SummaryIsraelis often point to countries which behave worse than Israel.
10 October 2010
Last Tuesday while at the Conservative Party conference I bumped into the Israeli ambassador H.E Ron Prosor in the main concourse. We were heading in opposite directions but as I have met him several times before, I stopped to shake hands and reminded him that he had not replied to my letter regarding the Israeli assault on the Gaza Flotilla. After asking me to remind him about the letter’s contents, the ambassador pointed out that a number of enquiries were underway including those under UN auspices.
On a more positive note, I mentioned to His Excellency that during the conference I had joined Conservative Friends of Israel as I regarded myself as a friend of Israel, albeit a critical one. The ambassador immediately asked me if I was going to criticise also the human rights records of a number of other countries. We were unable to continue the conversation as we each needed to go our separate ways due to our time pressures.
However, the conversation caused me to reflect upon the ambassador's question. It is a point often made by Israelis; there are countries which behave much worse than Israel so why do people keep criticising it?
In my view, it is not unfair for Britons such as me to criticise Israel without spending similar efforts criticising other countries. There are two key reasons for my reaching this conclusion.
There are many countries in the world which are brutal to their own citizens. Such conduct needs to be both exposed and opposed, which is the reason I am a member of Amnesty International. However, this conduct typically affects only their own citizens but does not imperil world peace.
In comparison, Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, along with the historic injustices of 1948, feeds a narrative which is used by organisations such as Al Qaeda to attempt to divide Muslims from what is loosely called "the West." Sadly, operations such as Cast Lead in Gaza in January 2009 serve only to provide extra ammunition for such terrorists.
That is the main reason why I regard the early successful implementation of a two state solution in the Middle East as being vital to Britain's national interest, quite apart from its importance for the people of Israel and Palestine themselves.
Israel is rightly proud of being a democracy and a free society. Those who criticise Israel are judging it by the same standards that they would apply to conduct by Britain, France or the United States of America, which are the same standards that Israel aspires to.
In contrast, I expect nothing good from regimes such as North Korea and therefore do not waste my effort criticising them. While Israelis do not like seeing their country criticised for human rights violations, they should look on the positive side and appreciate the criticism as an acknowledgement that Israel is a country that the critics expect to behave better.
Each of us changes the world every day. We can choose to make it a better place.