Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Financial Times: Delegitimate, Lawless, Rogue Israel

In the space of about a week, the Financial Times published three op-eds on Israel, two of them related to the Dubai assassination.

On 23rd February, Henry Siegman wrote about how Israel is apparently delegitimising itself. He claims that the Middle East peace process has undergone two transformations: the settlements in the West Bank, and Obama’s forceful stand on the issue together with Netanyahu’s subsequent rejection of his demands.  According to Siegman, “The disappearance of the two-state solution is triggering a third transformation, which is turning Israel from a democracy into an apartheid state.”

Why apartheid? Because, he says, “A democracy reserved for privileged citizens while all others are denied individual and national rights and kept behind checkpoints, barbed wire fences and separation walls manned by Israel’s military, is not democracy.” He claims that as long as Israel doesn’t withdraw to the pre-1967 lines, it’s legitimacy is challenged. 

Siegman predictably places all the blame on Israel and makes no reference to the Palestinians’ rejections of peace proposals, nor to the consequences of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza - in a word, Hamas - let alone to the countless terrorist attacks that have been prevented as a result of the security fence and checkpoints, or even the thousands of terror attacks that were carried out over the years, the shootings, stabbings, suicide bombs and rockets.

Siegmen also uses the classic method of displacement where he refers to “Anti-Semitic opponents of Israel” – by which he distances himself from this label whilst at the same time blaming Israel for antisemitism. I also blame Israel for antisemitism, but in a different way: I think Israel’s actions are often used as an excuse for antisemitism that is already there, hiding under the surface waiting for a trigger. (That is not to say that criticism of Israel is antisemitic – but comparing Israel to Nazis is, as is calling it apartheid.)

Two days after that article was published, there was one by David Gardner (and this one I could only find on Norman Finkelstein’s website). Gardner lists failings of Mossad as though they happen all the time, and tries to make out that Mossad operations only ever backfire on Israel. But the main point he makes is that Mossad assassinations “encourage the perception that it [Israel] is a rogue state”.

A week after the first article, and finally a voice of reason is heard in the FT. Andrew Roberts, a British historian states that countries’ use of “targeted assassination... in no way weakens their legitimacy”.

On Siegman’s reference to apartheid, Roberts says 
As for the ‘separation walls’ and checkpoints that one sees in Israel, the 99 per cent drop in the number of suicide bombings since their erection justifies the policy. There is simply no parallel between apartheid South Africa – where the white minority wielded power over the black majority – and the occupied territories, taken by Israel only after it was invaded by its neighbours… If Arab Israelis were deprived of civil and franchise rights, that would justify such hyperbole, but of course they have the same rights as every Jewish Israeli.”
And on Gardner’s point, Roberts observes that the Dubai assassination is no different from the targeted killings of Taliban leaders carried out by Nato, or by the assassinations that have taken place in many countries including Britain, France and Russia without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue’”.

That kind of language is only reserved for Israel”, even though the French and Russian victims posed no danger to citizens, whereas Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was proven to be directly involved in killings of Israelis, and organising the shipment of weapons from Iran to Gaza.

The FT’s chosen headline on this article is also notable – “Israel is no more rogue than America” - the implication being that America and Israel are both rogue countries, just not one more than the other – when actually the article is not saying this at all, but that in fact that neither are rogue states, not even close.

Robin Shepherd writes on the FT readers’ reaction to the article.

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