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March 11, 2010

An Answer to the Question of "Vastly Different Approaches"

Walter Russell Mead

As we noted in an early Snapshots blog post, Danny Seaman wonders "why ... the media adopt such vastly different approaches" when reporting on Israel, as compared to the rest of the conflict-filled world.

Walter Russell Mead has similar questions about the world's treatment of Israel. In his blog at The American Interest Online, Mead writes that he is "genuinely puzzled why people who in other contexts have quite interesting things to say manage to trip up in such foolish and self-defeating ways when the I-word comes up."

But he seems to have some theories.

I am always nervous around people who stridently insist that racism has disappeared in mainstream American life and only lingers on in weirdo subcultures; I feel the same way about people who say that anti-Semitism is no longer a significant feature of western culture. I am especially leery when people who loudly and implausibly assert that anti-Semitism isn’t a problem anymore make harsh and unbalanced criticisms about the world’s only Jewish state.

I’m not trying to grade the incommensurable suffering of people around the world, but if we compare the attention and care that the international community has extended to the Palestinians with our attention and support for other victims in other places, a disturbing pattern emerges. Whatever the wrongs of Israel’s occupation policy — and I agree that there are some — the Palestinians, especially in the West Bank but even in Gaza, live much better than many people in the world whose suffering attracts far less world attention — and whose oppressors get far less criticism. I would much rather be a Palestinian, even in Gaza, than a member of a minority tribe in the hills of Myanmar, or almost anyone in the Eastern Congo or Darfur. Millions of children in Pakistan and Indonesia have less food security, less educational opportunity and less access to health services than Palestinians who benefit from UN services (to which the United States is historically the largest single contributor) that poor people in other countries can only dream of.

The disproportionate reactions to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians constitutes a genuine scandal and pretty much proves that anti-Semitism did not die when Hitler shot himself underneath Berlin. Russia treats its Chechens much worse than Israel treats its Arabs yet there are plenty of self righteous German leftists who want to disinvest from Israel but favor closer relations with Putin’s Russia.

Mead has promised a series of posts about the issue, and more specifically about mythologizing on the "Israel Lobby," and is delivering.

Posted by GI at March 11, 2010 11:55 AM


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