Reading the Washington Post's coverage of the upheaval in the Arab world one day this week, I did a little "thought experiment."
Looking at pages A10 and A11, I read the following headlines:
• Mob Assaults Women at Rights March in Cairo
• Police Fire on Demonstrators in Yemen
My thought experiment, scarcely at Einstein's level, consisted simply of substituting the scene of each of these stories to Israel and trying to imagine the result.
• Mob Assaults Palestinian Women at Rights March in Jerusalem
• Police Fire of Palestinian Demonstrators in Israel
Judging by the international outrage last June when nine protesters were killed aboard a Turkish ship trying to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza, the response would have electric. No doubt there would have been an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council. The U.N.'s Human Rights Council, on which Libya proudly sat as a member until a couple of weeks ago, would have immediately launched an international investigation which would have stretched on for several months, maybe even years, keeping the issue alive. (Syria is now actively lobbying for the Syrian seat just to make sure that the voice of human rights violators is not weakened on the council.)
NGOs around the world would have issued angry statements. Various groups would have called for Israel to be condemned, isolated, boycotted, and disinvested from. Legal bodies in several countries would have issued indictments and the International Criminal Court would have quickly become involved.
There's nothing new about Israel being held to a double standard by the international community. As columnist David Suissa wrote recently:
"From 2009-2010, the U.N. General Assembly passed 22 resolutions that were "one-sided or blatantly anti-Israel," and of their 10 emergency sessions, six were about Israel. No emergency sessions were held on the Rwandan genocide, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia or the two decades of atrocities in Sudan."
Recent events in the Arab world just underline this bias. Just last week, clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Cairo left 13 dead and 140 injured. Army units intervened only after Muslims set fire to homes and businesses. It was a real pogrom.
"The people attacked us and the army was helping them. The army was among those who shot at us," Massoud Younan Abde Mach, a 47-year-old Christian who works as a garbage collector told the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper went on to say:
"Egypt's Coptic Christians, about 12% of the population, have long been subject to discrimination. No church can be built or repaired without a presidential decree. Copts have also been targeted in a recent series of attacks, including the New Year's Day bombing of a church in Alexandria that killed 25 worshipers."
Where's the outrage -- where are the Security Council resolutions, the calls to disinvest, the international condemnations?
Let's do my thought experiment again and change the headline to, "13 killed in clashes between Christians and Jews in Jerusalem." Can you imagine the response?
Canada's National Post reports this week: "Nick Day, the rector of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, has taken it upon himself to declare Israel guilty of 'genocide'."
Day is quoted as saying that Israel's treatment of Palestinians represents "perhaps the biggest human rights tragedy of my generation." Really? Not the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994 or the carnage in Darfur or in Congo, where since 1998, 5.4 million civilians have been killed by war-related violence, hunger and disease -- or even what's going on now in Libya?
Strange kind of genocide when the Palestinian population in the territories is growing at 2.9% a year, and where life expectancy is 72 for men and 75 for women -- pretty much the same as in neighboring Jordan.
Some of us may remember what happened in Jenin in 2002, when Israeli troops entered a refugee camp that has served as the launch pad for numerous suicide bombing attacks in Israel. Rumors spread that hundreds, perhaps thousands of civilians were killed. A headline in the Times of London read: "The Camp of Death," conjuring up a clear association with Nazi death camps like Auschwitz. U.N. special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen virtually accused Israel of war crimes.
The truth was far different. Subsequent investigations found no evidence to substantiate claims of a massacre. Only around 52 Palestinian, mostly gunmen, as well as 23 IDF soldiers, were killed in the fighting. The Israelis had taken extraordinary precautions to prevent civilian death -- but Israel was still condemned around the world. Nine years after the terrorist gangs were rooted out, Jenin boasts a new shopping mall and cinema, unemployment is down and Palestinians and Israelis cooperate on counter terrorism.
Today, we see an Arab dictator in Libya deploying all the forces under his control against his own people without any restraint whatsoever. And what are the champions of human rights around the world doing? Boycotting Israeli shoes and cosmetics and planning their next assault against Israel in the United Nations.