I’m not saying anything new here. Nothing I say is set in stone. Like Lily Allen on Desert Island Discs, this is what I’m saying today and I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow or the day after.
Some pro-Israel bloggers and commenters like myself might feel we have some explaining to do.
We found it hard to believe that the murderer of the Palestinian youth could have been a revenge attack perpetrated by Israelis. It seemed so uncharacteristic; so un-Israeli. Now we have to accept that we were mistaken.
PM Netanyahu and other Israeli spokespersons have given heartfelt assurances that Israel deals with all terrorists equally, be they Jews or Arabs, but perhaps we (I) gave the impression that we sincerely believe that Israel as a whole, and individual Israelis are incapable of taking ‘revenge’ in the brutal and horrific manner that recently took place while the whole world was focused on Israel.
The burning alive that was the terrible fate of the teenage Palestinian boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the merciless battering of his cousin Tariq by two Israeli policemen, which was caught on film are things we all wish hadn’t happened.
We see these acts as the most damaging, misguided and self destructive things imaginable. The most high profile own goal any citizen could score against its own country.
Of course Israel is a tiny country. Perhaps too small to have absorbed such a huge number of exceptionally diverse immigrants in recent years - Russians, Africans, Europeans etc etc.
A bit like the UK, let’s not forget.
Recent reports state that the suspects that have been arrested for the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir were youths, some say football hooligans. So although this crime might be described as ‘nationalistic’ the nationalism in this case may be a hook upon which to hang pure opportunistic thuggery, but there seems to be a worrying rise in nationalism and anti-Arab vandalism in Israel.
Some people have been criticising Israel for not reining in this element of their society, if that is indeed a recognised phenomenon. But think of our own hooligans; our BNP, EDL, NF, not to mention our own non-political thuggish drunken mobs and knife-wielding yobs, and worse still, our home-grown Jihadis.
We don’t want them to represent us, and by the same token we haven’t got a leg to stand on if we start criticising Israel for failing to turn every single one of its citizens into wonderful fault-free ambassadors for the country.
People are ashamed of the behaviour and reputation of the ‘British ‘ abroad. I meet people all the time who say they’re embarrassed about this. Foreigners marvel at the complacent way we tolerate intolerance. But somehow Britain is still secure enough to withstand a few bad apples. It still has a reasonably robust core, while we’re talking fruit, but the longer we let it lie the shakier it gets, or should I say the more rotten.
Israel has no such security to rely on. Neither in respect of its reputation nor of universal acceptance in the world’s eyes. To satisfy the rest of the world it needs to be super vigilant and superhumanly united; if we as bloggers and commenters expect too much it’s our own fault.
Anyway, before we judge, we all have a responsibility and an obligation to present the case on a level playing field, and that’s why I think the BBC’s reluctance to do so is a cause worth fighting for. Not that I’m actually fighting, sitting here comfortably on a rainy summer’s day at the keyboard.
I feel that it would be a lot fairer to Israel if the BBC would give, e.g., an equal amount of airtime to soundbites from Israelis as they do from Palestinians. Often we hear unadulterated emotional statements from disturbed, embittered Palestinians, like the ones I complained about here, and from Palestinian family members who are understandably upset - but they’re aired without much counterbalancing, contextualised information.
For example, the Times of Israel has:
“We will not allow extremists, it doesn’t matter from which side, to inflame the region and cause bloodshed,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised statement. “Terror is terror… Murder is murder, incitement is incitement, and we will respond aggressively to both.”
Might we not hear something of that determination headlined on the BBC, along with a contrasting piece about the relentless incitement that goes on, continually, as official policy, throughout Palestinian society, with special focus on the education system including that of UNWRA.
We might see those images of Palestinian children holding up three fingers, just to counterbalance the BBC’s reports of right-wing Jewish extremists posting messages on Facebook.
In today’s Times, there’s a piece that says:
The dead youth’s mother Suha, welcomed news of the arrests but said she had little faith in the Israeli justice system.“I don’t have any peace in my heart. Even if they captured who they say killed my son,” she said. “They’re only going to ask them questions and then release them. What’s the point?”“They need to treat them the way they treat us. They need to demolish their homes and round them up, the way they do it to our children.”
Does Sura’s bereavement grant her the impunity to turn the situation on its head? Does this remark deserve a free pass, or mightn’t the Times set out, in detail, the crimes committed by Palestinian prisoners who were released as part of the defunct peace talks. Some of these returning heroes and heroines committed extremely brutal murders, but we just don’t read that side of the story in the Times or hear it on the BBC.
Now I seem to be saying, like my enemies do, that the murder was un-Israeli. A perversion of Israeliness. I seem to be trying to justify my own position and by doing so, to have reverted back to ‘apologist’ mode. This was not what I intended to do. I stick by my utterly sincere condemnation of the revenge attack. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to shut up for good.