Monday, November 21, 2005


Two weeks ago, I had a discussion with my girl about what I perceive to be an anti-Israeli bias in the international community and media. I was exasperated by indifference to Israeli suffering under terrorism, a concern that was underscored last week following the attacks in Jordan. Before I proceed, let me state for the record, lest I be accused of undue subjectivity, that my solidarity is with all human beings, regardless of colour, race, and creed: The life of an Iraqi lost at the hands of insurgents is as important as that of a Jordanian, Israeli, American, Briton, or Pakistani lost to terrorism. Which is why it is distressing that there are degrees of condemnation of acts of terror; degrees of outrage. Why is it that a terror attack on Jordan is met with swift, widespread, unanimous, and unqualified condemnation; and prolonged international media coverage, while similar attacks in Israel draw, from the international community, dilatory responses so restrained and qualified that they succeed only in justifying the perpetrators and injuring the victims even further. The international media fares no better: each organisation reflects it’s nation’s policy, which in turn is reflective of national attitudes: the attitude of the BBC, for instance is the same as that of the Blair government – the two disagree often enough but on Israel they’re in agreement; so much for independent media! It’s remarkable how quickly a story about a terror attack in Israel disappears from the news; blink and you’ll miss it. It’s as if regularity of terror attacks in Israel makes them less appalling. It’s as if we say to Israelis, “Acts of terror in your country are so regular that you should be inured to them. We have sympathy fatigue so please don’t wear our collective compassion and attention span: There’s only enough for short conflicts.” I especially love fatigue excuse, so convenient it can be applied to any situation: the international community can sit back as children in Niger or the Sudan die of hunger and justify their inaction with that simple argument. But I digress. They’re those who argue that the contentious nature of the Israeli, Palestinian situation makes unqualified condemnation difficult; “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter,” they say. What’s difficult about stating that the targeting of civilians, Israeli, Palestinian, Iraqi, Jordanian, British, or Indian, is unacceptable is beyond me. Sympathy for the Palestinian cause doesn’t preclude compassion for the suffering of Israelis, does it? Surely there’s enough compassion for all who suffer!
There are those who condemn terror attacks but maintain that they’re inevitable, “the Palestinians were, after all robbed of their land, why shouldn’t they fight back?” they say. The long and short of that argument being that the Israelis had usurped the land that is their state. My contention is that both parties have a just claim to the land. While nobody questions the Palestinian claim, many challenge the Israeli right that is based on a 2500yr title. Which raises the question, does the passage of time erode title? I have always maintained that it doesn’t; ownership can only be terminated by renunciation, or a break in succession. But for some that attitude is impractical, hypothetical, and most of all, without precedent: civilisations grow, flourish, decline and disappear; they do not re-emerge. Taken to its logical conclusion, the argument would be is that Israel doesn’t have a claim to its land because the existing model of the lifecycle of civilisations doesn’t accommodate the anomalous resilience of its people. There you have it ladies and gentlemen, if reality doesn’t fit a model, then reality must be wrong; if something’s unprecedented, then by all means disallow it.
Questions of title aside, there’s the issue of extenuation of terror. We must be categorical about the fact that nothing can extenuate terrorism. Terrorists cannot be judged on the reasonable man standard, any excuse will serve them. The Palestinian issue has been used to explain attacks on London, and New York; what’s to stop terrorists from using the same excuse to justify attacks on Israel’s trading partners, and any nation that has diplomatic relations with the Israelis? It’s a slippery slope down which we don’t want to go.


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