January 31, 2002
Scottish philosopher David Hume hit the nail on the head when he observed that "the heart of man always attempts to reconcile the most glaring contradictions." Hume, of course, wasn't thinking of Palestinian apologists back in 1749. But he certainly wouldn't have been ashamed of applying his pithy aphorism to their persistent bouts of moral incoherence.
These groups and individuals inhabit a universe not always readily accessible to those among us with less sensitive moral antennae. It is a plane of existence that in fact thrives on contradiction --where falsehood doubles as truth, iniquity moonlights as righteousness and aggression masquerades as peacemaking. This is the blurry world of the human rights organizations and their uneasy relationship with the state of Israel.
Among the more aggressive crusades from these groups in recent weeks has been the attack on Israel's decision to bulldoze Palestinian houses suspected as fronts for a smuggling operation. While the outcry has lingered for weeks, not one of these same organizations has either successfully challenged Israel's claim that the houses were being used for smuggling weapons. Nor have they allayed the suspicion that one day those same weapons would be employed in the killing of Israelis.
And therein lies the glaring contradiction. One only needs to examine the antics of many of these same organizations in Durban, South Africa, last September to understand how the words "human rights" lose all moral weight when hurled at Israel. How else to explain the time and energy expended by the organizations, including the venerable Rabbis for Human Rights, to have Israel singled out and isolated from among 200 other countries as a racist state, even while slavery still thrives in Africa, while genocide is perpetrated in Europe and while women throughout the Muslim world are treated as little more than chattels?
Viewed in the context of its neighborhood and current dire circumstances, Israel is, in fact, a model in the protection of human rights. Its basic laws, religious and press freedoms and vibrant democracy give minorities rights they couldn't dream of possessing in surrounding countries. More conspicuous are the failures of the same human rights organizations to address violations when they are suffered by Israel. In its 10-page 2001 report on Israel, Human Rights Watch devotes precisely 20 words to Palestinian killings of Israelis, apparently finding it inconsequential that Jewish holy places had been sacked and desecrated, that scores of Israelis had been shot dead or that a baby's head had been blown off by a sniper in Hebron. In its own report for that year Amnesty International does not mention the words "terrorist" or "suicide bombing" once to describe Palestinian violence. According to a leader of that organization, those terms are viewed as value judgments that could compromise its reporting.
Did anyone mention bias? Back in the late 1980s, Thomas Friedman explained the world's obsession with Israel as being tied to the expectation that it should always conduct itself in accordance with Judeo-Christian values. That view finds its phantom echo in the equally supercilious demand of the Rabbis for Human Rights that Israel should not be 5 percent more moral than the rest of the world but 100 percent more so. It is all based on the asinine assumption that Jews are so inherently humanistic that they should feel impelled to sacrifice their lives or security in the name of a standard of conduct no other people subscribe to. Scratch a Jew and you find a martyr. Never has such a vile anachronism deserved more discredit.
The fact remains that Israel is at war -- not with its moral conscience, as some would like us to believe, but with an enemy as implacably committed to its destruction and to the murder of Jews as any other in the past. As George Orwell once said, there is one quick way to end a war -- lose it. No nation has ever claimed victory against an annihilationist foe by wearing its heart on its sleeve or boasting of its moral scruples. The United States today makes little secret of its decision to use extra-judicial means to eliminate the terrorist menace to its population. Why should Israel be any different?
Avi Davis is the senior fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and the senior editorial columnist for Jewsweek.com.