The preamble to many pro-Palestinian polemics in the West is: “It’s not about Jews, Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs or Muslims. It’s about fairness.” There are few surprises in the opinions of Palestinians and Israelis about the conflict in Palestine. Ditto for their diasporas and ethnic and religious brothers. The people in these groups mostly line up where you’d expect to find them.
More interesting is the behavior of those who don’t have a dog in that fight — the people who have chosen this issue as the one on which they wish to assert themselves strongly in public. They claim that their sole objective is fairness.
But they are often more overwrought than people who do have a dog in that fight. They are — drum roll — the Fairness Police.
I will not speculate on their motivation. But I will show that their motivation is suspect for three reasons: their focus on the Palestine conflict to the exclusion of other issues; their selective and judgmental view of history; and their irresponsible disregard of the practical consequences of their campaigning — not for peace, but for one side.
In the Western world, among the people who know the history of the twentieth century and follow current events, no one is objective about Jews. Some people try to be fair, but that is very different from being objective. To find objectivity, read Chinese scholars (not affiliated with the government) who specialize in the history of the Jews. You will almost feel as if you’ve entered an alien world. You will never see anything like the pervasively judgmental rhetoric of the Fairness Police. A Chinese scholar would have great difficulty discerning any fairness at all in the actions, rhetoric, or demeanor of the Fairness Police.
Consider the behavior of a Fairness Policeman who is vocal about the Palestine conflict but mostly silent on other issues. There have been more than 15,000,000 preventable AIDS deaths in Africa. Over 1,500,000 people have died in the civil war in Sudan. There have been well over a million deaths due to China’s subjugation of Tibet. The last two Russian invasions of Chechnya have resulted in 160,000 killed. The war between Eritrea and Ethiopia has claimed 70,000 lives. Deaths in Peru because of the Shining Path exceed 70,000. Mugabe’s “land reform” program and initiatives to retain power have claimed over 70,000 lives, including 4,000 cholera deaths. Sri Lankan neutralization of Tamil rebels has claimed 45,000 lives. There have been over 25,000 casualties in the last few years of the India/Pakistan conflict in Kashmir. The Mexican drug wars of the last two years have claimed over 12,000 lives.
The Palestine conflict flares up every few years. In the most recent flare-up, the death toll of both sides in Gaza was less than 2,500.
By any objective measure, the Palestine conflict should have a lower priority than the problems listed here. Yet, for the Fairness Police, it is almost the only priority. Nothing else is on their blinkered radar. Something is very wrong here.
The Fairness Police frequently cite two issues for which they believe Israel should be condemned. First, they say that the founding of Israel should be condemned because of the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians. Let’s put that into historical perspective.
Canada, Australia, the United States, and most nations of Latin America were founded after neutralizing indigenous natives by displacement and/or massacre. Of the nations that were not formed as part of colonial initiatives, most were created after one tribe thoroughly slaughtered, scattered, or otherwise drubbed their rivals into extinction or submission. In this light, the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians is hardly remarkable. To be fair, one should also note that 800,000 Jews lost all their land and possessions in 1948 as they fled for their lives from the Arab nations.
Second, the Fairness Police blame Israel for the failure to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Because the peace talks are secret, there is no way to determine who, if anyone, is to blame for delays. Let’s put this issue into historical perspective. When a war concludes, the victor dictates the brunt of the terms of the peace. The terms don’t reflect which side is “right” or which party has the moral high ground. The terms reflect mostly the relative military and economic might of the two sides. On both these issues, population displacements and peace negotiations, Israel has behaved as have all the other victors of war in history. This may not be right, but that’s the way it has been throughout history.
Yet Israel alone is criticized and vilified for this behavior. Even more striking, Israel’s behavior is never compared to how the Arab side would have acted had it prevailed. It’s not hard to figure this out: just read the genocidal statements of Hamas and Hezbollah.
The Fairness Police make little effort to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. Their preference is defaming Israel. There is little thought of how this is actually going to help Palestinians. They make no distinction between the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people and the personal ambitions of political leaders. They are the ripest fruit of the useful idiot tree, perfect for picking by Middle East demagogues and hate-mongers.
The poster boy for the Fairness Police could be Noam Chomsky. Chomsky dwells on the evil of the U.S. and Israel. He does not acknowledge that all nations are formed out of self-interest and that their governments are the crude instruments of that self-interest. His excuse for this intemperate imbalance is that, as an American, he has a duty to correct bad American behavior.
This rings false. He’s not an overwhelmed ER doctor who must use triage. He’s just a media talking head. He has enough time to place America’s and Israel’s foreign policy in a realistic context. The results of the distortions he promotes are not harmless. His relentless criticism of Israel makes Palestinians feel more aggrieved and confirms to Israelis that the whole world is against them. This makes a peaceful resolution more difficult. It delays the arrival of peace. Is it possible that such an intelligent man is unaware that what he is says, true or not, is exacerbating problems in the volatile Middle East?
But Fairness Policemen like Chomsky are too preoccupied with how they think people should behave to worry about that. They are utopians. And despite their intentions, utopians always make things worse.