A Different Standard

It happened again on July 5. Haaretz printed an article saying that the United Nations has issued a report holding Israel responsible for “the potential of renewed conflict on northern border due to the government’s recent warning that Hezbollah has received advanced Scud missiles from Syria.” (Haaretz is one of Israel’s daily newspapers. The full Haaretz story can be found at http://www.worldjewishdaily.com/toolbar.html?4t=extlink&4u=http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israel-un-ignored-reality-by-blaming-us-for-tensions-along-lebanon-border-1.300027.)

Wait a minute. This statement charges Israel with taking steps to incite a conflict with Hezbollah. And what are the steps Israel has taken to raise tensions? The Israeli government has issued a warning that Hezbollah has received advance Scud missiles from Syria.

This just doesn’t make sense.

In August 2006, the United Nations adopted resolution 1701 calling for the end of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. That resolution called for “a buffer zone free of any ‘armed personnel’ – both Hizbollah [sic] militants and Israeli troops – between the United Nations-drawn Blue Line in southern Lebanon and the Litani River (12 miles from the Israeli border) … .”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report doesn’t challenge Israel’s claim that Hezbollah is rearming. It only says that Israel’s warning escalates the tensions.

And where did Israel issue this warning? The Haaretz article states, “In recent days, the head of Military Intelligence’s research division, Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, traveled to New York, where he briefed a number of Security Council ambassadors on Israel’s concerns about the situation in southern Lebanon.”

Israel reported their concerns about Hezbollah’s violations of resolution 1701 to the UN Security Council so they could investigate. The UN’s conclusion? Israel is escalating the tensions.

In an op-ed piece written for JTA (the Jewish Telegraphic Agency) on June 30, Rabbi Alan Silverstein, chairman of the Masorti Israel Foundation, posits that the Zionist thinkers that envisioned a Jewish state before Israel was established wrote about it “in Utopian terms.”

Silverstein continued:

“Utopian thinking offers a fantasy, a hope that all of life’s problems will disappear. Utopianism secularizes messianic expectations for the end of human history and imagines a world devoid of any imperfections.

“Yet as noted at the congress by Israeli historian Yaakov Talmon, the danger of Utopian political thinking is that if only the perfect is worthwhile, then anything that is imperfect – such as the modern-day State of Israel – is worthless.

“Measured against the dream of a Jewish state in which there are no criminals, no corrupt politicians, no unethical soldiers and no political compromises, the real Israel will always fail.

“By contrast, other nations are not held to high standards at all. While Israel is condemned for its ‘occupation’ of Gaza, strategy on dealing with the Gaza-bound flotilla, defense against Palestinian terrorism and reticence toward Palestinian statehood, Turkey is given a free pass for its occupation of northern Cyprus, its opposition to an independent Kurdistan for 25 million Kurds and its military approach toward the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. In the past month alone, Turkey has killed more than 100 members of this separatist group.

“The world’s lack of interest in Turkey’s anti-Kurdish policies assumes that Turkey is entitled to a military defense against threats to national security. By contrast, Israel was condemned immediately when nine militant members of the Turkish IHH group were killed aboard one of the boats in the Gaza-bound flotilla.

“Israel is judged not merely by a double standard but by the Utopian standards of the early Zionist thinkers. In this view, Israel is entitled to defend the lives of citizens only without the use of military force.”

Silverstein is not suggesting that Israel is perfect, nor that every action Israel takes is beyond reproach. What he is suggesting is that we all need to reassess how we view Israel and the standards by which we judge Israeli actions.

He went on to conclude, “We should help the world see the beauty of the real Israel, even with its imperfections. Maybe then they will also see its accomplishments: the thousands of Third World engineers trained by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to make their deserts bloom; the unparalleled medical, agricultural and scientific advances forged by the Israeli technology industry; the human miracle of absorbing and integrating immigrants of all races from more than 120 nations; and much more.

“Israel is no Utopia, but it is a remarkably inspirational modern state.”

We must also raise our voices in protest when others, like Ban Ki-moon, distort the facts to serve their own purposes.

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