Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Double Standards

The great Israeli novelist Amos Oz gave an interview to Eleanor Wachtel on CBC's Writers and Company. Amos Oz spoke eloquently about his powerful 2004 memoir, "A Tale of Love and Darkness". He displays tender compassion toward his parents and explains why it took him so long to write this memoir of his childhood (Amos Oz is 71).
Towards the end of the interview, Oz turns to his other passion: Israeli politics. Amos Oz is a leading exponent of the Zionist Left. In his 1986 novel "Black Box", he lays out his political credo.
1. The Jews needed a sovereign state.
2. Harm was done to the Arabs in the process.
3. Now that we have the state, there is no justification for expanding it, and inflicting more suffering on the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories.
To his credit, Amos Oz has been attacking the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank since the 1960s. He publicly identified the problem as it was emerging, long before Israel committed to its three decade national infrastructure that de fact annexed the West Bank to Israel.
Today, Amos Oz is still a passionate believer in the 2-state solution. He is a leading proponent of isolating Hamas in Gaza and cultivating the West Bank Palestinians. He believes that Israelis will back a Palestinian state and dismantling the Israeli cities and villages on the West Bank in return for true peace. He cites popular Israeli support for the withdrawal from Gaza as proof but warns of the disillusionment that followed when Hamas launched missiles into Israel. Amos Oz doesn't explain who is going to pay for this and how these guarantees can be achieved.
What I found most interesting about this interview was his answer to the question why Israel is "turning into a pariah state"
He gave three answers:
1. the third world is always right, "right or wrong".
2. the world hates America and therefore hates Israel too.
3. Israel has failed its own initial promise to be an exemplary state.
Oz essentially dovetails with one of Israeli apologists' favorite accusations: the world is guilty of a double standard. This defense of Israeli policies acknowledges that Israel needs to change but points the finger at worse crimes being perpetrated elsewhere, and particularly, by Israel's Arab neighbors.
This argument has been answered by others before:
1. For the American public (the one that Israel cares most about): Israel is the recipient of the largest amount of US foreign aid worldwide - by far. Israel deserves special scrutiny.
2. Israel claims to be a Western democracy. It seeks to be associated with Europe and America. It is fair to ask how its ideology measures against Western standards.
3. For Jews: Israel claims to speak for all Jews. We therefore have a right to demand Israel's compliance with our values.
4. Finally, and what if others are just as guilty, or worse. That is no defense.

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