The most common response to those who actively oppose Israel’s violations of human rights was encapsulated in a column in the New York Daily News that appeared last week. Written by author Susan Shapiro it attacks pretty much all critics of Israel, with special emphasis on pro-Palestinian rights advocate, Linda Sarsour, as biased against Jews. It concludes with a test to determine whether attacks on Israel are motivated by genuine human rights concerns or anti-semitism.
Here is my test. When someone of another religion scapegoats Israel but ignores the hideous crimes against humanity committed by the 1.8 billion people in 50 Muslim-majority countries, that proves racism against Jews.
Why don’t the supposedly feminist Sarsour and justice-seeking BDS proponents boycott Syria, where President Bashar Assad and ISIS have murdered hundreds of thousands of Syrians and sent 4 million into exile?
Or Saudi Arabia, home of beheadings, honor killings and perpetual violence against women?
Most lists of countries with the worst human rights abuses include Jordan, Libya, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Iraq and Kuwait — none of which Sarsour or her BDS pals publicly rally against.
I don’t get why Shapiro confines her test to people “of another religion” when Jews compose such a large percentage of the anti-occupation activists. Maybe it is because it confuses her argument that critics of Israel are motivated by contempt for Jews in general. But I’m not going to focus on that point. Her major point is that activists should avoid attacking Israel’s human rights violators unless they also go after other major Middle East violators.
The argument is completely bogus for two major reasons.
The first is that Israel is the largest recipient of United States foreign aid on the planet, averaging $3 billion a year. No other country comes close and certainly not any of the major Middle Eastern human rights violators that she names. (It is telling that she does not mention Egypt which is, interestingly, both a major abuser of human rights and a major recipient of US aid but, hey, the Egyptian dictatorship is Israel’s ally so its hellish treatment of opponents of the regime goes unmentioned). Two of them—Iran and Syria—are essentially treated as US enemies, giving us no leverage with either.
However Israel is our close ally. We subsidize the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by providing Israel with the funds to sustain it, not to mention all the weaponry used on repeated wars on the Palestinians (like the wars on Gaza in 2008 and 2012.) Not only that, the United States uses its influence in the United Nations and other international bodies to defend the occupation and the wars on Gaza to ensure that Israel does not pay any price for them.
The bottom line is that we have the unique right to attack Israel’s human rights violations because they are committed with the irreplaceable assistance of our government. After all, as Vice President Joe Biden said, there is “no daylight, no daylight” (yes, he repeated the phrase) between Israel and the United States on matters relating to Israel’s “security” i.e. the occupation and the whole bag of tricks that Israel categorizes as security issues. Hence, Israel’s crimes are our crimes. That is what “no daylight” means in this context.
The second reason that Israel uniquely earns American activism against its policies is that it is uniquely involved in our politics. At every level—national, state, and even on campus—opposition to Israeli policies often makes it impossible for candidates to win elections. No, not because the public is so pro-Israel but because the powerful Israel lobby donates millions to defeat its opponents and elect its friends.
Look at what happened in Illinois recently when the candidate for Lieutenant Governor was kicked off the Democratic ticket when it was discovered that he opposes the occupation. This goes on in every state. No other country in the world is so involved in our politics except maybe Russia, and its involvement is the subject of Congressional and Independent Counsel investigation. Israel’s interference is accepted as a given, unchallenged and even celebrated each year at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, which is attended by most members of Congress and usually the president too!
No, Americans have every right to put Israel at the top of their list when confronting human rights violators. More than that, it is our obligation because without our support these crimes would not be happening. We are complicit.