Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Is Israel a Normal Country?
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 20, 2010
Critique of an article with the same title in Toronto’s Globe and
Mail by Ian Buruma
This article starts with a brave question, and I think for most
people the answer is apparent with the asking of the question.
like the famous line of T.S. Elliot, the piece ends, not with a bang, but
After asking a question which would never pass the lips
of Israel’s establishment, the article makes the very claims and
assertions the Israeli government would make.
“Israel has never
done anything comparable to the late Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad’s 1982
massacre of more than 20,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the city
While I’m the last to defend dictators, this is a
completely unsubstantiated claim of what happened in Syria. Perhaps worse,
the assertion about Israel is just false. Israel’s first invasion of
Lebanon was just about that bloody.
And what of the achievements
of the Six Day War, a war deliberately calculated by Israel’s
establishment to win the land of the self-defined Greater Israel – all the
Palestinian territories plus slices of Syria and Lebanon - it had failed
to grab at its founding?
Israel went so far as to attack
ruthlessly an American intelligence ship to suppress information of
General Dayan’s movements of armor, the general’s purpose being the quick
seizure of all the lands Israel desired and then presenting the world with
a fait accompli.
And how do you reckon the toll of misery
of decade after decade of hundreds of thousands of refugees plus the
forty-plus years of truly abusive occupation?
I could continue,
for unquestionably the invasion of Iraq was about and for Israel’s
benefit. That’s million people killed and a couple of million refugees,
refugees taken, in large part, by poor Syria.
“So is it true, as
many defenders of Israel claim, that the Jewish state is judged by
different standards from other countries? I believe it is.”
completely ignores the fact of Israel’s establishment constantly claiming
that is the only democracy and representative of human rights in its part
of the world.
If you claim one standard but behave by another –
truly indistinguishable from the region’s dictators – I do think the world
is entitled to comment. Israel holds ten thousand illegal prisoners,
imposes a ghastly blockade for over three years, imposes countless
checkpoints on people’s ordinary lives in the West Bank, regularly
assassinates those with whom it disagrees, and uses every underhanded
technical gimmick it can think of to keep stealing other people’s land.
Indeed, it could be well argued that the kind of Israel we see has
effectively retarded the development of democracy in the Arab world.
Israel’s cooperative friend Mubarak, a dictator of thirty years, is
supported by everything the United States can think of, suppressing all
genuine democratic movements. For a long time, it was the same with Saddam
Hussein in Iraq. Opposing Israel’s excesses has provided a rallying cry
for every dictator in the region. At the same time, the United States and
Israel would prefer these populations suppressed by dictators who in
private mind their own business or are even rather cooperative, a la
“That all Jews, including Israeli Jews, should remain
haunted by a horrible past is understandable. But it must never be used to
justify aggression against others.”
But that is precisely what
Israel’s establishment and its army of apologists abroad do, day and
night. It is, if you will, a ghastly form of special pleading.
“There are other reasons, however, for the double standard directed at
Israel. One is what the liberal Israeli philosopher and peace activist
Avishai Margalit has called “moral racism.” The bloodlust of an African or
Asian people is not taken as seriously that of a European – or other white
But isn’t that exactly what happens inside Israel? Day
in and out in countless ways, Sephardic Jews are not treated with the same
respect and regard as Ashkenazi Jews. And the poor small lot of
dark-skinned African Jews are treated with palpable contempt. The world
should have higher standards than Israel itself in these matters?
“…the legacy of colonialism works against Israel in another way, too.”
Oh please, this is tiresome old idea to trot out. Besides, in the
eyes of most Arabs, Israel is itself an example of colonialism. Here is a
tiny enclave – truly a garrison state - living in the midst of many tens
of millions of people for whose cultures and aspirations it has absolutely
no understanding or sympathy. You could draw a parallel to Israel’s
position today with that of European Crusaders who built massive forts in
the Middle East at places like Acre.
In the end, if Israel expects
to be treated as a normal country, it must behave like one.
Surely, most people, including likely most Jews, know Israel has yet to
behave as anything resembling a normal country.
Note: Response to the comment of a
"Islam is the problem behind virtually all the problems
that Israel faces."
What a preposterous statement.
the author realize that there are more than a billion Muslims in the
How can any thinking person speak this way, condemning with
one glib sentence about a fifth of the world's population?
is no history, also, of Muslims being especially hostile to Jews. Indeed,
Islam adopted many of Judaism's prophets and customs as its own.
Further still, until the creation of modern Israel, most Muslims in the
Middle East treated Jews decently.
Israel, since its inception,
has practiced a behavior towards its neighbors summed up by the Zionist
slogan, “the iron wall.”
“The iron wall” means ignoring neighbors
as legitimate residents of the region, treating neighbors with contempt
and violence - in effect, a very hostile form of shunning.
defend such treatment instead of living in peace and respect?
there were always bound to be some hostilities - after all, Israel proper
is on land taken from people who lived there for countless generations -
but I think a different approach would have achieved different results.
Israel could easily have made it worth the Palestinians’ while
with assistance and compensation instead of spending vast sums on
armaments in a mini-Cold War.