Israel's critics pay it the unintended compliment of a high standard


National Post, 17 May 2018

When Europeans raise their diplomatic voices against Israel’s conduct, it's simply because they expect better

The 70th anniversary of the modern state of Israel was marked by the official transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and intense violence on the Gaza border, with dozens of Palestinians killed in Hamas-inspired protests. The diplomatic protest was reserved on the former and vigorous on the latter.

The international community prefers not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. At one time, some 70 or 50 years ago, that might have been a defensible temporary position as the aftermath of the 1948 and 1967 wars was sorted out. But today it nicely plays into the hands of those in the Palestinian leadership, including on occasion Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who deny that there has ever been any historic Jewish presence in Jerusalem at all.

Once the international community accustoms itself to the fact of the American embassy in Jerusalem, and gets over its irritation that Donald Trump moved it, it may well be that claims that the Jews were never in Jerusalem move to the margins, rather than the centre, of Arab public discourse.

Nevertheless, the American decision to move the embassy was met with disapproval from the diplomatic class. And on the violence on the Gaza border, Israel was roundly condemned by both its allies and its enemies.

My friends in Israel, and my colleagues at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, where I have long served on the board of directors, express frustration at what they see as double standard. It’s hard to disagree.

Even if it is stipulated that the violence on the Gaza border was both excessive and entirely the fault of the Israelis forces, does not the intensity of the worldwide denunciation of Israel seem excessive, as compared to how little the world is moved by say, far greater atrocities in Syria, to take just one nearby locale?

The frustration of my Israeli friends is legitimate, but it is also an indication that Israel, though only a middle-aged state by world standards — is considered to belong to the family of responsible nations in a way that, say, Syria or Myanmar isn’t. When Europeans raise their diplomatic voices against Israel’s conduct, it because they expect a higher standard.

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