By Cathy Young
The sights and stories of human suffering in the news out of the Middle East are devastating, and in sheer numbers the suffering has been far more severe on the Palestinian side. The outpouring of popular support around the world has been mostly for the Palestinians, too — except in the U.S., where pro-Israeli sympathies prevail. And, despite mistakes the Israeli government may have committed, American sympathies are in the right place.
The usual chorus of anti-Israel condemnation is a grand show of hypocrisy and double standards. Critics of Israel’s “disproportionate” use of force in response to Hamas attacks include Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose war on separatists in Chechnya a decade ago included the carpet-bombing of cities and atrocities against civilians. The plight of the Chechens drew a fair amount of support, like that of the Syrians under assault by their government today, or of the Kurds under Saddam Hussein’s regime — but nothing like the sustained worldwide passion for the cause of the Palestinians in refugee camps and occupied territories.
The double standard is defended on the grounds that Israel, as our ally and a country that prides itself on its democracy, must be held to a higher standard than dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. Whatever the logic of this argument, the result is that a country that sets a higher standard for itself is all the more viciously bashed for it.
While Israel hardly has a perfect human rights record — no country facing constant terrorist threats could — the rhetoric against it is disproportionate. Comparisons to Nazi Germany are particularly inflammatory, implying the Jews, victims 70 years ago, have become the new Nazis victimizing Palestinians.
This rhetoric is far removed from reality. The Gaza strip has been likened to a concentration camp, conjuring images of extermination — even though its population has grown steadily, and the hardships don’t come close to denial of basic necessities. The fact that Israel’s military has consistently tried to minimize civilian casualties, even warning residents to leave neighborhoods where militants are being targeted, has been ignored.
No decent person can remain unmoved by the pain of the Palestinians. Yet they are foremost victims of intransigent Arab leaders who have used them as pawns in the struggle against Israel, the object of their intractable, ideological hatred.
Cathy Young is a regular contributor to Reason magazine and the website RealClearPolitics. She wrote this for Newsday.
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