Reflecting on Israel, ED Kain writes
Note when Foukara mentions that the only country Al-Jazeera has never been shut-down in is Israel. Perhaps this is another reason we hold them in our esteem–they reflect some of our shared values.
Quite so. This is in fact one of my hobbyhorses when it comes to Israel. When people say that we must support Israel because it is a democratic actor that at least attempts to live up to conventional Western dictates of proper conduct, they are right both in the sense that we should privilege democracy and human rights, and in the fact that Israel remains, for its many failings, head and shoulder above almost all of its neighbors in terms of the kind of conduct and organization we might want to see from any given country. What people who make this claim too often fail to recognize, or to point out, is that it is precisely because of their democratic and enlightened nature that makes Israel an appropriate target for legitimate criticism.
Sharing our values, after all, involves respecting the right to self-governance of the (presently, and for 40 years) dispossessed people of the Palestinian territories, and the preference for just war theory which renders the kind of disproportionate response to Hamas’s terrorism untenable. Participation in the world as one of the enlightened liberal democracies carries with it enormous sacrifice; our literary and philosophical tradition holds that this sacrifice is worth it. It so happens in this particular instance that I and many others think that the surest path to lasting peace and prosperity for Israel is also the best path for defending human rights, as this conflict has become a constant problem for Israeli prosperity. Beyond that self-interest, though, is the at times unfair but simple truth that of those who have the most to give, the most is asked, and that it is precisely Israel’s virtue that compels it to better behavior than it has demonstrated.
One of the many answers to “why do you criticize Israel”, in other words, is that rather than thinking so little of Israel, many of us think so much of it.