There are not many topics that divide opinion quite like Israel. For any person interested in Middle Eastern politics and history, chances are that they either decry Israel as an ‘apartheid state’, or revere Israel as the ‘only true democracy in the Middle East’.
From Israel’s biblical origins to its involvement in the modern day Arab- Israeli conflict, an abundance of complex issues concern the world’s sole Jewish state.
In many cases, Israel is regarded as a cornerstone in the West’s struggle against radical Islamism, whilst Islamic sympathizers regard it as an outpost of Western colonialism.
That these debates are so polarizing, is largely what makes Israel and the Arab-.Israeli conflict so fascinating.
However, for the most part, supporters of Israel across Europe, America and Australia, hold the moral high ground. There are innumerable reasons for this reality, but I shall attempt to cover some of them.
Contrary to many of Israel’s critics, the nation’s origins do not resemble a settler colonial state.
Much of the immigration into the area (between 1885- 1914), occurred whilst the land of what is today Israel, was under Ottoman rule. But the Ottoman empire was certainly no advocate of Britain or the United States, who are routinely accused of establishing the Israeli colony.
Furthermore, the place of Arab Jews, who were Indigenous to both Israel and the broader Middle East, is often ignored. While the Jews were being persecuted by oppressive Arab regimes during the inter- war and post World War Two years, they fled en masse to Israel. This would hardly make Israel resemble a ‘colonial’ state. Rather, Israel then and throughout its existence, has provided a safe refuge for Jews escaping persecution, amidst an often hostile Middle East and world.
In fairness, much of Israel’s modern day population descends from European Jews. But these Jews came from all types of nations, particularly among Slavic, Eastern European populations. How could such activity amount to an exercise of British colonial aggression?
There are also many grave doubts as to the historical legitimacy of Palestinian statehood. Palestinian advocates often claim that the Israeli’s ‘stole their land’. But beneath these bold assertions, where are the admissions that what today is ‘Palestine’, was under Ottoman rule for several centuries?
Or what of the fact that the territory which today includes Palestine and Israel, was described by Ottoman rulers as ‘Judea’, with no recognition of a ‘Palestinian’ region?
There is also limited recognition of how the Palestinian authority curiously used the definition ascribed by Britain as the territory of their homeland, or how these definitions were changed on multiple occasions.
Likewise, anyone interested in honesty, would have to acknowledge the mass Arab immigration to Palestine which occurred in the period of substantial Jewish immigration (1885- 1914). Still, the descendants of these Arab immigrants are generally regarded as ‘Indigenous’ Palestinians, despite facts suggesting the contrary.
Clearly, the perception that it was white, European settlers who thieved Palestinian land, is an ignorant oversimplification at best, and an outright fabrication at worst.
Despite the fraudulent basis of this argument that forms the basis for Palestine statehood aspirations, Arab claims for a Palestinian state will continue to persist. As for better or worse, Palestinians do perceive to maintain territorial claims in the region, which on face value is reasonable, considering Israel’s position as a legitimate nation- state.
However, the question of Palestinian statehood is another issue in which Israel holds far greater moral sway.
As the basic history of the Arab- Israeli conflict suggests, the past and existing Palestinian leadership has no genuine interest in peace.
Consider the 1947 UN partition of Palestine in which the territories of Palestine and Israel were established as separate, sovereign states. This solution was meant to be the panacea for much of the chaos that had plagued the region for decades.
However, soon after this partition, Arab armies launched attacks on Israel in the 1948 Arab- Israeli war. At this stage, the entire Arab League was so detested at the thought of a Jewish state in the Middle East, they sought its destruction. This pattern of Arab armies seeking to annihilate Israel, was again repeated in 1967 and 1973.
Likewise, the varying intifadas, as well as the terrorist conduct of Islamist groups in Hamas and Hezbollah, demonstrate that the Palestinian leadership remains steadfast in their commitment to destroy Israel. Certainly, Israel has used military force in the Suez crisis, the Lebanese civil war and in other incursions aimed at decimating noppositio.
However, these acts should be largely viewed through the lenses of self- defence, considering both the conduct as well as the genocidal ambitions of Palestinian leadership. Far too many critics oversimplify the occasions when Israel does indeed use military force, and are able to propagandize these events to great effect.
This was evident during Israel’s 2014 incursion into the Gaza strip, in which heavy civilian casualties were touted as evidence of Israeli war crimes. But there are numerous problems with this suggestion.
First, it refuses to acknowledge Hamas’ use of human shields, or that it urged civillians to remain in areas of Israeli bombing. It appears these circumstances were pursued by Hamas, to bolster the global appeal of the Palestinian cause. As Hamas cannot overpower Israel militarily, any attempts to demonize its rival on the world stage and attain soft power, is certainly in the group’s interest and therefore a logical move.
But for what purpose could intentional Israeli targeting of civillians serve? International sanctions and anti- Israeli sentiment make Palestinian civillian deaths damaging to Israel. Considering this reality, the concept of Israeli bombing Palestinian territory indiscriminately is wholly nonsensical.
Likewise, any factual analysis whether pro- Israel or otherwise, would conclude that Israel possesses the greatest weaponry arsenal in the Middle East. So if Israel truly wanted to wipe out the Palestinian people, would this not have occurred already?
Then there are those who profess that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’. This might be true if not for the fact that Israel provides more political rights to Arab Israelis, than what Arabs receive throughout other Middle Eastern countries.
And finally, a common misconception about the Arab- Israeli conflict is that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, is the root cause of ongoing conflict and tension. Once again, this is a woefully misleading claim.
It ignores that in the 2003 Road Map for Peace, the Israeli government actually agreed to ceasing settlement in Palestinian territory. However, for this policy to be enacted, the Palestinians were asked to hold up their side of the bargain: to ‘cease violence and to educate for peace’, and to ‘complete the dismantling of Hamas and other militant groups’. Since the agreement, no such steps have been taken, and in response, Israel has continued settlement in Palestinian territories, to weaken the influence held by Islamist groups.
Furthermore, in 2005, Israel withdrew its forces and presence from the Gaza strip, in a genuine act of goodwill. And how did the Palestinians take to this kind gesture? The people of Gaza elected Hamas, who proceeded to fire countless missiles into Israel, only for Israel to return just 9 years later to dismantle their military infrastructure. So much for the Arab- Israeli ‘peace process’.
As I demonstrated, Israel is on the moral high ground in the vast majority of clashes with its Arab adversary. But this isn’t to claim that Israel is perfect.
Among conservatives, and for Americans most notably within neoconservative ranks of the Republican party, there appears to be an insatiable adoration for the state of Israel.
In some cases, a single word uttered against Israel can be met with fierce and relentless opposition.
And while I am a supporter of Israel, the country is not without negative characteristics either.
Israeli racism towards Palestinians particularly in the occupied territories, can be notorious. There have even been times in which some elements of Israeli society, have openly called for the genocide of Palestinians. My personal interaction with Jews have reaffirmed the existence of this mood among some radical elements within Israel. For a nation founded in the aftermath of a genocide, it is ironic as it is unfortunate that such fringe aspects exist within Israeli society.
And despite the endless praise some give towards Israel, when has the country ever come to Western aid?
Israel did not directly contribute to the wars of Iraq or Afghanistan, and maintains no involvement in the coalition aimed at destroying the Islamic State, despite the generous aid tributes it receives annually. Of course, a presence of Israeli troops in Iraq or Afghanistan would provoke outrage across the Arab world. However, the lack of Israeli support to these conflicts, reflects the realistically modest role that Israel plays for Western interests.
Moreover, the Israeli lobby is regarded to have partially influenced the Iraq war, in encouraging President Bush to dismantle Saddem Hussein. We routinely hear the familiar types of arguments from Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who perenially seeks greater American involvement to combat the threat of a ‘nuclear Iran’. Of course Iran is a rogue state, but one has to ponder whether Netanyahu along with other conservative elements within Israel, ultimately aim for Iran’s regime to be militarily overthrown as occurred in Iraq.
Such action would appear to be in Israel’s best interests, as does much conflict throughout the Middle East. For Israel can continue to uphold absolute military supremacy in the Middle East, so long as its Arab enemies are disunified and embroiled in conflict.
However, this is the point where Western interests and Israeli interests, seem to depart. After the failures of the past decade, it is certainly not in Western interests to provoke further conflict in the Middle East, or to enter hopeless ground wars.
But how should we reconcile these apparently conflicting interests between Israel and the West?
In my opinion, the response should be twofold. America and its allies should maintain that Israel’s survival, in the face of substantial diplomatic pressure, is non- negotiable. If Israel were to collapse, Hamas terrorists would likely seize control of a nation of tremendous nuclear capacity, a terrifying concept for the world.
Intelligence sharing and trade can also be avenues of continuing the Israel- West relationship. Also, America, Australia and all other like- minded countries, should designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, which would serve our own interests in addition to the Israelis. In addition, the United States, Australia and any other countries that still maintain a shred of moral decency, should continue to oppose the biased, inconsistent sanctions at the UN.
But this support shouldn’t equate to a blind and unwavering backing of the Jewish state. Extravagant aid tributes and any involvements that would escalate tensions in the Middle East with Syria or Iran, should be avoided.
However, for the sake of the world’s worst persecuted minority in history and for our own, Western countries should all support, albeit with some moderation, the world’s only Jewish state.