The Great Disconnect

>           In the New York Times of January 25, 2009, journalist Ethan Bronner describes vastly divergent narratives of anti-Zionists and defenders of Israel. The anti-Zionist construct is that Israel is a neo-colonialist aggressor uninterested in peace (Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and Israel’s unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza to the contrary notwithstanding). From my observation point in Tel Aviv, I get to witness all too clearly the great disconnect between anti-Zionist rhetoric and reality. I get to see Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas striving to destroy Israel with missiles getting closer and closer to my balcony.

Along with the neo-colonialist myth, the anti-Zionists have invented new definitions of human rights as we once knew them. Here are a couple of examples.

National Self Defense 
          We know that Hamas fired more than 8,000 rockets and mortars at civilians in Israel, increasing the rate to 80 per day as of December 21, 2008. Even the anti-Zionists concede that Israel has a right to self defense. But they define it in a peculiar fashion.
According to the anti-Zionists, efforts to eliminate hostile assaults must be carefully calibrated in terms of weaponry and casualties – at least if the people ultimately being protected are disfavored Zionist Jews. Jet planes, even if precision targeted, are grossly unfair. Casualty rates cannot be too unbalanced, and a 10 to 1 ratio is improper. However, when the civilian victims being protected against hostile assault were Muslims, as in the Balkans in 1999, none of this mattered. When NATO forces were using high-altitude bombing to protect Muslims, and when civilian Serbian casualties were 3 times as great as military casualties, not a single suggestion of disproportionate force was heard. Hamas’ dedication to the destruction of Israel by any means possible doesn’t matter to anti-Zionists in assessing proportionality. Never mind that Hamas’ version of self defense features liquidating civilians and leaving as many Jewish bodies as possible plastered to the walls of pizzerias and other gathering places.

Freedom of Expression
           Democracy depends on diversity of views. Anti-Zionists relish free speech – so long as it supports their own doctrinaire positions. Hamas in Gaza provides some examples. Hamas is all for a free press reporting Israeli aggression. But if a Gazan wants to report Hamas atrocities – e.g., firing missiles from civilian-crowded areas – that person is subject to liquidation. When a N.Y. Times reporter witnessed a summary civilian execution by Hamas fighters in a Gazan hospital, she was immediately subject to threats. Every foreign correspondent in Gaza is well aware of Hamas’ intimidation.

Gazan leaders now want to bar the BBC from Gaza because, they say, the BBC is too biased. They’ve got that wrong. The BBC is biased, all right, which is why I’m fond of calling them the unofficial propaganda wing of Hamas. But in the topsy-turvy lexicon of anti-Zionists, free speech means “unbiased” only in the sense of uninhibitedly supporting the orthodox view. In other words, the BBC is not biased enough in favor of Hamas to enjoy free speech in Gaza.
Another, more peripheral example of anti-Zionist freedom of expression comes out of Malmo, Sweden. On January 25, 2009, a couple of hundred Swedes got a permit and held a pro-Israel demonstration. This was an orderly demonstration featuring songs like Hinai Ma Tov. Suddenly, pro-Hamas counter-demonstrators started hurling rocks and bottles at the pro-Israel demonstrators. Swedish police promptly dispersed the pro-Israel demonstration. (For the incredulous, it’s on You Tube). You don’t have to be a former constitutional law professor to know that this is the antithesis of freedom of expression. Both U.S. Supreme Court precedent and Israeli Supreme Court precedent establish that freedom of expression entails protection of demonstrators regardless of their point of view. Try telling that to Hamas or Hezbollah or any other anti-Zionist advocate of “free speech.” Or perhaps get busy learning the new anti-Zionist lexicon of human rights.

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