There is no lack of vile regimes which subjugate their own citizens and spread terror abroad. This is especially true of the Middle East where there appears to be little to choose between hereditary dictatorships, military juntas and Islamo-Fascist theocracies. Democracy is a fragile flower in even the best of Arab countries.
A report issued by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) this week criticized the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas for assaults on human rights and freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report lists cases of torture and mistreatment in PA and Hamas prisons. ICHR pointed particularly to an increase in the number of torture cases in prisons belonging to the PA’s much-feared Preventive Security Service in the West Bank.
It appears that during January alone ICHR received 56 complaints about torture and mistreatment in Palestinian prisons: 36 in the Gaza Strip and 19 in the West Bank. In addition, they received innumerable complaints about arbitrary and unlawful arrests of Palestinians by the PA and Hamas.
The PA police force have a rather direct way with demonstrators. On January 12, 2014, PA policemen used force to break up a protest by Palestinian youths north of Ramallah. Between 60-70 protesters, the report states, were wounded in the head and legs after policemen attacked them with clubs and stun grenades. According to the report on January 28, 2014, PA policemen used live ammunition to disperse stone-throwers in the centre of Ramallah.
You must remember watching the TV news reports about this and reading about it in the newspapers. Perhaps if you missed these you picked it up on the BBC Radio 4 documentary about conditions in Gaza and the West Bank. No?
Don’t beat yourself up. There was no media coverage of the report, just as there is little media coverage of corruption in the Palestine Authority. An EU report found that financial corruption in the PA led to the ‘loss’ of aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the period 2008 to 2012 amounting to around €2 billion.
Yet we all know, because we are constantly told so, that the bad boy in the Middle East and the cause of all the suffering of the Palestinian people is Israel.
Why in a world replete with corrupt and violent regimes should our progressive elites demonise the one regime in the Middle East which actually dares to be democratic? Arab citizens of Israel enjoy more human and political rights than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. They serve in the Knesset, in the Judiciary, in the Foreign Service, in higher education, and in business. They are free to criticize Israel and to support its enemies. Israeli universities are hot beds of anti-Israel rhetoric, advocacy and even teaching.
Moreover, anyone—Jew, Muslim or Christian—dissatisfied with Israeli actions can express that dissatisfaction in the courts, and in the media, both at home and abroad. This freedom does not exist in any Arab country, nor in many non-Arab countries.
Yet it is Israel alone which is being threatened with boycott, disinvestment and sanctions. Israel and the plight of the Palestinians have become the progressive cause de jour.
There are many reasons held in varying degrees, none having much to do with the facts. There is the herd mentality. Our fiercely individualistic progressives have evolved into what Harold Rosenburg termed a ‘herd of independent minds’.
Long before Rosenburg, Thomas Huxley (Darwin’s Bulldog) wrestled with the inherent contradiction between man’s ‘innate tendency to self-assertion … as the condition of victory in the struggle for existence and the obvious fact that in the struggle for survival loners are losers and individuals who banded together increased their chances of survival.’ Huxley came to the conclusion that the glue holding individuals together in a group is the collective shaming code.
The shared code binds members of the group as one. They share disgust, anger, delight and shame of the same things. The unanimity of their visceral response provides a powerful sense of collective identity. They become the tribal ‘Us’, as opposed to those tribes who are not disgusted, angered or shamed as ‘We’ are. A group sharing a powerful visceral code inhibiting the natural tendency of the individual to self-assertion presents a united front against its enemies. To step outside that group is a betrayal of the group, more importantly it is a betrayal of one’s identity.
There are also the great many armchair warriors. Sitting in suburbia or a student union bar the armchair warrior can obtain the thrill of engagement merely by voicing support for the Palestinians. There need be no actual engagement but virtual participation brings with it a sense of taking part in the struggle. North Americans of supposedly Irish descent found the same in their support of Irish terrorism, a dollar in the collecting tin for the ‘bhoys’ and they were on the front line, never mind the innocent shoppers blown to bits by bombs.
Israel is far from perfect but when criticism is focussed on a state with strong democratic credentials, and that nation happens to be the state of the Jewish people, the suspicion of bigotry must be considered. Declarations that ‘I’m not anti-Semitic but ant-Zionist’, sound alarmingly like those statements beginning, ‘I’m not a racist, but …’
Dr Martin Luther King said: ‘Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so.’
Despite Dr king’s assertion it is possible to be anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, but it is increasingly difficult especially when the side you support has a view of the Jews which would get Hitler’s stamp of approval. Your position is seriously undermined when the people you support or work alongside are virulently anti-Semitic.
Cliff Hanley believes 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy; Sammi Ibrahem supports the Holocaust and refers to the Nazis as “martyrs”; Ellie Merton reckons the Breivik massacre in Norway was ‘an Israeli Govt sponsored operation’; and Gill Kaffash believes the Holocaust is a lie. The common factor? They have all chaired or held other prominent positions in the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation which makes the barking mad BNP seem like a group of hand-wringing moderates.
There is also the anti-colonialist’s self-hatred. At the end of the day the problem with the Israeli’s is that they are just too like us.