobby in the U.S. explains this fully. George Bush was elected despite the Jewish vote in Florida and elsewhere. Nor the value the U.S. places on Israel (along with Turkey) as its stand-in cop in the Mideast. Stand-ins are still expected to be obedient. Iraq was a U.S. ally in the region, especially in its war with Iran, but when it got out of line and invaded Kuwait for its own reasons, the U.S. reacted furiously. Israel is a kind of rogue client that gets away with it.
I call it a mystery because I find most explanations unconvincing -- for example, that Israel is an oppressor. There are many oppressors the U.N, EU, et al. have supported, including a good portion of the members of the Human Rights Commission (e.g., Sudan, Syria, and newest member: Zimbabwe!) Nor do I think the power of the Muslim vote or lobby in the EU and elsewhere explains this fully. Nor the value the EU et al. place on MidEast oil. Israel is a kind of scapegoat nation on which the U.N., EU, et al. dump their venom.
So what's the reason? I dislike broad cultural theses such as "the clash of civilizations." They seem undergraduate. But there seems to be a deep identification Americans feel with Israel, from the President on down, built on the American sense of exceptionalism: that the U.S. is unique, and uniquely moral, in the history of the world, and lives by no one's standards except its own. This may resonate with Judaism's notion of a chosen people with a promised land, called to be "a light unto the nations" -- a phrase from the same bible that has been an ideological centrepiece in both countries. Maybe when George Bush feels tugged in different directions over Mideast policy, it's this sense of identification that tilts the balance.
So what's the reason? I dislike broad cultural theses such as "anti-Semitism" or "anti-Americanism." But there seems to be a deep antipathy Europeans et al. feel toward Israel, from the poo-bahs such as Chris Patten and Hubert Vedrine on down, built on the European sense of -- what? Paternalism? Outdated romantic notions of how people in the non-European world should behave? A desire to expiate any residual guilt about Europe's treatment of the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s by painting Israel as equally capable of ill-treatment for others? Unlike Salutin, I will not propose a reason. I merely point out that this is as mystifying to me as the U.S.-Israel relationship is to Salutin.
And there's one other thing that mystifies me: Why doesn't Rick Salutin -- who is so keen to look beyond superficialities and expose the assumptions beneath -- feel mystified about the degree to which the U.N., Europe, et al. single Israel out among all the nations? Perhaps an answer to the U.N-Israel mystery will help resolve the mystery that Salutin poses.