HOW ISRAEL HAS BENEFITED FROM AN INTERNATIONAL DOUBLE STANDARD (IS THERE A NEW “NEW ANTI-SEMITISM”? PART 8) by Norman G. Finkelstein
Far from singling Israel out for criticism, the international community has repeatedly turned a blind eye to its breaches of international law.
The superficially most compelling case for a lurking new anti-Semitism is the comparative one. It is said that the world is replete with worse cases of oppression and repression; if the international community focuses “obsessively” on Israel, it must be due to an anti-Jewish bias. During the apartheid era, South Africa also alleged that it was being unfairly singled out. The African continent, its defenders parried (with a measure of truth), was dotted with one-party dictatorships, while South African blacks fared better economically than many of their counterparts elsewhere. In significant circles Israel has replaced South Africa as the defining moral issue of our time, and the identical charge of a double standard is now being leveled by it. Indeed, Israel is widely accused of practicing apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories (and, according to some, in Israel itself), while the popular movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel casts itself as the lineal successor of the anti-apartheid sanctions campaign.
As it happens, the South Africa and Palestine struggles bear much in common. The South African cause was initially spearheaded by the African continent, where apartheid constituted a personal affront to every black person and was perceived as a running sore from the humiliating era of Western colonialism. The Palestine cause was initially spearheaded by the Arab world, where Zionist dispossession of the indigenous population deeply resonated and Israel’s founding was also perceived as a festering wound from the imperialist epoch. Neither the South African nor the Palestinian struggle fell into the generic pattern of decolonization—they weren’t overseas non-self-governing territories seeking independence from a metropolitan state—but both were eventually assimilated to the anticolonial paradigm and came to be championed internationally as exemplary of it.