This is the subtitle for a part of an article at Huff Post by Ali A. Rizvi called “7 Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East Conflict”. Like many articles I’m reading about this issue, it is very over simplified and has some just plain inaccuracies in it. But the most erroneous is the first point which he makes.
It is an argument which I’ve seen mirrored in many posts made by some of my Pro Israeli friends on FaceBook, and I just don’t understand it. Let me quote a passage from the article:
“Over 700 people have died in Gaza as of this writing. Muslims have woken up around the world. But is it really because of the numbers?
Bashar al-Assad has killed over 180,000 Syrians, mostly Muslim, in two years — more than the number killed in Palestine in two decades. Thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Syria have been killed by ISIS in the last two months. Tens of thousands have been killed by the Taliban. Half a million black Muslims were killed by Arab Muslims in Sudan. The list goes on.
But Gaza makes Muslims around the world, both Sunni and Shia, speak up in a way they never do otherwise. Up-to-date death counts and horrific pictures of the mangled corpses of Gazan children flood their social media timelines every day. If it was just about the numbers, wouldn’t the other conflicts take precedence? What is it about then?”
The argument seems to boil down to the claim that Israel is being held to a higher standard, not just by the world’s Muslims, but also by those, in general, who are appalled by the civilian and child casualties in Gaza. I’ve even had one person comment that holding Israel to this higher standard can be viewed as a form of Anti-Semitism. The world is not appalled at the murder of 180,000 Syrians, the argument seems to say, so why all the fuss about a couple of hundred Palestinians?
Let me explain why all the fuss, because this is a ridiculous argument.
1. Israel is a state supported politically and financially by the Canadian and the American government. The arms that are being used to attack Gaza are indirectly if not directly made at least partially possible by financial and technical assistance from us. To the best of my knowledge, we don’t support any of the other regimes, governments or rebels that are referenced in this article. We have a stake in this (whether we like it or not) and that is the first thing that puts Israel’s action in a different category than the other cases mentioned.
2. Israel itself, I’m sure, would want to be held to a higher standard. They wouldn’t want to be judged by the same standards as these other groups or governments. Israel is a nuclear power, for God’s sake. It has a responsibility to be held to a higher standard by the rest of the world, which means that if it knowingly carries out mission after mission with the full knowledge that the consequences of its actions will be the death of innocent children, …then it is not a stretch of the imagination to expect people to be shocked! Far more than they would be shocked by the kidnapping of 200 girls by some ignorant Muslim fundamentalist group in Nigeria! It is insulting to put them in the same category, and I’m constantly amazed that some Israeli supporters are willing to do that.
3. In this Israeli/Gaza case, the rationale for the bombardment of Palestinians is self defence. I completely understand the need for Israel to defend itself from Hamas. However, nobody’s ever brought up the point that many of these Palestinian victims are not, in fact, Hamas. Like Canada and the U.S., and indeed like Israel itself, there are a large number of factions in the Palestinian lands. Clearly, the West Bank has an administration which is far more in favor of peace than is Hamas. Surely the variety of political beliefs exists in Gaza itself. No argument can be made for the fact that the victims are the enemy. In fact it is estimated that a full ¾ of the victims are civilians. And yet, Rizvi talks about Hamas in his article as if they were the Palestinian people. That kind of invalidates both the self defence argument and the “pinpoint accuracy” argument. (And I know that Hamas encourages the killing of their own civilians, but I don’t see how that is relevant to any part of this argument.)
4. Finally, there is the question of the huge imbalance in consequences within this war. I won’t disagree that every missile that Hamas fires at Israel is intended to kill Israeli citizens. I won’t disagree that it is imperative that the tunnels be destroyed. However, the blatant fact is that more than 20 times as many Palestinians have been killed than have Israelis, and if you recognize that most of the Israeli casualties have been soldiers, then the imbalance is even more striking. Herein is another reason to hold Israel to a higher standard. By their own words, when air transportation to Ben Gurion Airport was suspended and threatened, in order to reverse the FAA decision many Israeli government spokesmen were jumping up and down claiming how safe tourism in Israel was. They were painting pictures of undisturbed lunches at outdoor patios and evening concerts that would not be interrupted. (Actual words. Wish I could find the quote.) These are not good things to say if you are trying to paint a picture of a terrorized Jewish state. I’m certainly not intending to minimize the danger and terror that Israeli citizens are enduring under attack from Gaza, but it seems that the spokespeople for the Israeli government are quite willing to do that if they feel that tourism is threatened. It certainly doesn’t speak well to the perceived imbalance of death in this conflict. This is another striking dissimilarity between this conflict and the others that are mentioned in the article.
Anti-Semitism may be driving some of the criticism of Israel. I’m sure it is. But that doesn’t mean that holding Israel to a higher standard and questioning their seemingly casual killing of Palestinian civilians is Anti-Semitic. This argument of pointing to groups like ISIS and saying, “How come you’re not as upset about them as you are about us?” is not only a sad excuse for reasoning, it’s downright embarrassing for Israeli supporters.
There are lots of reasons to conditionally and mostly support Israel. This isn’t one of them.