Stop Treating Arabs Like Animals
by Dan Illouz
Their decisions should have consequences.
In the first chapter of the Bible, the Torah teaches us that God decided to create a human, who was to be “in his image”. And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.”
The Sforno comments on this verse, explaining that one of the unique features of humans, which differentiates them from both animals and angels, is their free will. Only two beings have free choice: God and humans. The Sforno goes on to explain that while God’s choices are always the right ones, humans can make both good and wrong choices.
Maimonides, commenting on the idea (in both Hilchot Tshuva of the Mishnei Torah and in Shmona Perakim), writes that the recognition of free choice is the basis for justice in this world. If there was no free choice, how could God punish someone for his wrongdoing? How could someone be rewarded for acting positively? Only with free choice can justice exist. Once free choice exists, justice dictates that one be punished for his wrongdoing and rewarded for his good actions.
Over the past few years, I have noticed liberals – who claim to be fighting for universal human rights – remove all humanity from Palestinians. In the name of human rights, humanism, etc., these individuals support a world-view which clearly sets a double standard between the way Palestinians are treated and the way the rest of the world is treated. This double standard can be explained by many different factors, including contempt for the enemies of the Palestinians, but it also shows a deep discrimination against the Palestinians. It can only be explained as a particularly warped and twisted form of racism. What is truly worrying is that this world-view has now reached the White House, with President Barack Obama continuously pressuring Israel into racist policies towards the Palestinians.
Did I say “racist policies”? Yes. Let me explain.
In 1947, a partition plan for the Land of Israel was proposed. Jews accepted it, Arabs refused it. At the end of the Independence War, Jews had established the State of Israel. Let us ignore the fact that if the real reason for the current conflict was the lack of a Palestinian state, then the Arabs had plenty of time to build a Palestinian state until 1967; instead, let us focus on the fact that any rational person would understand that after the Arabs refused the partition plan and instead attacked Israel, they lost their right to complain after losing the war. However, for some reason, “liberals” think we should give Palestinians a second chance.
Why not make Arabs responsible for the consequences of their decisions? Should they not be treated according to the principles of justice appropriate for human beings?
In 1967, the Arabs once again attacked Israel. This time, Israel liberated its historic capital city and regained territory which it did not gain in 1948. All of this happened in a defensive war. Judea, the heartland of ancient Israel, was under Jewish control and was not Judenrein anymore. Jews were finally allowed to live anywhere they wished in the Land of Israel. After the war, there should not have been any question as to the legitimate claim of Israel to the lands it liberated. Not only were these lands liberated in a defensive war, they were also historically tied to the Jewish people.
Still, looking down on Arabs and not trusting that they have the same capacity for judgement as the rest of the world, the nations seemed to say, “It’s not their fault. They made a mistake by attacking you, but it’s not their fault. They are Arab.” This racist perspective seems to be at the root of the view which suggests Israel should unilaterally and immediately return to the borders of 1967. If Arabs were treated like human beings, as they should be, then their decisions would have consequences; and when they decide to attack Israel, they should also bear the consequences of such a decision.
The same story went on and on – the failed attempt in Oslo and Camp David were based on a similar world-view. The criticism Israel received during its latest military action in Gaza was clearly based on such a world-view. After years and years of Arab incitement against Israel and rockets on Israeli towns, when Israel finally defended itself, the whole world started asking Israel to stop. Are the Palestinians not human? Should they not be responsible for their actions? Can anyone truly say that if another country fired rockets at America, they would not expect America to defend itself? Why treat Palestinians differently? Why this discrimination against them?
And now Obama, since his presidency started, focuses solely on the settlement issue, defining it as the main cause of the conflict. He seems to ignore that Arabs attacked Israel before settlements existed. He seems to ignore that every Arab leader still wants all of Israel to be Arab and not Jewish (either in one or two states, but for sure Arab). He seems to forget that the Palestinians have shown absolutely no willingness for peace – never ever. Obama seems to hold the same view that seems to say: “I don’t expect much of the Palestinians. I mean, after all, they are Palestinians. Let me focus on Israel.” This is, once again, clear discrimination and racism.
Of course, one of the grave consequences of such a perspective is that the Palestinians get their hopes up, looking forward to a peace which is imaginary (because of the actions of the Arab countries) and are then completely devastated when the peace doesn’t come. Obviously, this leads to rebellion and violence. They are human, after all.
I, on the other hand, refuse to be a racist. I refuse to use double standards. I refuse to treat the Arabs in a different way than I would treat others. I refuse to expect less. When the Arab countries attack Israel, I will demand a strong response. When the Palestinians send rockets, I will want those who send rockets to be rooted out. When the Arabs refuse to cooperate towards peace, I will work towards solutions which ensure Israel’s continue security, rather than demand constant Israeli concessions because “we shouldn’t expect anything more from Arabs”.
I am not a racist, and I will refuse to abide by this new form of racism, which is labeled by some “liberalism”. True liberalism treats everyone equally. True liberalism believes everyone is human and capable of rational choice. I will never treat Palestinians like animals.
It is not always easy to have freedom of choice – you can choose right and you can choose wrong. Then, you are responsible for your actions. Still, even if it is not easy, it is what makes us human. Stop treating Palestinians as if they are incapable of making choices and being responsible for the consequences of those choices. Stop treating Palestinians like animals.
Sivan 18, 5769 / 10 June 09