FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"Justice Cannot Be For One Side Alone, But Must Be for Both"

by RON JACOBS

 

My email box is full of hate messages again. It usually happens to anyone who writes an article that opposes the Israeli occupation of the Territories and the consequent oppression of the Palestinians. If the piece written actually considers a member of Hamas or one of the other resistance groups as something other than lower than a dog, than the emails are particularly hateful. So, of course, after my piece on the assassination of Sheikh Yassin was published, I received many emails calling me every name in the book and questioning my intelligence (since I must be stupid if I consider Israel’s attacks to be anything other than just).

Those were easy to dismiss. It is the other, more reasoned letters that are harder to deal with. These messages seem to be from intelligent and thoughtful people who honestly wonder how I can consider Israel to be in the wrong. How, they wonder, can I see Yassin as anything other than a man who deserves to be dead? How can I equate his calls for resistance in the form of attacks on Israelis with Ariel Sharon’s calls for the defense of Israel in the form of attacks on Palestinians? After all, Hamas is not interested in peace, they tell me, only the destruction of Israel. If I attempt to point out that Israel’s very existence is the result of the destruction of Palestine, these individuals either trivialize the Palestinian culture and sense of nation or sidestep the issue by narrowing the argument to one about the morality of suicide bombing. (I share their disgust for this type of action, but they usually choose not to hear my disgust).

Some of my friends just tell me to ignore these folks, stating that they are no different than the letter writers who attack my humanity, intelligence and mother. I disagree. Most of these folks seem to be humane thinkers, yet blind when it comes to Israel. This only confirms my contempt for public religion and nationalism, especially when the two are combined, but that confirmation does not an argument make. How can these people be so blind, I wonder, when history tells us that Israel is not some oasis of liberal democracy and justice? Indeed, it is a nation founded on ethnic cleansing by other humans who were ethnically cleansed and murdered en masse by one of the West’s most heinous regimes. Since it’s founding, Israel has not moved towards an ideal state of liberty and justice but has consistently backed away from such a role, choosing instead to deny rights to its Arab residents and align itself with some of the world’s worst regimes.

For example, Israel sold weapons and provided other forms of arms assistance to the apartheid government of South Africa for many years even though there was an arms embargo against that regime. During this same period, Israel also armed various CIA-sponsored mercenary forces in Mozambique and Angola. Another African government that existed with the help of Israeli arms and advisors was the racist government of Rhodesia. For those who don’t know, Rhodesia was a white-ruled British colony in Africa that became Zimbabwe after anti-colonial forces succeeded in ridding the country of Ian Smith and his regime. Other countries that received Israeli arms included such human rights violators as Somoza’s Nicaragua, El Salvador under the death squad government of the ARENA party, Pinochet’s Chile, Marcos’ Philippines, Duvalier’s Haiti, Colombia, and Suharto’s Indonesia (to name just a few).

Not only does Israel sell its own weaponry, it also is used by US weapons manufacturers as a transfer point for their merchandise. Occasionally, Washington will block the transfer of certain planes and weaponry to some of Israel’s clients, but this then leaves the way open for Israel to sell some of its locally produced weaponry. Like other nations that are deeply involved in the manufacture and sales of weapons of mass destruction, Israel’s foreign policy came to reflect the nature of its customers. In short, there was no regime whose money was not good enough to buy the weapons Israel had for sale. This policy has not only diminished Israel’s claim to be a government that cares about human rights, it has revealed itself in Israel’s daily dealings with the Palestinians in the Territories and those Israelis who openly oppose that policy. Of course, some of the regimes mentioned above have met their just fate, but that doesn’t mean that Israel no longer sells arms to regimes considered to be despotically brutal.

But Israel is a democracy that protects human rights, right? Everyone who lives there has the right to vote, to own property, to move wherever they want and associate freely with whomever they want, correct? Let’s go to the website of the Israel Democracy Institute’s website to see what this organization tells us. First, let me quote from their mission statement:

The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) is an independent non-partisan research institute. It was founded in 1991 as a center for policy studies, straddling the spheres of politics and academia, the world of decision-makers and the world of thinkers in Israel. The Institute serves as an address for politicians and government officials who are searching for independent, professional partners, to examine various ideas and propose practical ways to implement them. The Institute is careful to maintain its independent, non-partisan status, and for this reason enjoys the trust and esteem of all sides of the political spectrum in Israel.

Now that we know their purpose, what does their most recent report on the state of democracy in Israel reveal? Briefly, these are the conclusions of the report’s authors.

The Institutional Aspect

Israel does fairly well in this aspect. The two areas in which Israel is strongest, compared to other democracies, are in representation and checks and balances (number 6 out of 36 countries in the sample). Israel does less well with regard to political participation, as opposed to what has commonly been thought: there has been a downward trend since 1996, and the country now ranks 22nd.

* The Rights Aspect

Israel’s ranking in this aspect is worrisome. For nearly every indicator, Israel places in the lower half of the list. Protection of human rights in Israel is poor; there is serious political and economic discrimination against the Arab minority; there is much less freedom of religion than in other democracies; and the socioeconomic inequality indicator is among the highest in the sample.

* The Stability and Social Cohesion Aspect

Here Israel ranks at the bottom of the list in all indicators. The turnover in governments is more frequent than in other democracies, and only India ranks lower in social tensions and rifts between the various segments of society.

It is of course quite possible for Israel to remedy this situation if it so desires. Just like the current situation in the United States that tends toward authoritarianism can be changed if enough residents demand it, so can the drift towards authoritarianism in Israel be reversed. Unfortunately, these findings apply primarily to the Jewish citizens of Israel and say nothing about the situation of the Palestinians in the Territories. Given this, and the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, the likelihood of Israel becoming more democratic and protective of its minority citizens’ rights grows more remote with each IDF attack on Gaza or the West Bank and each Palestinian attack on Israeli civilians. The waging of what is essentially a war precludes the furtherance of both democracy and human rights. Especially, if one accepts some of the other conclusions reached by the IDI. Namely, that over the past few years “there has been a significant decline in the Jewish population’s support of democratic norms on all levels: general support of the democratic system, support of specific democratic values, and support for equal rights for the Arab minority.” If the will for democracy does not exist, than there can be no democracy, since it is a form of government that requires the will of the people to exist and thrive.

What does this all have to do with those letter writers who can’t understand how I can equate the perpetrators and planners of the oppression and daily attacks on the Palestinians with the perpetrators and planners of the suicide attacks? Simply this, Israel holds no special virtue that exempts it from practicing human rights. Indeed, given its claim to some higher moral authority than its opponents (a claim that stems from the persecution of the Jewish people throughout much of their history), it seems to me that the state of Israel should make absolutely certain that its practices adhere to commonly held beliefs regarding those rights. Those who support Israel in its occupation of Palestinian lands, its detention without charges of thousands of Palestinians, its discriminatory practices against its non-Jewish citizens, and its killing of civilians without apology really should have no problem with those Palestinians who operate as if their ends justify any means. After all, isn’t this what they are saying when it comes to Israel and its goals?

(The title is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt)

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is being republished by Verso.

He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

 

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail