March 29, 2001
by Joe Sobran
"No one in this world has the right to put
Israel on trial. No one. On the contrary, Israel
may have the right to put others on trial, but
certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish
people and the state of Israel on trial."
Thus spake Israel's prime minister, Ariel
Sharon, in response to a U.S. commission
investigating the causes of violence in his
country. One is almost grateful for so blunt a
statement of the double standard: Israel has rights
others don't have.
I was starting to get that impression anyway.
But it's nice to have an authoritative
Most press accounts of Sharon's statement
quoted only the first sentence, omitting the
revealing -- and potentially embarrassing --
sentence that followed. It implies that Israel is
not subject to the same legal and moral standards
as other nations.
Abraham Lincoln once noted with amusement that
although many (white) people spoke as if slavery
were a blessing, it seemed to be the only blessing
nobody wanted for himself. In the same way,
Israel's apologists will tell you how wonderful and
democratic Israel is, how fair to its (oddly
ungrateful) Arab minority; but they never seem to
want that equality for themselves. I have never
heard a Jew say: "I wish gentiles in other
countries would treat us Jews exactly the way we
treat Arabs in Israel."
The Israelis complain about the Arabs' refusal
to acknowledge Israel's "right to exist." But if
any state can be said to have a right to exist, it
must be because it treats its subjects justly. If
Israel's "right to exist" means the Jews' right to
oppress Arabs -- to impose a double standard to the
disadvantage of the Arabs -- then why on earth
should the Arabs assent to it? Like Sharon, the
Israelis feel persecuted when they are denied the
right to persecute.
The Israelis face a fundamental dilemma that
can't be resolved even by a Palestinian state:
Israel would cease to exist if it gave Arabs equal
rights within its own boundaries. It keeps the deck
demographically stacked by according every Jew in
the world the "right of return": that is, the right
to claim Israeli citizenship at any time, thus
maximizing the number of Jewish citizens. But it
refuses to accord the same right to Palestinian
refugees abroad, because if they returned to their
homeland they would outnumber and outvote the Jews.
Then Israel would become the Palestinian state. So
Israel can't afford justice. Its "right to exist"
is founded on the exclusion of most natives of the
land it claims, and on discrimination against the
The Palestinians' best bet is not violence,
but peaceful appeals to the Jewish conscience. At
times that conscience may seem to be dormant, and
it will certainly remain dormant as long as the
Jews in Israel and elsewhere have to fear that a
Palestinian majority would take revenge on them.
In all negotiations you have to leave your
adversary a safe and graceful way out. The guiltier
he is, the more he needs assurance of mercy if he
makes concessions. But in their understandable
fury, the Palestinians are making the Jews -- even
the most conscientious Jews -- feel that they make
concessions only at their own risk. The reason
Ariel Sharon won a landslide victory in the recent
elections is that Palestinian violence has turned
many of Israel's doves into hawks.
Many Americans who thought slavery was wrong
were nevertheless afraid of emancipation, because
they feared that the freed slaves would avenge
themselves on whites. That was an understandable
human predicament: Who would do justice if it meant
that his family might be slaughtered as a result?
You won't persuade a man by telling him: "Give us
our freedom, you tyrant, so that we may get even
with you." Perfect love casteth out fear, but fear
can cast out conscience -- even fear of justice.
The Jewish conscience is the Palestinians'
greatest weapon, but they are wasting it by
frightening the Jews to death. The Jews know very
well that the Palestinians regard them, with much
reason, as oppressing conquerors. But the
conquerors can only be conquered by peace. I don't
think this is utopian advice; I think it's hard
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Joe Sobran is the author of HUSTLER: THE CLINTON
LEGACY. His columns are archived at
Copyright (c) 2001 by Griffin Internet Syndicate
(see www.griffnews.com). All rights reserved.