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Is Israel criticised unfairly?

Summary

Israelis 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.

Israel's conduct matters

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.

Better conduct is expected of Israel

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.

 

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Jeff Bracey says:
09/01/2011 at 16:41

I take your point Mohammed about building trust when discussing Israel with those for and against this tiny country. However, having only recently learned about your participation in the Muslim / Jewish Forum, I thought I should check your thinking before next Wednesday’s meeting in Liverpool.

Of course it’s handy having a “buddy” to support common issues of interest, but unless those “buddies” understand and accept each other’s history, culture and experience of life, their relationship is bound to be shallow and there will be no trust between them.

The Moslem world along with the Christian world have taken the teachings of Judaism as their own, not only that, they have continued to villify this source of inspiration through the centuries and look with contempt on those that have shown them the “light”.

I have yet to dialogue in detail with you but there is enough on your website that indicates to me, whilst we may indeed agree on issues such as kashrut, circumcision and faith schools. When it comes to Israel you are prepared to cricticise with gusto this tiny country’s attempts to defend her citizens.

It seems to me that perhaps your Jewish Forum “Friends” are, as you propose, so intent on carrying on a gentle dialogue that they have taken their eye off the ball. The fact is, trust will only be nurtured when facts are brought into the open and closely examined, something that Illan Pappe and the Moslem world are not inclined to do.

Mohammed Amin says:
24/01/2011 at 17:01

Dear Jeff

I enjoyed meeting you at “The Israel Question” event in Liverpool. As promised, I am writing to respond briefly to your comment above.

Firstly, I think your criticism of “the Muslim world” and “the Christian world” is too sweeping. I presume you are not objecting to Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God as Jews worship. As you will see from my website, I oppose anti-Semitism whether perpetrated by Muslims, Christians or others.

As you saw in Liverpool, I criticise Israel when it seems to fail to live up to the standards it set itself. I do not deny Israel the right to defend itself, but I do object when its military actions are disproportionate as in the case of the 2006 Lebanon war or Operation Cast Lead.

I concur with your view that we need to examine the facts.

In passing, as explained on my website the correct spelling is Muslim, not Moslem.

Regards
Amin

Jeff Bracey says:
14/02/2011 at 14:58

Dear Amin,

I’m not a “Blogger” but I welcome this opportunity to hopefully add a little balance to your views on Israel’s right to defend itself. I recall several contentious comments you made at the “Israel Question meeting” that went unchallenged; in fact the Chairman gave you an easy ride, as you probably already realise, something I’m not about to do!

I’ll start by repeating two of your comments, left hanging in the air, at the meeting; “Has Israel lived up to the founding ethics of it’s constitution” and “Israel has a lot to answer for”!

The answer to the first question is yes. Remarkably, given the provocation and dangers inflicted by her aggressive neighbours, this tiny country has been patient, tolerant and unyielding in the pursuit of peace and in attempting to accommodate the rights and wishes of Israeli Arab citizens, who have often been unwilling to support their nascent state. Indeed the Ethics on which Israel was founded are those same moral G-d given codes that all Muslims and Christians now claim as their own.

And as to your second point the answer is again yes, however, I think the words of the late Golda Meir best summarise my thinking; “I can forgive the Arabs what they have done to us but I can never forgive what they made us do to them”.

This overview reminds me of the parable of the Gentile who asked Rabbi Hillel if he could explain the Torah whilst standing on one foot, the good Rabbi said of course, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the rest is commentary”.

Where to start? I suppose the beginning is a good place for all long stories. With the Jews, the People of the Book, the Chosen Ones with their continuous connection to the land of Israel, that goes back more than three thousand years. The Jewish Rabbis were praying in their Temple, in Jerusalem, approaching two millennia before Muhammad the Prophet was born and a thousand years before Jesus the Jew, preached his Judaism.

And although you may think my criticism of the Muslim and Christian worlds are too sweeping it is from here that the essence of much of the world’s woe stems. The Christians and Muslims alike have long coveted what was given to the Jewish people, and it was therefore necessary in validating the Jewish birthright as their own that these religions vilify their source material.

The Gospels and indeed the Quran/Hadith are replete with anti-Semitism. Muslims taxed, humiliated and treated their Jewish populations with contempt. To be a Jew under Muslim rule was so often to live in terrifying fear, a misdemeanour by one member of the Jewish community meant suffering for all. “The apes and monkeys” have been subjected to the most horrendous slanders and insults and one has only to walk through the bookshops of the Middle East to day to read the gratuitous hatred of The Blood Libel, The Protocols of Zion and even Mein Kampf. Muslim children are still educated to despise Jews and of course they have no knowledge of Jewish suffering or their long connection to the land of Israel.

I hope you will not try to gloss over these points as being misinterpreted, for as you concur “we need to examine the facts” and I would refer you to Andrew G Bostom’s, The legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism for extensive evidence. Even today Christianity continues to pump out its anti-Semitic Gospel slurs as the truth, which any fair historian can demonstrate as distortion and lies. However, the situation is far worse amongst the Muslim world for Jews have always been held in particular contempt and this religiously inspired hatred is what prevents the Arab world from accepting any Jewish history, heritage or suffering.

I do not object to Christians or Muslims worshipping the same G-d as the Jews for as we agree there is only one G-d. However Christians feel the need to tell all that Salvation is only found through Jesus and the Muslims tell us that only they have the pathway to G-d. It is this arrogance and intransigence that leaves no room for interdenominational peace. Jewish Ethics, however, teaches that all believers in the one G-d will find Salvation.

You say that, as a democracy, you expect much higher standards from Israel than other countries, yet when presented with evidence of Israel’s efforts, you appear blind. As you know the United Nations Humanitarian Committee spends three quarters of it’s time discussing and condemning Israel whilst ignoring the terrible things that happen in other democracies and great powers of the world. However, when independent professionals stand up for Israel, such as the British soldier, Colonel Richard Kemp, who declared in front of the UN Human Rights Council, that “the IDF is the most moral army in the history of human warfare”, you also appear deaf!

When so many of the so-called atrocities that Israel has supposed to commit are exposed for the lies they are, the silence of Muslim organisations and left wing ideologues is deafening. Do you remember the so called Jenin “massacre”, the Gaza beach bombs, the Muhammad al Dura hoax, the endless Hamas PR lies, why such determined ignorance!.

You mention Operation Cast Lead on your blog and “the countless dead civilians”, once again strident, misleading and unfair criticism of Israel’s efforts to protect her citizens. The recent Wikileaks confirm Hamas as agreeing with the carefully recorded IDF numbers of dead during operation Cast Lead as being 702. This of course does not include the hundreds of members of Fatah who were also murdered and tortured by Hamas as mentioned by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, February 2009. Taken as a whole it is quite remarkable, given the intentional Hamas human shields, how few civilians were in fact killed.

Whilst Hamas continue to use their civilians as shields the IDF leafleted, phoned, texted and used radio and TV to broadcast their intended attacks on Hamas terrorists. Do the British or US forces ever do this! The Goldstone report has long since been shown to be biased, ill informed and prejudiced before it even started it’s investigation, yet many people are so willing to take the easy option of taking Media commentary as Gospel.

You criticise Israel’s “wall”, although it is 97% a wire fence, temporary in nature and successful in eliminating suicide bombers. Seemingly the brains of Jewish children hanging from trees does not affect those that scream loud and long about Palestinian rights. When I challenged a contributor at the recent meeting as to how much of this fence was wall she knowingly told me at least 60%! When Jews were shuffling to the gas chambers the world was silent, interesting what good PR can do, along with old-fashioned anti-Semitism!

Israel has fought five Arab wars, two Intafadas and suffered countless terrorist attacks whilst the Arab world has persisted in saying “no” to peace. Before 1967 there were no settlements, yet at Khartoum, the Arabs said “no to peace, no to concessions, no negotiations”. If you make war and you spill blood there are consequences. Israel has a legal, moral and long continuous connection to their G-d given land but as long as the Muslim world continues to read the Protocols of Zion, show the “blood libel” on their television screens and educate for hate, their will be no peace.

Yet, given all this warmongering and intransigence on the part of the Arab world, the Jews are still accepted by many the bad “guys”. Melanie Phillips is right, the world has turned its thinking upside down. Two buildings are taken out in New York and the Americans (and us) carpet bomb the civilians of Iraq back to the stone-age with a fraction of the opprobrium heaped on Israel for defending itself against 220 million warmongering Arabs!

When the late President Assad had a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood, he solved his difficulty by surrounding them with tanks and killing 20,000 souls. That’s what I would call disproportionate. Given the actions and threats of Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and co, it is amazing to me just how moderate has been the defensive actions of the IDF.

The recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have now exposed the myth of the central role of the Israeli Palestinian struggle in the Middle East. The ordinary people of the Middle East want peace; they want to be heard they do not want to struggle for their existence under autocratic and corrupt leaders. Peace with Israel will happen once individuals are allowed to access the truth and it is up to educated leaders to put aside their prejudice and listen to one another.

The Naqba was inflicted upon the Palestinians by a corrupt and contemptuous leadership. It could all have been so different had the Arab world accepted the declarations of The League of Nations and the United Nations but no, they wanted the despised Jews cleansed from “their” land. The six or seven hundred thousand Palestinian refugees are often promoted in the Arab world as being of Jewish making, history however, tells otherwise. Yet little is said of the million Jews kicked from Arab lands in 1948, yes Amin, the Arab world “has a lot to answer for”.

Yasser Arafat in 1964 invented the fiction of a Palestinian nation with thousands of years of history, the fact is, it is the Children of Israel, who have the history and attachment to their land, far older than Islam itself. Yet the Islamists continue with their bigoted and hateful aims in seeking to exterminate this holy people, but as recent history as taught us, extremists will soon pay the price for their contempt.

There is so much to say Amin but time and space limit this brief, I’m interested in your response but do feel that a personal one on one would be more productive. I have family in Manchester perhaps we can meet up some time.

Regards
Jeff

Mohammed Amin says:
15/02/2011 at 23:42

Dear Jeff

Your comments cover a large amount of ground.

There is no point my writing a series of rebuttals; instead I encourage readers to undertake more reading about the current situation in Israel and Palestine and the history of how the current situation developed.

Similarly I encourage people to read documents like the Goldstone Report (linked below) for themselves.

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/factfindingmission.htm

I am happy to meet up in Manchester if we can synchronise diaries.

Regards
Amin

Jeff Bracey says:
18/02/2011 at 01:15

Dear Amin,

How disappointing, I’m sure you would not want the Israeli ambassador to offer such a reply to your questions to him. Part of my reason for writing publically on your blog was to challenge your views openly, many of which demonstrate a Nelsonian view of Israeli / Palestine affairs.

Surely you are not afraid to “battle” with me on your open forum, or perhaps you are. Maybe you are afraid to argue your case with a well informed Zionist. If all you can offer is for people to read documents like the Goldstone report, then I can understand why your timbers may now be shivering!

As I mention above much of the information from the Goldstone report has now been shown to be flawed, distorted or biased. I see every point in you issuing “a series of rebuttals”, how else will either of us, or indeed your fellow bloggers, learn the truth or indeed if you are able to accept it!.

You say, in so many words, that trust and confidence are necessary building blocks between societies if harmony is to prevail between them. What kind of trust can there be when I ask reasonable questions and you run away!

We are both retired now and I’m sure we can synchronise diaries, but first, as a matter of courtesy, I respectfully request you acknowledge my serious efforts above to learn just why you are able to ignore so much evidence in favour of Israel.

Regards,
Jeff

Mohammed Amin says:
03/03/2011 at 11:06

Dear Jeff

Frankly any reply from the Israeli ambassador would be an improvement on the zero response rate I have received!

I have learned over the years that “dialogue” with someone who holds completely inflexible views is pointless, because there is no attempt on the listener’s part at mutual understanding. You clearly classify me that way, although my many Jewish friends do not.

I also have many other claims on my time; not least my work in promoting mutual understanding between Muslims and Jews in Britain.

Accordingly, I am discontinuing this correspondence and will not be responding to any further postings you make on this site.

Regards
Amin

Jeff Bracey says:
06/03/2011 at 17:12

Dear Amin,

It seems we have come full circle, and indeed, you have answered your own question, as to the lack of the Israeli Ambassador’s reply. “I have learned over the years that “dialogue” with someone who holds completely inflexible views is pointless, because there is no attempt on the listener’s part at mutual understanding. You clearly classify me that way, although my many Jewish friends do not”. Ironically, I met the Israeli Ambassador a few weeks ago on his visit to Princes Road Synagogue and in reply to my question regarding inflexible opinions, he quoted your words above, almost verbatim!

I was upset to read you thought it “to no good avail” to dialogue with me, as I’ve already made clear “we could learn together” and as my comments reveal, I’m no bigot. This is enough for me, however, to indeed doubt your bona fides. You may well be received politely, even warmly by many Jews, we are by nature compassionate and supporters of the oppressed. One day, however, perhaps quite soon, you will find a smile and a cliched reply is not enough. As I’ve tried to point out truth is seldom found in extremes, and the fact that you choose to run away, should help you better understand your own short comings.

I’m afraid there would now be little point in meeting up for a coffee, as you would have nothing to say to me.

I wish you well,

Jeff

 

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