by Jim Trageser
American Reporter Correspondent
June 16, 2002
U.S.A. 2, Mexico 0
World Cup Soccer
ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- The recent embrace of the Palestinian cause among progressives in the West is not only a complete reversal of the Left's traditional support for Israel, but also displays a patronizing attitude - better known as racism - toward the Palestinians themselves.
The West's racism toward the Arabs (like most Jews, a Semitic people) isn't defined by the scattered attacks against mosques and Islamic community centers in Europe and the Americas. Those seem to be the sad work of isolated rednecks - the same kind of idiots who formerly confined themselves to bombing black churches or defacing synagogues.
Meanwhile, racism toward Jews is grounded in centuries of European arrogance. However, while Jews were often hated in Europe for being different - dismissed as the perennial Outsider right up through the Nazi regime - today Jews may be hated by Arabs for being too much like us. Israel so resembles the Western democracies that we demand behavior from it what we never ask of its non-Western neighbors.
An outsider? In today's world of Western self-loathing, traditional anti-Semitism arises from the perception that Jews representing us as a sort of super Westerner.
But the deep-seated nature of our hatred of the Arabs is evident in those who claim to speak on their behalf and most loudly and vociferously defend them and their causes.
Evidence of this can be found both in the Kiplingesque paternalism of the Left toward the Arabs, and in the fact that it is only Arabs living under Israeli rule or occupation who are defended.
This smug patronization was most evident when conservative Israeli politician (now prime minister) Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, a shrine revered by both Jews and Muslims wehose ownership is hotly disputed. When anti-Israeli mobs took to the streets of the West Bank and Gaza and quickly resorted to violence, their apologists in the West tried to explain this away this by saying that Sharon had "provoked" them with his visit. A United Nations resolution even condemned not those who were rioting, but Sharon - the first time an individual has been condemned by the U.N. for freely expressing her or his religious beliefs, albeit in order to win an election.
But the U.N.'s resolution damaged the Arabs it was backing more than Sharon. By refusing to hold Arabs to prevailing norms of acceptable behavior, by making weak excuses for violence, and by arguing that Arabs cannot control themselves when "provoked," the U.N. perpetuates a Eurocentric and inherently racist view that Arabs are children, to be protected and punished as we see fit, but hardly our equals.
There is an ugly double standard at work here: Arabs can be "provoked" but Israelis cannot Why? Well, the Israelis are European, so we expect a more civilized behavior. In reality, both are children. So are we all.
'Roaring Silence' from the Left
Of course, when it comes to juding the Middle East by Western standards, civil rights and representative government, the Israelis do behave better - to the enormous shame of the vast majority of Arabs, who do, after all, live under Arab rule.
For the truth is this: Nearly every Arab being denied her or his most basic civil liberties sees those rights crushed under the jackboot not of Israel, but of their fellow Arabs.
Outside of Bahrain, no Arab citizen except the self-named Arab Israelis exercises a free vote for her or his leaders. No Arab living in the Middle East has a legal right to openly question her leaders - except the Arab Israelis. And no Arab living in an Arab-ruled country has the basic right to convert from Islam to the religion of her choosing - unlike two million Arab citizens of Israel, many of whom are Catholics. At the same time, admittedly, no non-Jew can ever lead Israel, or hold a position of real power in the Cabinet or Knesset.
Yet where is the Left's protest of the Arab nations' abysmal record on human rights? Of their systematic repression of political dissent and religious freedom? Of their - if we're to be honest here - fascism? Why should we judge Arabs when they crush democratic movements in Saudi Arabia or Iraq differently than we judge Israel when they crush Palestinian refugee camps?
The Left's response is a roaring silence.
Even the Palestinians - those Arabs living in non-Israeli territory presently occupied by Israel; i.e., the West Bank and Gaza Strip - are not granted the courtesy of a demand for the most basic civil rights we accept as a matter of course in our nations: the right to vote, to protest, to freely choose one's own religion.
Instead of democracy and freedom, all we offer the Palestinians is non-Jews to rule them.
The moral collapse of the Western Left has come to the point where we are now projecting our own domestic fixation with race onto the rest of the world. In this world view, the Palestinians don't need democracy and freedom - they simply need oppressors of their own ethnicity.
Why Aren't the Protesters Out in Force?
We saw the same situation during the 1980s and '90s in the West's attitude toward Africa. There were numerous highly-organized, well-funded, and very visible campaigns to end minority white rule in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. The inherently insupportable system of apartheid was regularly decried on college campuses across the United States and Europe, and shareholder meetings of Western corporations routinely turned into referenda on apartheid, with pressure to divest from white-ruled South Africa.
But once white rule was overthrown (peaceably in South Africa, less so in Rhodesia), Western interest in African affairs disappeared. While South Africa has managed to stick to a representative form of government that manages to serve its people's interests, however imperfectly, it is a rare exception on that troubled continent.
Where are the protests against the brutality and political repression in Zimbabwe today? In Congo? Rwanda?
We simply don't care. If blacks are being oppressed by blacks, we assume that must be how they like things. Or we assure ourselves that it's none of our business, that the blacks should sort it out themselves, that our own racist history somehow precludes us from doing anything to stop black leaders from oppressing black citizens.
It is a sadly deluded form of racism, but it is just as virulent and harmful to the hundreds of millions of Africans without basic civil rights as the more overt racism of apartheid.
We see the same reaction in the West toward the Middle East today. What we find offensive isn't jsut Israel's denial of basic civil rights to Arabs in the occupied lands, but Jews controllingf Arabs. This is made patently clear by our deadly silence in the face of Arabs being denied basic human rights throughout the Arab world - in many cases, even more brutally than the Palestinians. When Arab leaders brutalize Arab citizens, we find no cause for concern. It is only when Jews brutalize Arabs that we manage to find our moral outrage and speak out.
Such a world view is clearly designed not to further the cause of justice for the Palestinian or Arab peoples, but to assuage Western consciences.
Should Israel pull out of the occupied territories, leaving the Palestinians to their own affairs, will we hear any protests against the right-wing dictators of the Palestinian Authority?
We can idealistically hope so. But a quick glance at the West's indifference to the plight of Arabs already being repressed by their fellow Arabs - and their blind eye toward Israel's simple immaturity - doesn't offer much in the way of realistic expectation.
Jim Trageser is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.