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The Only Nation That Can
Do No Wrong

By Jim Taylor

05 January, 2009

Four years ago, on December 26, the day after Christmas, a massive tsunami hit the shores of the Indian Ocean. a

This year, on December 26, a different kind of tsunami hit the shores of the Mediterranean Sea – a tsunami of bombs and missiles. On that day, according to the Jerusalem Post, Israel sent at least 100 fighter jets and helicopters, over 200 bombs and missiles, to destroy more than 170 targets in the tiny coastal strip known as Gaza, home to about 1.5 million Palestinians.

I must admit, this is a column I didn’t want to write. I’ve already lived through one experience of being targeted by those who believe Israel can do no wrong. Indeed, all through this last week, I listened hungrily to news reports hoping that some other disaster would surface that I could write about instead. It didn’t happen.

Why is it that every government in the world is fair game for critical comment – except one? Call China ruthless; describe Zimbabwe as a madhouse governed by a lunatic; ridicule the intellectual shortcomings of George W. Bush – and that’s a legitimate exercise of free speech.

But criticize Israel, and it’s racism.

So let me state this clearly – Jews have a right to live in peace, anywhere in the world. And the rest of the world has a responsibility to ensure that Jews are not persecuted, discriminated against, or otherwise penalized because of their race or religion.

But the same principle must also apply to any other race or culture -- Baha’i, Tutsi, Basque, First Nations, Albanian, Irish, Ukrainian...

Yes, even Palestinian.

There’s the rub. Because the rights that European and North American nations demand for Jews do not seem to extend to Palestinians. Or perhaps more accurately, in a perversion of the Golden Rule, the western world looks the other way when the nation of Israel does unto others as others have done unto them.

Consider a historical example. When Germany invaded Poland, in 1939, the Jews of Warsaw were driven into a ghetto. The Jews defended themselves bravely. Resistance warriors battled both the German army and the SS, before being wiped out by overwhelming might.

Their heroic defence inspired Leon Uris’s best-selling novel, Mila 18, and Richard Addinsell’s moving Warsaw Concerto.

The saga of the Warsaw ghetto bears striking parallels to the defence of Masada, some 19 centuries earlier. There too a small band of resisters refused to surrender to a dominant force, and perished in their defiance.

Why then is there not an outpouring of sympathy for the Palestinians of Gaza? They too are trapped in a ghetto, squeezed between the sea on one side and hostile forces on the other, their economy throttled, their children starving...

Does resistance merit praise only if Jews do it?

Yes, Israeli lives are threatened by Palestinian attacks. And Israel has a right to defend its citizens.

But the Palestinian rockets are little more than home-made nuisances, mere slingshots compared to Israel’s F-18 fighters, tanks, and bunker-busting bombs, supplied mainly by the U.S.

In the past, an average of ten Palestinians have died for every Israeli death; in this attack on Gaza, the rate has risen to over 100 to one.

Even the tactical merit of Israel’s retaliation is questionable.

The Six-Days War of 1967 certainly enhanced Israeli security – although at a horrendous cost to Palestinians driven from their homes into refugee camps. Jewish settlers on the eastern shores of Galilee no longer had to dive into underground bunkers to escape bullets fired from the Golan Heights looming above them.

But two invasions of Lebanon achieved nothing but massive casualties.

Israel’s attacks are intended to crush the spirit of Palestinian resistance.

By a bitter irony, Israel launched its attacks on Gaza on the seventh day of Hannukah – the festival of lights that commemorates the Maccabean rebellion some 160 years before the first Christmas.

The biblical books of Maccabees – considered canonical in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches -- chronicle a brief Jewish overthrow of oppression. A Syrian emperor tried to force Jews to betray their historic traditions – their faith, their law, their political independence, their property rights.

Maccabees is not pleasant reading. The second book tells of a man voluntarily giving up his life rather than giving in. And of a mother exhorting her seven sons not to yield to Syrian demands – even as they had their tongues torn out, their heads scalped, their bodies fried or skinned alive...

Today’s Palestinians find themselves unwillingly playing the role of the Maccabean victims, refusing to surrender, regardless of their losses.

As the Jerusalem Post noted, “This is crazy. Israel is the superpower of the Middle East, but we still think we’re the Jews of Europe in the 1930s, or the Israelites under Pharoah...”

I don’t expect rational arguments to change Israel’s policies. People who feel threatened do not react rationally when facing threats.

I expect that my comments will outrage many among the B’nai Brith, the Jewish Defence League, and among those evangelical Christians who take literally the Bible’s assertion that God specifically donated the lands west of the Jordan River to a chosen people, regardless of who else might already be living there.

But I do not see those as valid reasons for withholding criticism. Israel has done, and is doing, an injustice to the people who once called the region their homeland.

At the very least, the Palestinians of Gaza deserve to receive humanitarian aid without conditions. They do not deserve to be blamed for bringing disaster upon themselves, by harassing the only nation that can do no wrong.

Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist. His column appears Sundays. He can be reached at

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