lördag 25 april 2009

The true scandal is in the EU delegates’ silence around Israel’s racist policies

The true scandal is in the EU delegates’ silence around Israel’s racist policies by Dror Feiler (translation from Swedish by Chritopher Pastor)

Today, April 21st or on the 27th of Nisan (according to the Jewish Calendar) is the official Holocaust and Bravery Day, to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and the Warzaw Ghetto Uprising. Therefore, today I am obviously thinking of my, many family members who were murdered during the Holocaust in Poland and Germany
So it is understandable that it is completely unacceptable to me that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making untrue statements about the Holocaust. This must, of course, be condemned. The statement about wiping Israel off the map (if that is what he actually said) should also be condemned. On the other hand, we can, and we have the right and should, criticize the policies and actions of other states, and demand reforms or constitutional amendments from them if we find it necessary. However, the desire to wipe them out is totally unacceptable.
It was hardly surprising that Ahmadinejad succeeded in provoking the EU and the US by condemning Israel, calling it a racist state, causing the EU delegates to leave in anger. Since you shouldn’t use the conference as a forum for attacks and division, as the UN Secretary General so “correctly” put it, or since no one should attempt to kidnap the conference for political attacks, as a UN spokeswoman expressed it.
But can we all, who claim to advocate democracy and free speech, completely unconditionally accept the agreement that the EU and others made “that if anyone says this (i.e. that Israel is a racist regime), then we will leave”, as the head of Sweden’s UN delegation explained it to Svenska Dagbladet?
In other words, is using the word racist taboo when talking about a country like Israel at the UN conference on racism? Or, what does Israel need to do (that it doesn’t already do) to make it clear beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt that its policies, and its laws and applications of them, are racist? Israel was not even allowed to be mentioned in the final document. Anyone who followed the developments around the so-called ”Durban 2” knows that, following intense pressure from the EU, the draft final declaration has been revised down, from 45 pages to 17 pages in which all references to Israel or the Middle East have been deleted. And despite that, both Israel and the United States still chose to boycott the conference, along with several other nations.
It can be deduced, then, that the reactions are not only, as one might have thought, about Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s tarnished statement. He “only” violated a taboo. And that is a significantly more worrisome, provocative and intriguing topic of discussion than are Ahmadinejad’s “scandalous statements”.
Because, what else can we call a nation whose policies make crucial differences between people, based on religion and ethnicity? What should we call a state under whose laws everyone is not equal? What should we call the practice of granting exclusive land-purchasing rights to Jewish citizens (approximately 90 percent of the country’s land is not available for purchase to the country’s non-Jewish citizens, solely because they are not Jewish)? What should we call laws that allow Jewish citizens to marry foreign nationals and live together in Israel while that same thing is forbidden for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, solely based on their ethnicity?
A lot can be said about Iran’s President Mahomoud Ahmadinejad; he both exaggerates and lies. But is it really a huge scandal to describe Israel as a racist country? Is it such an immense scandal that all of Europe’s representation goes ballistic? Isn’t it a greater “scandal” that Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies are allowed to continue year in and year out? Isn’t it a greater “scandal” that, on top of that, Israel’s illegal settlement policy continues in the occupied territories, since 1967? Isn’t it a greater “scandal” that Israel is allowed to defy countless U.N. resolutions, and to violate international law and Geneva Conventions without any action from the international community? And, perhaps the worst scandal of them all right now: that Gaza’s population of 1.5 million is still boycotted, isolated, without any chance of obtaining building materials it needs for the reconstruction of what Israel demolished during its latest attack on Gaza. A “scandal” so immense that words cannot possibly describe it. Because, tell me, which words will make it through the eye of the needle when it comes to Israel? Which words are we allowed to use to describe Israeli policy, without making Israel look bad? Is it even possible?
On the other hand, talking about a tragedy is always welcome. It doesn’t require anything of us, since we use that same term when speaking of natural disasters and Greek tragedies, which no one could possibly prevent. And yet, we all commiserate deeply with the Palestinians. We are, after all, humanists.
This painful, drawn-out erosion of the principle of everyone’s equal worth, that goes on, year in and year out, is demoralizing and devastating to the entire global community. An erosion that results in the international community boycotting Gaza’s people, the oppressed, the occupied and the weak, while the most powerful leaders, at an international conference, so obviously and loyally demonstrate the consistency and power behind their words, when it comes to sparing Israel. But not when it comes to protecting the tormented people of Gaza. When will we hear such unambiguous, plain language being directed at the state that, according to our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, committed “massive war crimes” last winter? Because how else can we continue believing in our language, the words we have available to us, the words our politicians use? And what signals are we sending, in the example above, to Gaza’s continuingly isolated, injured and punished people and the rest of the third-world population?
When will Europe grow up, and realize its total responsibility for “the scandal”, the “tragedy”, yes, all of these failures that can be described in different words? And for which two peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians are paying a price that’s far too high. Is there a limit? Not even all of the victims from this past winter have changed anything, basically. So therefore, let me confess my sins: I’m having some difficulty in sharing the West’s outrage over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements.


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