Critics pay Israel an unintended high compliment
The 70th anniversary of the modern state of Israel was marked by the official transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and intense violence on the Gaza border, with dozens of Palestinians killed in Hamasinspired protests. The diplomatic protest was reserved on the former and vigorous on the latter.
The international community prefers not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. At one time, some 70 or 50 years ago, that might have been a defensible temporary position as the aftermath of the 1948 and 1967 wars was sorted out. But today it nicely plays into the hands of those in the Palestinian leadership, including on occasion Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who deny that there has ever been any historic Jewish presence in Jerusalem at all.
Once the international community accustoms itself to the fact of the American embassy in Jerusalem, and gets over its irritation that Donald Trump moved it, it may well be that claims that the Jews were never in Jerusalem move to the margins, rather than the centre, of Arab public discourse.
Nevertheless, the American decision to move the embassy was met with disapproval from the diplomatic class. And on the violence on the Gaza border, Israel was roundly condemned by both its allies and its enemies.
My friends in Israel, and my colleagues at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, where I have long served on the board of directors, express frustration at what they see as double standard. It’s hard to disagree.
Even if it is stipulated that the violence on the Gaza border was both excessive and entirely the fault of the Israelis forces, does not the intensity of the worldwide denunciation of Israel seem excessive, as compared to how little the world is moved by say, far greater atrocities in Syria, to take just one nearby locale?
The frustration of my Israeli friends is legitimate, but it is also an indication that Israel, though only a middleaged state by world standards — is considered to belong to the family of responsible nations in away that, say, syria or Myanmar isn’t. When Europeans raise their diplomatic voices against Israel’s conduct, it because they expect a higher standard.
And the international community holds Israel to a higher standard than its neighbours because Israel holds itself to a higher standard. You may criticize the Israeli forces for their conduct — and of course many in a democratic Israel itself do just that — but I daresay there are precious few military forces anywhere which subject themselves to as much pre- and post-operational examination as the Israeli armed forces.
None of which gives Israel a pass. But friends of Israel do not desire that Israel gets a pass. At its 70th anniversary the international community not only recognizes Israel as a state — if not Jerusalem as its capital — but as a state that ought to conduct itself by the standards of London or Paris or Ottawa, not by the standards of Moscow, or Beijing or Damascus. That is no small accomplishment.
My Christian friends in Israel and Palestine are all either Palestinians or sympathetic to them. I spend time with them whenever I am in the Holy Land. Their grievances are not without basis, and I am sympathetic to many of them. But it is noteworthy that they also expect more from Israel than they do from their own Arab leaders, whether in Palestine or in the neighbouring Arab countries.
It’s impossible for me to think about Israel apart from its biblical vocation, even if I do not consider the modern state of Israel to be a theological necessity. I would be reluctant to grant any state that status. It does mean though that I cannot think of the Jews return to the land of Israel as something irrelevant to the providential plan of the God of Abraham.
To live at time when the Jewish people are at home again — maîtres chez nous, as they said not so long ago in Quebec — and held to a high, not low, international standard, is to be part of an unusually blessed chapter of history.
That the same chapter of history included also the darkest days for the Jewish people is impossible for me to understand apart of Israel’s special divine election. Seventy-five years ago the attempt to extinguish the Jewish presence from Europe was still underway. Today, within the lifetime of a single man, the foreign offices of European countries insist that Israel be a light unto the nations.
FRIENDS OF ISRAEL DO NOT DESIRE THAT ISRAEL GETS A PASS. — RAYMOND DE SOUZA
(THE WORLD EXPECTS) A HIGHER STANDARD FROM ISRAEL.