Are we holding Israel to unrealistic standards?

(To be read in conjunction with our “Overview Position Statement of Sept. 2016”)

Many supporters of Israel feel that those supporting the Palestinians are holding it to much higher standards than the Palestinian Authority and the de facto Hamas government in Gaza, not to speak of many other Arab governments.

As Liberal Democrats we are always concerned to learn about charges of corruption and arbitrary arrest that are often heard in Ramallah, the interim capital of the PA. We are even more concerned to hear about the use of execution and torture, and of discrimination against women and Christians – charges that are often levelled against Hamas. Israel, however, claims to be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. It enjoys special privileges with the European Union and enormous financial aid from the US Government, which gives Israel more than half of what it gives to the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa, not to speak of the financial support by private US citizens.

There is considerable evidence of double standards in Israel’s treatment of its Jewish and its non-Jewish populations in both Israel and the West Bank. It needs to work much harder to earn its democratic reputation. As Ari Shavit, a journalist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has written: “If the Israeli Arabs will be woven into our social and political fabric and given the equality they deserve, they might prefer what democratic Israel has to over what is offered by Islamist Arab nations and radical Palestinian political movements.” [1]

It might also be pointed out that the incorporation of the Balfour Declaration into the document establishing the Palestine mandate in 1923, the refusal of the mandate authorities to allow the territory to have its own elected assembly, and the unilateral proclamation of the state of Israel – despite the opposition of a clear majority of the population of Palestine – severely put back the cause of democracy (and secularism) in Palestine.

Another reason for Britain to focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict is that Palestine is to a large extent a British responsibility, through its actions during and after World War One, and through its frequently supine stance towards the Americans and Israel since 1948. At the same time Britain and its western allies hold the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The main difficulty has been the Western powers’ unwillingness to face the problem and use their undoubted clout to persuade Israel to halt its settlements and encroachment on Palestinian land, water resources etc. and having done this, to go forward and negotiate a lasting and comprehensive peace.

In the meantime, Israel’s actions at the present time – and its refusal to admit to the wrongs it has done to the Palestinians in the past – are important recruiting tools used by Daesh, al-Qa’idah and similar organisations for radicalising Muslims.

[1] Ari Shavit (2013) My Promised Land – The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, P. 415