How to look like you’re ethical

In my recent essay in Overland magazine, The Resource Wars, I argued, among many other things, that the Jewish state was allowed to commit war crimes by much of the West because of the Holocaust, the Zionist lobby and racism towards Arabs.

In this week’s Australian Jewish News, regular columnist Michael Visontay, senior editor in the Fairfax Media group, finds my proposition a strange one:

Critics of Israel demand that the Jewish State be judged by the same criteria as other nations, but which nations?

“I don’t wish to see Israel’s destruction, nor any harm come to Jews, but I do demand the nation be viewed like any other and not wrapped in cotton wool or protected with a post-Holocaust shield.”

This was how Antony Loewenstein concluded a recent essay on oil and the Middle East. It was published in the summer edition of Overland, an established, but niche Australian public affairs journal.

The essay explored the geopolitical struggle for oil and was framed around the idea that without a resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, every other issue would remain unresolved.

This assertion contains more holes than a block of Swiss cheese: given Iran’s repeated calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, to take one example the creation of a Palestinian state seems unlikely to bring out the welcome mat from Teheran.

But it is Loewenstein’s conclusion that contains the most significant part of his argument, namely that Israel be viewed like any other nation. This raises several important questions about debate over Israel.

Firstly, the demand is impossible to satisfy. The politics by which it was founded, the conflict that bred its independence, the dispossession of land that resulted – all guaranteed that the State of Israel would forever be different from any other nation.

It is hard to think of any other contemporary nations that have been forged in the same crucible of conflict, and whose neighbours were so historically antagonistic towards it.

My position is very clear and Jews such as Visontay prefer to ignore the reality of Israel, romanticising its role in the world. He writes:

Few would dispute that Israel has treated the Palestinians harshly, often brutally, and that it has failed to provide them with the same standard of living and rights as Jewish Israelis enjoy. There are valid grounds for the international criticism of this state of affairs.

So what is he doing about it? Engaging in pointless intellectual exercises while the Jewish state continues to expand its occupation in the West Bank and murders hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza.

That’s not Jewish morality; that’s hang-wringing looking for a conscience.