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Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has called the ambassadors of ten of the nations which supported the settlement resolution on the carpet and given them a tongue lashing. He’s reduced contacts with the officials of these countries (minus the U.S., of course, since we’re too important to stiff in this fashion). He’s also cut a $7-million UN contribution his country was scheduled to make. He’s announced hundreds of new settlement housing starts in retaliation. The man is fuming. But it’s all a show. Full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.
As part of the righteous indignation Netanyahu has displayed, he railed against the UN for wasting time condemning Israel while hundreds of thousands die in Syria. That’s a typical hasbara diversion tactic, deflect attention from Israeli crimes by pointing to the larger crimes of others.
But there are a few problems with the analogy: first, while all the frontline states (Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan) have offered refuges to millions of Syrian refugees, Israel hasn’t offered a haven to a single Syrian refugee. It has offered medical aid, shelter and military equipment to the al-Nusra rebels fighting Pres. Assad. It’s done this for purely pragmatic reasons, hoping to weaken the regime and its allies, Hezbollah and Iran.
But Israel, just as it’s refused to offer refugee status to any of the 60,000 African refugees there, has also refused to provide a haven for any of the Syrians fleeing the bloodshed there. Israel offers shelter to the world’s Jews, but it offers a cold shoulder to non-Jews, and especially Arabs. This is in keeping with the racialist philosophy of the ruling Likud regime.
Another problem with the claim that the world stands idly by while Syria burns: we must include Israel itself among the bystanders. The General Assembly just laid the framework for a sweeping investigation of potential crimes against humanity by forces fighting there. Of course, Syria, Russia, Iran and their allies voted against the resolution. The usual suspects voted for it as well (U.S., EU states, etc.). But there was one curious absence (in Hebrew) as Ronen Bergman noted in Yediot: Israel. It was nowhere to be found. It went AWOL on an issue of international moral significance.
Further, Israel touts itself (falsely) as the physical address of world Jewry. After the lessons of the Holocaust, one would think that Zionism would feel compelled to bear witness to such suffering. Much as I took issue with Elie Wiesel’s politics in the last decades of his life, I can’t help but think he would be repelled by Israel’s moral turpitude.
This is further evidence that Zionism, at least the Likudist incarnation, lacks any moral center. It is a set of interests, rather narrowly defined, and devoid of ethical content. One must ask whether, given our history, the Jewish people require such an entity to speak in its name. Haven’t we seen enough suffering and bloodshed through the centuries to know that a nation based on hate, ignorance and intolerance must never speak for us?
What a horrible irony that Israel has been transformed into what the worst of humanity has inflicted on us.
So why? Why did Israel abscond from its moral obligation? That’s easy: Russia. Netanyahu knows which way the wind is blowing. He sees Russia was willing to intervene in the civil war and Obama wasn’t. He sees the Russians came out winners on Aleppo. He also welcomes a new U.S. president who will give him everything he wants on any number of issues. He’s a kid in a candy store. What’s more, Donald and Vladimir are kissing cousins. The winds of war in the region are shifting toward Moscow.
Putin asked him to abstain and Bibi did the poodle thing. Reminds one of Tony Blair wagging his tail as Bush fed him treats on Iraq. Rivers of blood flow, but boys will be boys. And boys love to play in the sandbox with the big kids.