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Should Israel Be Held to the Same Standards as Iran?

I posted this in June 2010 and will repost it now.

June 6, 2010

A few days ago I posted a link to Stephen Kinzer’s article that suggested we hold Israel to the same standard as Iran.

…It is always difficult to compare the danger one country poses to global security with that posed by another, and it is natural to treat old friends differently from longtime enemies. Israel is a far more open and free society than Iran. Millions of Americans feel personally tied to its fate. Nonetheless the contrast in American attitudes toward the two countries is striking. Toward Israel the attitude is: You may be rascals sometimes, but whatever pranks you pull, you’re our friend and we’ll forgive you. Toward Iran, it’s the opposite: You are our implacable enemy, so nothing you do short of abject surrender will satisfy us….

…Treating Israel and Iran more equally would also mean judging their nuclear programs by equivalent standards. If Israel and Iran are placed under the same set of rigorous nuclear safeguards, the Middle East will quickly become a safer place.

In the same spirit of equality, the world should do whatever possible to encourage higher human-rights standards in Israel and Iran. Ruling groups in both countries treat some honest critics as traitors or terrorists. They rule without the tolerance that illuminates Jewish and Persian history…

I have heard people say that such a suggestion of holding Israel up to the same standards as Iran is an insult to Israel, and an absurd suggestion. However, I happen to be someone who does not believe in the moral relativism of expecting some groups to follow rules but not other groups. I believe in equal justice under the law. We should all be expected to follow the same rules with no exceptions.

Hasn’t Glenn Beck been emphasizing “equal justice” a lot recently? He’s been criticizing the Obommunists and their views of social justice, which is not equal justice. I assume that Beck is referring to “equal treatment under the law,” at least I hope so. That applies to individuals, and I believe that the same kind of equal treatment should be for nations, like Israel, Iran and the United States. Israel should follow the same rules regarding nuclear weapons as the U.S. is pressuring on Iran. However, Israel has not been wanting to even admit publicly that their country possesses nuclear weapons, and refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Unfortunately, governments of countries such as Israel and the United States have been excused from various violations of laws, rights and procedures that they expect others to follow. I wonder how the U.S. government would react if they heard that the Iranian military were killing innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan with remote-controlled drone bombs. And I wonder how the world would react if a country were to “lock in” their Jewish population, as the Israeli government has locked in the Gaza Palestinians* so they are prevented from getting out.

And how much does the history of Jews being persecuted play a role in the Israeli government’s getting away with its treatment of the Palestinians and especially Gazans (as discussed in this space in recent days)? In the U.K. Independent, Antony Lerman wrote,

…A team led by Professor Daniel Bar Tal of Tel Aviv University, one of the world’s leading political psychologists, questioned Israeli Jews about their memory of the conflict with the Arabs, from its inception to the present, and found that their “consciousness is characterised by a sense of victimisation, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanisation of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering”. The researchers found a close connection between that collective memory and the memory of “past persecutions of Jews” and the Holocaust, the feeling that “the whole world is against us”….

…Early in January this year, Israel’s former Mossad chief and former national security adviser, Efraim Halevy, said: “If Israel’s goal were to remove the threat of rockets from the residents of southern Israel, opening the border crossings would have ensured such quiet for a generation.” Daniel Levy, former adviser in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, shows clearly where the wrong choices were made: withdrawing from Gaza without co-ordinating the “what next” with the Palestinians; hermetically sealing off Hamas and besieging Gaza after the 2006 elections instead of testing Hamas’s capacity to govern responsibly…

…(I)f we pause to think of the suffering of a dying Jewish child in the ghetto and a dying Palestinian child in Gaza, who would dare to suggest that their suffering is any different. Yet, as Professor Baron seems to imply, we fall all too easily into the trap of thinking that there is something unique about Jewish suffering. There isn’t.

While there probably are Nazi Holocaust survivors and Soviet Gulag survivors  still living in Israel, much of Israel’s population never did experience actual persecution. Rather, those who do not know what it’s like to be the victim of actual persecution were taught about that history from schools and from their elders. But what further teachings were or are instilled in Israeli Jews during their upbringing? If there is such a condition as a “persecution complex,” could that make it easier for someone to himself persecute those among a particular minority? And how much far off could a persecution complex be from a superiority complex?

I ask those questions, because, while we tend to hear so much of how Iran or more specifically Iran’s leader Ahmadinejad wants to “wipe Israel off the map” (which itself may not be accurate), apparently with nuclear weapons, I have seen suggestions that Israel should initiate not only an attack on Iran but a nuclear strike on Iran, and I’ve seen a lot of nasty versions of those calls in comments sections of articles such as at the Jerusalem Post. Such an action may now be closer to reality. Now in the 21st Century and supposedly a modern era of great progress since the times of the neanderthals, I can’t remember hearing such attitudes of dehumanizing aimed toward others of different ethnic or nationalistic heritages, with the most simple-minded rationalizations of such attitudes, and calls for violence to be initiated against them.

There are people who, for some reason, think it is less immoral to mass murder innocent Iranians or Pakistanis than it is to mass murder innocent Israelis or Americans.

I, however, stand for equality and equal justice.


* (link added for this reposting)

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