Monday, December 26, 2011

World must interfere in Israel's internal affairs

Gideon Levy

Of all of Israel's complaints against the world, one is especially brazen: Goodness gracious, the world is meddling in the Jewish state's internal affairs.

When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she understands what's happening here, and it reminds her more of Iran than Israel, the Zionist response has been: "It would be better for the public's representatives to direct their attention to what is happening in their own countries," as Environmental Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan put it.

When Europe becomes outraged over hate crimes in Israel, the brazen response is the Europeans adopted the lowest of resolutions in taking Israel to task. And when the world takes an interest in Israel's policy toward refugees and migrant workers, this prompts a demand for an end to foreign interference, as Ronen Shoval, the founder of the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu, said.

Israel may be the last country on earth with the right to be outraged over foreign interference. Since its founding, Israel has not ceased working around the world to bring Jews here; it has clandestinely carried out underground subversive activity among shady regimes; it has openly preached abroad for Jews to leave their native lands and immigrate here, or at least send financial support; and Israel has moved heaven and earth against manifestations of anti-Semitism and supports parallel alternative Jewish and Zionist educational systems around the world.

It is also a country that simultaneously calls on the world to maintain the blockade of Gaza because of Hamas' rise to power there. Israel has acted in Lebanon and elsewhere in support of one communal faction against another. It has not ceased to meddle in the internal affairs of foreign countries and entities, so of all countries, it should not be heard to complain about foreign interference.

That is not the only reason, however, that Israel's stance on interference is brazen and ridiculous. In today's world, nations frequently intervene in the domestic affairs of other countries, and Israel does not object. Sometimes, we even support such steps. The world bombed Kosovo and Libya to liberate them from tyranny.

Similarly, it invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been threatening Iran over its development of nuclear weapons, which on the face of it is also an internal matter.

The world has also imposed sanctions on Syria, which could be followed by military involvement - again prompted by internal matters. That is the world's role, that's how it should conduct itself when it identifies outrageous injustice or dangerous dictatorship.

Israel is not a dictatorship (aside from the rule it imposes in the territories it occupies, which is, in fact, a long-standing and cruel dictatorship ). The world therefore expects standards of conduct from Israel that are customary in the family of nations to which it aspires to belong. The world has actually refrained so far from really intervening in what has been carried out by the dictatorship of the occupation, where Israel does what it pleases, continually showing contempt for the world. But now the world has begun to direct its attention to what has been going on lately in Israel. That is its right and obligation.

Contrary to the slanderous and foolish comments of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose ministry said European countries were in danger of making themselves irrelevant by their criticism of Israeli settlement policy, that is the only way the world can be relevant. True, at times the world is afflicted with hypocrisy and double standards, but that doesn't give Israel the right to oppose such interference. If the world is witness to discrimination against women, injustice done to refugees and migrant workers and anti-democratic nationalist legislation, it speaks out. Israel cannot respond like Syria or Libya with the argument to leave it alone because these are internal matters.

But all this is just the coming attraction for the major intervention that will be more blatant than anything seen so far and may be coming soon. Once the world despairs of a two-state solution, which no longer has much prospect of being implemented, it will direct its concern to human and civil rights in the one state that already exists: Israel.

Then, the world will say: "You wanted occupation. You wanted the settlements. We will have to accept them, because there's no turning back, but we will by no means accept a situation in which two million Palestinians in the West Bank live forever without civil rights and a million and a half Palestinians in the Gaza Strip live under conditions of partial siege. We will not accept such a situation in the new Middle East, which is rising up against dictatorship.

The new world will then tell Israel: Stay in the occupied territories, but give all its residents equal rights and justice. What will Israel say then? Interference in its internal affairs? Foreign intervention? You've got to be kidding.


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