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Ear to the Ground

Israel’s Waning Stock of Sympathy

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Posted on Aug 2, 2014

Photo by Yarden Sachs (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Operation Protective Edge has resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians in recent weeks, compared with 56 Israeli soldiers and four civilians. It’s long past time for Israel to consider a two-state solution, stop the creeping encroachment of the occupation, and end a blockade that “ensures that ever more Palestinians grow up angry,” The Economist writes. The alternative is the continued loss of international support and the goodwill of younger generations worldwide.

The magazine states:

[A]s the occupation of Palestinian territory has dragged on, sympathy has seeped away. In a poll published in June, before the destruction of Gaza, the citizens of 23 countries put the balance of those who think Israel is a good or bad influence on the world at minus 26%, ranking it below Russia and above only North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. A growing number of Europeans call Israel racist (with the sinister flourish that Israelis, of all people, should know better). And even in America, where a solid majority backs Israel, the share that thinks its actions against the Palestinians are unjustified has risen since 2002 by five percentage points, to 39%. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, Israel is backed by just a quarter.

Many Israelis, and their most fervent supporters in Congress, see today’s hostility as the culmination of a long process of demonisation, double standards and delegitimisation. They have a point. Holding a country to high standards, as Israel’s critics do, can be a compliment—yet against Israel, morality is often used as a cudgel. The common slur that Israel is an apartheid state ignores the fact that Israel’s minorities, such as the Druze, Arabs and Bahais, are protected by the country’s independent courts—including the highest, which has a sitting Arab Israeli judge. The “BDS” campaign to impose boycotts, encourage divestment and introduce sanctions calls not just for an end to the occupation of the West Bank and for equal rights, but also for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees—in other words, for the erosion of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Protests in France against the fighting in Gaza led to attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses.

No wonder that many Israelis feel that the world is against them, and believe that criticism of Israel is often a mask for antipathy towards Jews. But they would be wrong to ignore it entirely. That is partly because public opinion matters. For a trading nation built on the idea of liberty, delegitimisation is, in the words of an Israeli think-tank, “a strategic threat”. But it is also because some of the foreign criticism is right.

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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