Throughout the latest attack on Gaza, critics of Israel have been accused of being unfairly selective because they do not protest crimes committed by others in the region. For instance, Richard Littlejohn of the Daily Mail asked: “where are the demonstrations against Iran and Qatar?”; Lib Dem Peer Lord Palmer rued the “disproportionate criticism of Israel in the chamber”; an article on the Conservative supporters’ blog-site asked: “When will the anti-war left start protesting against ISIS and Assad?”. There are countless other examples one could cite.

This defence of ‘unfair selectivity’ is nothing new having been invoked by supporters of Israeli aggression for decades. For example, during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, newspapers printed plenty of letters that asked Israeli critics: “where were you when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan?” and “what about PLO atrocities?” etc. Despite its evident popularity and longevity, the argument is deeply flawed. It is true that Israel and Palestine receive a lot of attention from protesters and activists but there are good reasons for this. It’s not a case of Israel being treated unfairly.

In the case of Israel-Palestine, activism and protests aren’t there to make the participants feel good. They takes place because there’s reason to believe that they might actually have a positive effect on the ground. Coordinated activism against Israeli aggression can achieve results as recent historical precedent shows. The mobilisation of activists and the global outcry that followed Israel’s 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara forced Israel to ease the blockade on Gaza (albeit an easing that was only nominal and temporary). This case demonstrates that Israel is a country that, with enough coordinated pressure, can at least, be brought to some sort of limited heel. It is laughable to think that ISIS or al-Qaeda would be bothered about any global outcry – and indeed they aren’t. In other words, the large amount of attention given to Israel-Palestine is based on the the affirmative response to the question: can activism actually achieve something in this case?

The current conflict in Gaza is many times more unequivocal than others. Unlike the Syrian civil war or the ever deteriorating situation in Iraq, what is going on in this conflict is obvious. Who is inflicting the carnage, who the victims are, the amount of casualties and, most importantly, how to stop the carnage are obvious and well documented. The motivations of the activists is to end the bloodshed. The way to do that is to get Israel to stop inflicting it. Again, the consideration of the activists here is a pragmatic one. Does anyone think it wouldn’t be a waste of time to go out and march with a placard that read “Stop the Syrian civil war”?

Supporters of Israeli aggression point to the violence of others to defend it. Groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram etc. are surely barbarous and cruel. However, when making such comparisons, it should not be forgotten that Israel’s crimes are pretty shocking even when put into this context. The IDF may not be wielding AK47s whilst beheading aid workers on camera or forcing people to “convert or die”, but cruelty and brutality can be present without these particular grotesque traits. To elaborate, the IDF has been bombarding a densely-packed and trapped population using some of the world’s most sophisticated and deadly weaponry. They are enacting their “inalienable right of self-defence” in the knowledge that approximately 95 per cent of those killed will be civilians; many of whom are women and children. They are blowing up schools, mosques and UN shelters. That is a barbarity and cruelty which can be said to be approaching a level almost as bad as some of the world’s worst offenders. In short, the relative standard invoked by Israel’s defenders does little or nothing to mitigate the crimes committed.

Israel can be susceptible to what its defenders call the ‘selective’ criticism, activism and protests. The crimes that Israel is committing are not small, even by relative standards and cannot be overlooked. Activists are right therefore to pour huge energies into a campaign that could help to end or at least limit the terrible bloodshed that Israel is inflicting. For them to do so cannot be described as unfair.

Much of what I’ve written could be rendered irrelevant by my final point: let’s say, for argument’s sake, Israel is unfairly singled out. Can someone tell me how that would serve to lessen its own crimes? And does Israel really want to be a country that insists on being judged by a standard set by despots, tyrants and bands of barbarous thugs?


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