Everyone from liberal journalists to a member of the English cricket team is gunning for Israel at the moment. The Independent describes it as ‘rogue state’. The Guardian considers the Israeli ‘occupation’ of Gaza as a ‘shameful injustice’. Meanwhile, cricketer Moeen Ali has pledged his support for the Palestinians by sporting ‘Free Gaza’ wristbands. Respectable opinion knows which side wears the black hats in this conflict.
What is it about Israel that arouses so much anger? Is it because it’s a theocratic state, committed to destroying its neighbour, which uses civilians as human shields, tortures and kills its political opponents, persecutes homosexuals, and holds freedom of speech and the rule of law in contempt?
No, hang on, that’s Hamas, and we all know they’re the good guys of the piece. No matter how appallingly they treat their own people and how many innocents they blow up, shoot or kidnap, nothing can blot their copybook.
Which isn’t to say that Israel could get away with the same behaviour, of course. It can’t even protect its own people without drawing criticism. Israel is like the older brother who is expected to know better. His younger siblings can run riot, because they’re held to different standards, but big bro should sit there quietly, no matter how many times he takes a kicking.
Not that the media does much reporting on the kicking Israel receives. It would much rather lament the significantly higher Palestinian losses, as if they automatically put Israel in the wrong and let Hamas off the hook for striking the first blow. Israel, it seems, should show restraint that no one would realistically expect of Hamas if it possessed the same military might. The relativists who see no moral difference between a liberal democracy and a terrorist regime have no problem expecting the two sides to behave differently.
One thing’s for sure, if it was just another flyblown Islamic hellhole, Israel would get a much easier ride on the world stage. More blood is typically shed each year in Somalia, Pakistan and Nigeria than in Gaza, but outrage at those horrors pales beside the indignation Israel’s actions provoke. Heads are buried, standards doubled and blind eyes turned to provide an excuse for bashing the country everybody loves to hate.
So is this just about anti-Semitism? It is certainly rife in the Arab world, and long-standing critics of Israel probably pick up a little Jew-hatred along the way. But I don’t think it’s at the heart of Western, liberal antipathy. If anti-Semitism were to blame, it would be directed at Israel wherever it was in the world. Yet it’s hard to imagine it having as much trouble with its neighbours, or attracting as much hatred, if it were a European state. The chances are it would be another Switzerland, and would arouse the same amount of ill-feeling.
The fact is that when it comes to Israel, nobody seems to be interested in the truth. No one cares that it gave up the lands it seized during the Yom Kippur War, in the hope of securing peace. Nor that it gifted the Palestinians 3,000 greenhouses, opened border crossings and encouraged trade. Nor that the Gazans responded by destroying the greenhouses and electing a government committed to eradicating the Jews, which has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, and digs tunnels under Israeli territory from which to launch surprise attacks.
No one cares that Israel gives Gazans advance warning of raids, while Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians. Nor that Hamas places its weapons in schools, mosques, hospitals and private homes, to maximise the chance of civilian casualties. Nor that Israel arrested those guilty of murdering a Palestinian youth, and offered reparations to the victim’s family, while Hamas did nothing to capture or punish the killers of three Israeli teenagers. Nor that no Israeli soldiers are actually based in Gaza, despite talk of an ‘occupying force’ by Hamas apologists
No one takes these facts into account because they are unhelpful to the narrative propagated by the pro-Palestinian Left – namely, that this is a battle between a strong, macho oppressor and a weak, downtrodden underdog, which leftists can feel virtuous about supporting.
Israel is a distillation of everything leftists hate about Western nations: capitalist, conservative and fiercely patriotic. It is a projection of their own prejudices about the supposed injustices of societies that cherish the ‘wrong’ values and the ‘wrong’ people. They don’t share the Palestinians’ spiritual beliefs, but they share a common enemy. Indeed, if Israel was removed from the equation, its critics would have little good to say about Gaza or Hamas. Theirs is a marriage of convenience.
The Left’s use of the Israeli-Arab situation as a platform for moral preening, and as a metaphor for its own hang-ups, blinds it to the evils of Hamas and the rest of the Muslim Brotherhood. It seems oblivious to the ideological conflict between Islamic fundamentalists and Western progressives, because it persists in regarding the former as pet victims of the latter. It may discover the hard way that it is giving comfort to an enemy that makes no distinction between liberal hand-wringers and any other infidels.