By Vic Rosenthal
A group calling itself ‘Independent Jewish Voices’ has made a splash today in the Guardian and elsewehere calling on UK Jews to disavow pro-Israel statements made by the British ‘Jewish establishment’, personified by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
Because I think that their statement of principles is an absolutely perfect example of a particular point of view that I find wrong and pernicious, I want to quote big chunks of it and comment on them.
1. Human rights are universal and indivisible and should be upheld without exception. This is as applicable in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as it is elsewhere.
Human rights are of course the same everywhere. Saying that they are ‘just as applicable in Israel and the occupied territories as elsewhere’ could imply a number of things. One is that Israel violates Palestinian rights, and another is that both sides are violating rights in a more or less similar way.
If the former, it’s important to see any apparent violations that occur in the context of what is actually a war being waged against Israel by terrorist militias; if the latter, there is no comparison between (e.g.) a security fence and the indiscriminate murder of civilians the fence is built to prevent.
I also want to point out that groups like IJV always present ‘human rights’ as the ultimate moral principle; yet, they do not seem to grasp that Israel must protect her citizens, who also have human rights.
2. Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives.
Of course they do. But again the implication is that of equivalence. One of the hallmarks of this point of view is an inability to see any difference between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli self-defense. From my point of view, the insecurity of both Israelis and Palestinians are caused by the same factor, the activities of the terrorist militias.
3. Peace and stability require the willingness of all parties to the conflict to comply with international law.
Israel believes that they are in compliance with relevant international law; I’m not a lawyer so I won’t argue about it. But certainly terrorism against civilian populations such as is practiced by the Palestinian militias is prohibited by such law.
4. There is no justification for any form of racism, including anti-semitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia, in any circumstance.
This is quite interesting, because there’s no reason to think that Israelis are guilty of racism. Any prejudice against Arabs is derived from the conflict, not based on their imputed racial characteristics. Certainly although there may be some hate speech against Arabs from Israeli extremists, it absolutely pales in comparison with the antisemitism in the official Palestinian media and educational system.
5. The battle against anti-semitism is vital and is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-semitic.
Ah, here we go again, the new mantra that “any anti-Israel expression is silenced by accusations of antisemitism”. If it were true that opposition to Israeli policy is always called anti-Semitic, it certainly hasn’t been effective at silencing such talk, which is louder than ever. But it most assuredly isn’t true. I’ve written about how to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism, and it’s not hard.
Perhaps part of the reason for this plank in their platform is that one of the signers of the document is Prof. Jacqueline Rose. Without going into a lot of detail (another article), here’s a ‘correction’ the Guardian needed to attach to an interview with her:
In this interview with Jacqueline Rose we say her new book, The Question of Zion, “draws tentative analogies between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews”. In fact, while she draws links between the National Socialist and Israeli concepts of nationhood, she rejects the analogy between the Nazi extermination of the Jews and Zionism. [my emphasis]
Thank goodness. But do we wonder why she may have had problems with accusations of antisemitism?
Continuing with the IJV platform:
These principles are contradicted when those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of an occupied people. The Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip face appalling living conditions with desperately little hope for the future. We declare our support for a properly negotiated peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people and oppose any attempt by the Israeli government to impose its own solutions on the Palestinians. [my emphasis]
Note again the point of view that “the human rights of an occupied people” trump “the policies of an occupying power”. Nothing shows their bias more clearly than this, which could be rewritten as “the rights of terrorist militias to destroy a nation vs. the struggle of a nation to protect her citizens”.
Finally, who wouldn’t want a ‘properly negotiated peace’? Unfortunately, the Palestinian side has proven itself allergic to solutions, from Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton/Barak plan in 2000, to Hamas’ Kassam rockets today. Meanwhile, the Palestinians, with the help of the entire Muslim world (and some traditional antisemites) are busily working to impose their solution — no Jewish state.