During a week when Israel is celebrating its 63 birthday, it is appropriate to take another look at its accomplishments and the receptions given them.
Israel is among the most successful of the 100 or so countries that came on the scene as the result of World War II and the collapse of European empires. The country's economy, technology, military, and democracy are admirable when compared to those of the First World, and far beyond the Third World where languish almost all the new countries of Africa and Asia. Latin American and Eastern European countries are also below Israel on just about any measure of economic or political well being.
Israelis complain about their social services, and it cannot match the best universities and clinics of the United States or Western Europe. Yet there is no other country with all its universities scoring in the top 500 as ranked by a reputable Chinese organization, and Israel's health system produces indicators comparable to those of Western Europe. Its Arab minority scores better on health than the American White majority.
Israeli Arabs complain, with some justice, about discrimination. However, they do not face restrictions on education and language comparable to those of the Kurds in Turkey. That country may be on the margins of democracy, but France is a paragon, and it restricts the dress options of Muslims in ways that are beyond conception in Israel.
Israel's accomplishments do not square with its reception. It is targeted for condemnation by the international left, including faculties in North American and European universities, and singled out by the United Nations Human Rights Commision, as well as by a number of non-governmental organizations claiming to be world guardians of proper behavior.
A former American president authored a book about Israel that featured the high octane curse of "apartheid" in its title. He backed up after publication and said that he was not referring to Israel proper, but to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank. There he found "even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa." http://www.haaretz.com/news/jimmy-carter-israel-s-apartheid-policies-worse-than-south-africa-s-1.206865
Life may not be pleasant for the Palestinians of the West Bank or Gaza, but a reasonable person should take account of the defensive nature of the restrictions Israel imposes, and the record of Palestinian attacks. While the world majority may consider the West Bank to be Palestinian and occupied by Israel, a judge who is not reflexively anti-Israel might admit that the territory is no one's, and is disputed pending agreement. Except for incursions in response to violence, Israel has not occupied the principal areas of Palestinian settlement since the early 1990s.
One does not have to be an insensitive Israeli patriot to question the attention and conclusions directed at Israel compared to the records of other countries, including some of those who have sat as judges in the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, and the Security Council.
It may be an unpleasant stretch for some who read this, but the distorted judgment of Israel reminds me of what the United States judiciary rendered against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Jonathan Pollard. There may be no question about the guilt of Julius Rosenberg and Jonathan Pollard. The case of Ethel Rosenberg is more ambiguous. In the volumes of commentary is the claim that she was charged, tried, and sentenced in order to pressure Julius to reveal more than he did, and that no one in authority would alter her sentence in the intensely anti-Communist environment of 1953.
The Rosenberg and Pollard cases are rife with controversy, but--like Israel--they were judged more severely than others accused of similar offenses.. (See, for example, ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_and_Ethel_Rosenberg and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Pollard)
The role of Jews in the Rosenberg and Pollard cases may also have something to do with Jewish feelings about imperfect assimilation and divided loyalties. Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced the Rosenbergs to death, and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberg (a convert to Christianity) urged the court to overturn a plea bargain that could have freed Jonathan Pollard long before now. The role of Jews (Israeli and others) in the campaigns to boycott, disinvest, and impose sanctions on Israel may also reflect Jewish insecurities as well as uneven standards.
Take a look at Ecclesiastes .
. . . there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"? (1:9-10)
Israel, like Jews, may be chosen, but not for the most desirable of purposes.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem