Israel is not the victim

Disclaimer: I am not anti-Semitic, nor am I a classic case of the self-hating Jew, nor do I secretly long for Islamist conquest and the destruction of the Jewish state. You know, just so we’re clear.

I didn’t want to begin that way, but if there’s one thing you’re not allowed to do in this country, it’s criticize Israel. The smallest sign of frustration with Israel, or of sympathy for the Palestinians, immediately leads to the above accusations. Those who question Israeli superiority are branded as anti-Semites, terrorist-lovers or Nazis. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s choice for Secretary of Defense, discovered this recently during his Senate confirmation hearing. He was quoted as previously saying “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I’m not an Israeli senator; I’m a United States senator. This pressure makes us do dumb things at times.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the largest and most powerful lobbying group on Capitol Hill, representing Israeli interests to the U.S. government. AIPAC exerts a considerable amount of influence on U.S. policy, a fact that many find disturbing given that it acts on behalf of a foreign nation. Hagel’s comments, put in context, are not damning in any way. He was forced to retract them, however, in order to get through the Senate confirmation process, because you cannot hold high office in the U.S. if you have ever had a bad word to say about Israel.

Recently, there’s been a spotlight on the Israeli government funding the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land, where armed Israeli citizens then go to live. This blatant expansionism is in direct conflict with the Geneva Convention and only escalates the regional conflict. When the United Nations recognized Palestine as a non-member state in November 2012, Israel increased its settlement-building in an act of peevish retaliation. When the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) began investigating settlement construction in the West Bank, Israel cut ties with the council. When scheduled to appear before the UNHRC on Jan. 26 for a human rights review that all U.N. members have to go through every four years, the Israeli delegation no-showed. The UNHRC has since issued a scathing report recommending sanctions against Israel until it stops building settlements, and the U.N. has threatened to take the matter to the International Criminal Court.

The fact that Israel has enjoyed decades of U.S. support, both politically and financially (we give them $3 billion in foreign aid each year; remember that the next time Congress says there’s no money for public education) has clearly given the Israeli government a feeling of immunity. Time and again, the U.N. and the international community have condemned Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. Time and again, Israel has simply ignored them. After all, the U.N. and the international community can’t actually make anyone do anything. Thanks to its friendship with the last superpower, Israel is free to act with impunity, despite its increased isolation from the rest of the world.

Israel is a democratic, developed country that just happens to have a tremendous military machine to go alongside its arsenal of nuclear weapons. Sound familiar? Yet it gleefully gets away with practices that have been openly compared to apartheid. Why? It’s a U.S. ally in the Middle East, and because of Israel’s protective veneer of continual victimhood. The story goes the Jews are eternally the oppressed, never the oppressors. The reality is Israel has used the historical fact of Jewish oppression to construct a national persona that can’t be held accountable for anything. While it’s true that horrible things have happened to the Jews over the years, it’s 2013 now and Israel is no longer a victim. Like an abused child, it has grown up and started doing to others what was done to itself.

Originally published in The Lumberjack (http://www.jackcentral.org/opinion/columns/opinion-israel-is-not-the-victim/article_57a37dd4-97a3-5013-9a0d-437d3ec1a511.html)

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