Friday, February 18, 2011

What Is It Really About, Israel or Human Rights?

(cross posted here)

Anti-Israel activists often frame their arguments around phrases such as “the universal application of human rights.” And if you oppose their definition of human rights, then you are obviously not someone who should be tolerated in civil society.

But it doesn’t take much scratching below the surface to discover the ugly reality under this patina of progressivism. Take, for example, the current anti-Israel road show called “Never Again for Anyone”. As you could guess from the name, it attempts to conflate the current situation of Hamas-ruled Gaza with that of the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. They have even found a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz whose anti-Zionism is so deep that he is the headliner for this circus. Reports from Rutgers and DePaul Universities document that this event featured denial of Jewish ties to the land of Israel, praise of Hamas, and opposition to any peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  Any reader of this site has seen films of the Holocaust. And while nobody should claim that life in Hamas-stan is peaceful and easy, we also keep hearing from the extremists that Hamas was the democratically elected government of the Palestinians. So perhaps those who voted Hamas have discovered that their choices have consequences. After all, Hamas’ platform is jihad against Israel, now and forever. And Israel has the right to take steps, such as a naval blockade, to prevent Hamas from freely importing long range rockets (and worse) from its Iranian patrons to carry out that jihad. Despite that, I don’t think we saw scenes like this from Auschwitz:

On campuses, it’s a similar story. Once again, the Hamas position of elimination of Israel is supported as a “human rights” campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel and only Israel. Yet if it was about human rights, then common sense would indicate that those concerned about human rights attack the worst violators first. China's use of forced labor and the abrogation of human rights of its own citizens on a scale measuring into the tens of millions doesn't register for these "human rights activists”. Saudi Arabia's treatment of women as less than second class citizens, not to mention the utter lack of any political or religious freedom, is irrelevant. (US-Chna trade was 15 times more than US-Israel trade in 2010; US-Saudi trade was 35% more).  And so on, ad nauseum, around the world.

Now if you approach the faux “human rights” activists with this, they will immediately claim that you are changing the subject. That depends. Is the subject Israel, or is the subject human rights? If the subject is Israel, and only Israel, and the object is its elimination, then what does that say about “human rights”? If the subject is human rights and only Israel is under scrutiny.... well, it says the same thing. And what it says is quite ugly.

You can see this ugliness displayed at colleges when Israeli speakers—and only Israeli speakers-- come to campus. Last year, the Muslim Student Union at UC  Irvine orchestrated interruptions of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren—and the leaders of this now face charges.
Last month, an Israeli who had served in the IDF, speaking as an individual, was subjected to the same treatment at Hampshire College;

(Read a full report on this event from Citizen Wald) I should note that in both cases the administrations of these institutions thoroughly condemned this behavior; at Irvine, the MSU was subjected to a penalty as well, though many felt that they should have been banned from campus for much longer than one semester.

In Scotland earlier this month, Ishmail Khaldi, an Israeli Arab who is an advisor to Foreign Minister Lieberman and who was formerly Deputy Consul General for the State of Israel in the San Francisco consulate, attempted to speak at Edinburgh University in Scotland; anti-Israel thugs took over the meeting and prevented him from speaking. Can anyone recall similar treatment of Chinese or Saudi speakers on campuses?

In the end, though, it comes down to one simple question: do you support peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine? All 3 of those speakers answer yes to that question. Those who prevented them from speaking, and those who put on obscenities such as “Never Again for Anyone”, will answer “no”. They insist that of all the peoples in the world, the only one that is not to be allowed to exercise the right of national self-determination in its indigenous homeland is the Jewish people.

Human rights, anyone?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Egypt: Where Is It Taking Us?

(originally published at

The road that Egypt has embarked upon is not well marked, there are potholes, dead ends, and more than a few wrong turns that could plunge all of us down into an abyss. I’m not going to try to replicate the analyses that others with much more expertise, such as Barry Rubin and Yossi Klein Halevi, have already published elsewhere.   But the situation in Egypt confronts supporters of Israel with a conundrum—what if  elections lead to the establishment of a hostile Islamist state in Egypt? On the other hand, don’t we need to support democracy for the Egyptian people?

Democracy isn’t just a “one man (or woman, though not often in the Arab world), one vote” system of elections. It is a system where the losers respect the results, and the winners don’t take advantage of their victory to change the system (“one man, one vote, once”—see “Nazi Germany”, “Hamas” and soon to be “Lebanon” as well). It’s a system where competing political parties don’t have their own independent armed forces; where children are educated in a system that promotes civic values; where a free press allows competing ideas to be debated in the public square; and where one’s religious values can be part of civil society, rather than calling for its supersession by a theocracy.
Any election in which Islamist parties take part without first accepting the above ground rules (at a bare minimum) is a recipe for disaster. We’ve seen this movie before (once again, Hamas and Lebanon). It doesn’t end well, not just for Israel but also for the people who end up on the wrong side of such elections.
There are those who will say that if only Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank and allow the creation of a Palestinian state there, that this would defuse that threat. The reactions from Islamist groups in the Middle East-- and from their fellow travelers around the world-- to al-Jazeera’s “Palestinian Papers”, provides the answer. Any “peace” agreement that does not force Israel to accept millions of descendants of Arab refugees from the 1947-8 war, and thereby end its existence as a Jewish state, is unacceptable to them. So anyone who states that these groups will be satisfied with a Palestinian state in the West Bank is either deceiving themselves or deceiving others.
But what if actual “free and fair” elections reflect the will of the people, and that the Egyptians actually favor jihad against Israel over peace (and over the foreign aid from the US that would disappear if the Islamists take control)?  Most Americans and Europeans should be very afraid of this outcome, because radical Islam is very clear that not only Jews but also Christians are to be treated as dhimmi populations to be subjugated. While the Copts in Egypt have been the victims of persecution and acts of terror already, they only need to look at Gaza and Iraq to see what the Muslim Brotherhood has in store for them.
Yet there is one political group in America that doesn’t seem worried about this —the radical left. In demonstrations in New York, the rejectionist group al-Awda carried signs supporting the “Egyptian intifada”; I don’t know whether they mean that Egyptian suicide bombers should attack buses and restaurants, or if that tactic is only acceptable to them when used against Jews. In the Bay Area, International ANSWER, which has openly celebrated Hamas and Hezbollah, rallied to support “the Egyptian people”. They were joined by their usual partner, Jewish Voice for Peace, which still seems unconcerned about partnering with a group that openly supports genocidal terrorism against Jews.Yet these groups were oddly silent when the people of Iran attempted to rise up against their own Islamist thugocracy last year. Draw your own conclusions.
As for the rest of us, we have to put our faith in the fact that when people have control over their own lives and their own futures, they usually aren’t going to go to war unless that very control is the issue at stake. For years, the Arab despots, whether secular dictatorships such as Syria and Egypt or religious monarchies on the Arabian peninsula, have used Israel and the “Palestinian cause” to both distract their population and deflect blame for their lack of freedom. Now we might get to see whether the Egyptian people can move beyond that.
Democracy isn’t easy to establish—it took decades across Latin America, and is still not the system of government in much of Africa and Asia. American politics can debase into shrill partisan dialogue, even without the heavily armed insane turning shopping centers into shooting galleries. Even our neighbors to the north had to navigate the challenge of a separatist movement in Quebec. It will take a great deal of help to make sure that the transition in Egypt resembles Eastern Europe in 1989 rather than Iran in 1979. We can only hope that people of good will in Egypt will heed the sentiments expressed, quite presciently, by Pete Townshend of The Who back in 1972 :

“There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again….”