Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Why Single out Israel?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Why Single out Israel?

Article excerpt

IN 2017 U.S. AMBASSADOR to the U.N. Nikki Haley accused the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of "singling out Israel'' for criticism. The previous year, Pakistan's representative to the UNHRC, Aamar Aftab Qureshi, expressed dismay at Israel for complaining about being singled out by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Dealing with Israel has been a huge issue in the history of both the United Nations and the United States, involving considerable time and effort on the part of the international community at large.

At a United Methodist Church General Convention, I sat in close proximity to the delegates as they discussed divestment from companies that aid the occupation of Palestine. One delegate who opposed divestment asked, "'Why pick on Israel?" It struck me that this is the most frequently circulating argument I hear against divestment. I heard the same argument when speaking at a regional conference for the Mennonite Church in Des Moines, Iowa where a delegate said, "'With so much violence in the world and in many Middle Eastern countries, why single out Israel?" Israel's defenders at universities, colleges, church gatherings, United Nations forums, public debates, etc., routinely ask, "Why single out Israel?" The argument is that with all the human rights abuses in the world, why forget about everyone else and focus on Israel?

I could make many strong arguments to show that Israel is not, in fact, singled out amongst other countries for human rights violations. For example, Iran's economy is currently crippled due to sanctions from the U.S. and its Western allies and the same goes for Yemen, Syria, Libya and Lebanon. Sanctions are devastating the lives of millions in each of these countries. Russia, China and North Korea are accused of human rights violations and are also being sanctioned. Hamas is accused of human rights violations and hence the people of Gaza have for years endured crippling U.S. and Israeli sanctions. Countries that are accused of human rights violations-fairly or unfairly- are suffering under economic punitive measures, ironically all except for Israel.

My purpose is not to debate the truth or falsehood of the argument that Israel is being picked on, but rather to respond as if it were true that Israel is, in fact, singled out.

Here are some reasons why it would be justified for Israel to be singled out:

1. Israel is the Recipient of the Largest Share of U.S. Foreign Aid

Since World War II, Israel has received the largest cumulative share of U.S foreign assistance at $142.3 billion to date in bilateral assistance and missile defense. Israel's total aid (direct and indirect) amounts to at least $5 billion dollars annually. The aid flows even though the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act prohibits military assistance to any country "which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." The Symington and Glenn amendments ban military assistance to any government that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities, both of which Israel refuses to do.

Don't American citizens have a right, and indeed an obligation to "pick" on the country that receives most of our tax dollars and yet continues to defy international treaties? After all, we are complicit in these violations as long as our money and diplomatic support enable these violations to occur.

2. Israel, the "Only Democracy in the Middle East"?

Israel and her allies incessantly claim that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, even as Israel carries out actions that are tantamount to those of a rogue nation. If Israel is indeed a true democracy, it has to represent everyone fairly and cannot abuse the rights of 20 percent of its population (Israeli Arab citizens) and 100 percent of the population it indirectly and illegally occupies. A state can't claim to be a democracy when half of the population living under its control is not treated with equality. …

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