We are living in momentous times, with political changes sweeping across the Middle East and Western countries pushing democratic values as the panacea for all human ills. This is deceptive, as actions often contradict the hype.
At the centre of this stands the state of Israel, which alone among nations stands above international law and acts with impunity. The same politicians who condemn the current atrocities in Syria turn a blind eye to Israel's outrages. Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Britain's Foreign Minister Jeremy Browne has "called for an end to the violence in Syria and said that those responsible for the atrocities will be held to account for the crimes they have committed". What about those Israelis who have committed such crimes? Well, the government of which Jeremy Browne is a member changed the law to make it easier for such people to visit Britain; not content with that, and just in case an arrest warrant was able to find its way through the system, his department attached "Special Mission Status" to Tzipi Livni last year to make her visit more comfortable, poor dear.
"A year ago, William Hague, our Foreign Secretary, addressed this Council," said Mr. Browne, "praising its remarkable response to events in the Middle East. He was referring in particular to the Council's actions in response to the crisis in Libya. Today we are facing a different crisis in the region, this time in Syria, where the Commission of Inquiry mandated by this Council has concluded that crimes against humanity have been committed by Syrian forces."
Note that Syria is a different crisis; not another crisis, but a different crisis. The only difference I can see is that Syria doesn't have any oil, so when we hear Jeremy Browne telling the UN that "We have read with horror of the ongoing human rights violations committed by the regime – of thousands of civilians killed, of small children targeted by government snipers, of hospitals transformed into torture centres, and of executions carried out in places of worship" we have to ask if the British government thinks the people of Libya were suffering more horrifically than this. The Syrians won't see NATO missiles coming to their aid, though: "… the British Government has strongly supported the League of Arab States' call for the Syrian government to cease all violence and protect its population." Now there's a threat for you.
Before we could utter "lucrative contracts", NATO was bombing Libya. Western interests obviously took priority; the only Western interest in Syria is to keep the place boiling long enough to allow Israel to cement yet more "facts on the ground" in its colonisation of the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. While the world's media focuses on events in Syria, they pay scant attention to Israel's daily human rights abuses.
There is clear evidence of such double standards and ulterior motives which bear little relation to human rights and democratic values, and not just in the Middle East: the Observer reported that while "David Cameron… hosted an international conference on Somalia, pledging more aid, financial help and measures to tackle terrorism…" there had been "a surprise visit by the foreign secretary, William Hague, to Mogadishu, the Somali capital, where he talked about 'the beginnings of an opportunity" to rebuild the country." You guessed it: "away from the public focus of last week's summit, talks are going on between British officials and Somali counterparts over exploiting oil reserves that have been explored in the arid north-eastern region of the country."
Supporters of Israel ask why critics focus on Israel when there are so many other bad things taking place in the region. "Far more people are being killed in Syria than in the occupied Palestinian territories," suggested one Israeli politician recently, as if that made Israel's actions acceptable.
Israelis just don't get it. Last week a spokesman for the Consulate-General of Israel in New York used the letters page of the New York Times to counter an Op-Ed piece by Mustafa Barghouti. The latter, bemoaned Shahar Azani, did not "mention that Israel has been trying for a long time to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table". All peace-loving Israel wants is for the Palestinians to say "Yes" in order to "choose a path of collaboration to find a true and lasting peace between neighbours". The amazing thing – apart from the fact that a newspaper like the NYT gave the guy valuable publicity – is that this man was serious.
"Only if we use the language of peace and dialogue will we be able to create an atmosphere of trust," he continued. "While the Palestinians have tried terrorism, and subsequently attended peace conferences, they have not uttered the single most important word: yes." Mr. Azani must have been taking lessons from stand-up comedian Jackie Mason during his stay in New York.
"The Palestinian Authority has yet to say yes to Israel, yes to peace and yes to living side by side with the Jewish state. Israel's outstretched arms extend until the day the Palestinians say, Yes, we are ready to join our neighbour Israel in taking the difficult step toward peace." Oh, stop it. I can't take any more… but more there is: "Organising people to protest is much easier than organising people to make compromises for peace, a compromise that both sides must make."
What compromises Israel is prepared to make, Azani does not tell us. It can't be anything to do with illegal settlements being built and expanded by Israel at an alarming rate; it can't be an end to discriminatory laws and policies not only against Palestinians in the occupied territories but also Israel's own non-Jewish citizens; it can't be in house demolitions which the Israelis not only carry out but also charge the house-owner for the privilege; it can't be in the expropriation of ever more Palestinian land through the apartheid Wall. And if all of that is "the language of peace and dialogue" sufficient "to create an atmosphere of trust" then I'd like to see what an aggressive military occupation looks like.
The reality of the state of Israel is very different to the picture that its spokesmen and apologists would like us to believe. Thus, in the past week alone Israeli police and soldiers have protected illegal Jewish settlers who stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque and defiled the sanctity of that holy place (but it was Palestinians who were arrested); the security services have turned a blind eye to heavily-armed settlers' violence against Palestinian civilians and their property; and they've ignored settlers' attacks on mosques and churches across the occupied West Bank.
"Why Israel" is a question which we should be addressing to our politicians. Why do they offer unconditional support to a state which ignores UN resolutions, breaks international law and commits war crimes and crimes against humanity? Israel continues to treat our world with contempt with the full blessing and support of London and Washington (and Berlin and Paris). It can't just be because of the Holocaust, because that particular obscenity took place long after Zionists were being indulged by Europe and America, so what is it about Israel that makes otherwise reasonable politicians go weak at the knees and brain and do what they are bidden by powerful lobbyists?
That shameless letter published by the New York Times is just one of many examples of the smoke and mirrors tactics used by the Israel Lobby to pull the wool over the world's eyes. It's such a reasonable state, they cry; the Palestinians won't even say "Yes".
Britain's Jeremy Browne told the UN Human Rights Council that he "would like to emphasise the UK's own commitment to strengthen human rights, both domestically and internationally" and yet when it comes to Israel and Palestinian rights our government fails miserably. It plays along with the charade that Israel is the victim in all of this; meanwhile, the real victims are punished for standing up for what the rest of us would claim are their democratic rights and branded as "terrorists".
I think that it is safe for us to take Minister Jeremy Browne's claim that Britain "will continue to play an active and forthright role in international institutions that promote and protect human rights" with a very large pinch of salt. He doesn't mean it; David Cameron doesn't mean it; William Hague doesn't mean it. Their words and actions are out of sync and they believe that they can fool us all and get away with it. The problem is, as far as most of us are concerned, they're right. The Israeli elephant in the corner is the new WMD; a weapon of mass deception that poses a real and present danger to us all. We continue to indulge it at our peril.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.