In Daniel Luks’s world (In Defense of Israel, 1/24/2011), the Jewish state can do no wrong, and when it rarely ever does, there’s always a darn good reason for it. He asserts that as the only democracy in the Middle East, it stands for peace, justice and equality, having extended the hand of friendship to the Palestinians on countless occasions only to be rebuffed every time. Luks’s arguments, however, are fallacious and illogical, and collapse under the weight of scrutiny.
The Palestinian Authority has insisted on the cessation of settlement construction activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and on the pre-1967 borders as being the basis of all further talks. Luks contends that these preconditions are unreasonable, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would agree. But if you and I are fighting over a piece of real estate and we are going through an arbitration process, should I be allowed to build on that land and consequently change its character? Furthermore, the entire world community, through United Nations resolutions as well as through unilateral action, has recognized the pre-1967 borders as the basis for a future Palestinian state. What would the Israelis consider a good starting point? The new boundary created by the Apartheid Wall, which is four times as long and twice as high as the Berlin Wall, and cuts through villages in the West Bank, separating farmers from their fields? What’s more, the recently leaked Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which the Palestinian leadership was willing to go to reach a political settlement, only to receive nothing in return from the Israelis. So who’s really being unreasonable here?
Luks then discusses the conduct of Israel’s neighbors and how the country’s track record is just stellar when pitted against those of the oppressive and intolerant regimes that surround it. First, there is a very good reason why there are more dictators than elected leaders in that part of the world, and it has much to do with U.S. foreign policy in the region over the last half century, but I won’t get into that here. Nonetheless, it is highly disingenuous of Luks to compare Israel to the dictatorial arrangements that it shares borders with. Of course the democracy, however flawed, will fair better! What he should be comparing Israel to are modern liberal democracies, and not to the world’s biggest human rights offenders such as Mubarak-era Egypt and present-day Saudi Arabia. And when the appropriate comparisons are made, it is clear that Israel’s record is just absolutely dismal.
Luks is right: Israel is not perfect. In fact, it has deep structural problems. Even if one were to forget about its conduct abroad, including its offer to provide apartheid South Africa six Jericho missiles tipped with nuclear warheads, its use of white phosphorus and human shields during 2008 Operation Cast Lead — which resulted in the massacre of 1,400 Gazans — its illegal blockade of Gaza, its illegal settlements in the West Bank, its silencing of the growing peaceful protest movement in the Occupied areas, the presence of Jewish-only roads in the West Bank, and so on and so forth, it is hard to ignore the direction the country is taking. From rabbis issuing statements asking Jews not to sell property to non-Jews, to the wives of certain rabbis telling Jewish girls not to date Arab boys, from expulsion of its only Arab student by a school in Sulam, northern Israel, at the behest of a group of Jewish parents to the Central Elections Committee banning Arab parties from running in the 2009 parliamentary elections, Israel has steadily been moving to the right. And with extremists hijacking deliberations in the Knesset regarding the settlements, the mere mention of dismantling those settlements in the future now amounts to political suicide.
And to boot, criticism of Israel’s actions is summarily dismissed as either the ravings of “self-hating Jews” or the unbridled propaganda of anti-Semites, whose ranks would probably boast such renowned peace activists as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter, all of whom have spoken out against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of the Palestinians. And I wonder what they would make of the revered Mahatma Gandhi, who rejected Zionism and did not support the creation of Israel, even though he sympathized with the plight of the Jews. Would he also be considered an anti-Semite? The conclusions of United Nations fact-finding commissions, Amnesty International, B’Tselem and other concerned organizations are almost invariably labeled “biased” and “one-sided.” I am all too familiar with this flawed and dangerous outlook, this convenient deflection of criticism, having come from a country where people find it expedient to off-handedly explain all of Pakistan’s woes with conspiracy theories involving India, Israel and the United States. You see, it’s never us; it’s always everyone else.
Fahad Muhammad Sajid is an LSA senior.