Fintan O’Toole thinks that Israel regards itself as ‘exempt from the demands of common humanity‘ (via Z Word Blog). Iain Banks thinks that ‘simple human decency‘ means nothing to Israel (see this normblog post).
Two well-known writers, very anxious to tell the world that Israel lacks humanity. Israel’s not like the rest of us, the rest of the human family. Compared to other nations, it’s inhuman. It doesn’t recognize what everyone else knows about, the simple requirements of being decently human. It ought to recognize these things, it isn’t hard to do so, since they’re so simple; and most other people do, since they’re part of common humanity.
Leave aside the sinister provenance of that claim, and let’s just consider it on its own.
Turkey has killed between 30,000 and 40,000 Kurds in the last 30 years; it occupies North Cyprus; it blockades Armenia and denies its own historical genocide. But Israel lacks simple human decency.
Sri Lanka, at the same time that Israel was fighting in Gaza (around 1300 dead) killed about 25,000 of its own civilians in the course of repressing an insurgency. But Israel thinks it’s exempt from the demands of common humanity.
Sudan has killed something in the order of 200,000 people in Darfur, with countless rapes and tortures alongside. But Israel lacks simple human decency.
Iran rapes and tortures and murders its own dissidents who ask for democracy; it hangs young gays, it oppresses women. But Israel thinks it’s exempt from the demands of common humanity.
Yemen is blockading South Yemen, it lets no food, medicine or water through; unlike Israel, which lets around 15,000 tons of supplies into Gaza every week. But Israel lacks simple human decency.
Egypt is considering a law to strip their citizenship from any Egyptian who marries an Israeli; it persecutes Copts; it blockades Gaza. But Israel thinks it’s exempt from the demands of common humanity.
Russia kills 25,000 to 50,000 Chechens, and almost completely razes the capital city of Grozny; its soldiers inflict hideous tortures on their prisoners before killing them; investigative journalists are murdered. But Israel lacks simple human decency.
China kills somewhere between half a million and one and a quarter million Tibetans in the course of quashing Tibet’s independence. But Israel thinks it’s exempt from the demands of common humanity.
In Pakistan, Christian churches are burned, hundreds of Ahmadiyyas are killed, violence towards women is endemic. But Israel lacks simple human decency.
In Saudi Arabia, no churches are allowed, no Israeli Jews may enter, women are subject to gender apartheid. But Israel thinks it’s exempt from the demands of common humanity.
Congo: what can one say about Congo? More than that 5 million – 5 million – people have been killed in its wars, alongside innumerable rapes and hideous tortures? But Israel lacks simple human decency.
Now, here’s one especially for Iain Banks: the USA and the UK initiate a war in Iraq in which more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians are killed. But Israel thinks it’s exempt from the demands of common humanity.
France trained and armed the Hutu genocidaires who killed around 800,000 civilians in the Rwanda genocide, and continued to protect them even as they lost power to the incoming Tutsis. But Israel lacks simple human decency.
Three things to note. First, most of the other cases I’ve mentioned have involved far worse horrors than anything Israel has done. But Israel is the one which Banks and O’Toole charge, not with acting wrongly, or having bad judgement, but with being deliberately impervious to morality, with not even rising to the most basic level of decency. Banks and O’Toole (and indeed many others) level this charge at Israel alone. We won’t be hearing them say that the Chinese are deliberately impervious to morality, or that the Turks lack simple human decency. Only Israel. Why is this?
Second, we can’t in fact leave aside the sinister provenance of these charges. O’Toole at least claims to know about the Holocaust, and what led to that horror; it’s possible that Banks knows something about it too. It’s a commonplace of historical explanation that one of the enabling factors was the dehumanization of the Jews, the constant Nazi propaganda about how they weren’t fully human, how they didn’t have the normal moral sentiments and beliefs, about how they saw themselves as the chosen people, above ordinary morality. Here we see these dehumanizing lies being reproduced, 60 years later, about Israel, and only about Israel. Why is this?
Third, and most importantly, every point I’ve made in this post has been made before, by many others, many many times: forcefully, cogently, analytically; both passionately and dispassionately; with humour and with despair. It hasn’t made the slightest difference to the likes of Banks and O’Toole. Nor to the many others shouting or whispering at us, in the teeth of the evidence, that Gaza is the new Warsaw Ghetto, and that Israel is really Nazi Germany come again – and so it’s fine to hate Israel, it’s to your credit to hate it, it shows the world that you have simple human decency.
Why is this? And where will it lead? (Eve Garrard)