What is it about Israel that prompts such a widespread departure from common sense, reason and moral reality? As another insane flotilla prepares to butt across the Mediterranean bringing “aid” to the “beleaguered” people of Gaza, in its midst traveling the Irish MV Saoirse, does it never occur to all the hysterical anti-Israeli activists in Ireland that this is like worrying about the steaks being burnt on the barbecue, as a forest fire sweeps toward your back garden?
I took part in a discussion about the Middle East last [month] in the Dalkey Book Festival. It was surreal. Not merely was I the only pro-Israel person in the panel of four, but the chairwoman of the session, Olivia O’Leary, also felt obliged to throw in her three-ha’pence worth.
Israeli settlers on the West Bank were on stolen land, she sniffed. Palestinians in their refugee camps had title deeds to the ancient properties. The United Nations had repeatedly condemned Israel. Brian Keenan, who was held hostage by Arab terrorists for four years, then detailed Israeli human-rights abuses, to loud cheers.
Israel and its sole defender on the panel were then roundly attacked by members of the audience. But what was most striking about the audience’s contributions was the raw emotion: They seemed to loathe Israel.
But how can anyone possibly think that Gaza is the primary center of injustice in the Middle East? According to Mathilde Redmatn, deputy director of the International Red Cross in Gaza, there is in fact no humanitarian crisis there at all. But, by God, there is one in Syria, where possibly thousands have died in the past month.
However, I notice that none of the Irish do-gooders are sending an aid-ship to Latakia. Why? Is it because they know that the Syrians do not deal with dissenting vessels by lads with truncheons abseiling down from helicopters, but with belt-fed machine guns, right from the start?
What about a humanitarian ship to Libya? Surely no one on the MV Saoirse could possibly maintain that life under Gadhafi qualified it as a civilized state. Not merely did it murder opponents by the bucket-load at home and abroad, it kept the IRA (Irish Republican Army) campaign going for 20 years, and it also — a minor point, this, I know — brought down the Pan Am flight at Lockerbie, Scotland. Yet no Irish boat to Libya. Only the other way round.
And then there’s Iraq. Throughout the decades of Saddam Hussein, whose regime caused the deaths of well over a million people, there wasn’t a breath of liberal protest against him. Gassing the Kurds? Not a whimper. Invading Kuwait? Not one single angry placard-bearing European liberal outside an Iraqi embassy.
Destroying the drainage systems of the Marsh Arabs? Silence. Manipulating the U.N. oil-for-food program so that thousands died? Nothing.
Next, Saudi Arabia, whose revolting practices cannot be called medieval without doing a grave injustice to the Middle Ages. It is led by savages who have studiously turned their backs on knowledge, even as they sip their Krug and their Bollinger in their apartments in Belgravia. They behead and behand, they torture and they mutilate, and they have spent billions on their foul madrasahs teaching young Muslims right across the world to hate us kaffirs. But what demonstrations are there outside Saudi embassies? What flotillas to defend the human rights of the millions of immigrant serfs, who toil without any rights in Saudi homes and in the oil industry?
There isn’t a single Arab country, not one, with the constitutional protection that Israel confers on all its citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity or sexual orientation. And no, I don’t like the settlements on the West Bank, but really, by any decent measure, it is simply not possible to gaze upon the entire region, reaching from Casablanca to Yemen, and then to point indignantly and say: “Ah yes, Gaza: that’s where the one great injustice lies.”
The last “aid flotilla” to Gaza carried a large number of Islamists who wanted to provoke — and, aided by some quite astounding Israeli stupidity, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
Now another convoy is under way, again with an utterly disingenuous plan to bring “assistance” to the “beleaguered Gazans,” some of who, funnily enough, can now cross into Egypt any time they like and buy their explosives and their Kalashnikovs in the local arms bazaar.
And as for human-rights abuses — why, nothing that Israel has done in the 63 years of its existence can possibly compare with the mass murders of Fatah members by Hamas firing squads over the past five years.
The colossal Western intellectual dissonance between evidence and perception on the subject of Israel at this point in history can perhaps only be explained by anthropologists.
This dissonance is perhaps at its most acute in Ireland, where no empirical proof seems capable of changing people’s minds. Israel, just about the only country in the entire region where Arabs are not rising up against their rulers, is also the only country that the Irish chattering classes unite in condemning. Rather pathetic, really.
Kevin Myers is a columnist for the Irish Independent newspaper. Reprinted with permission of Kevin Myers and the Irish Independent.