The Elephant in the Room

Gabriel A. Goldberg, M.A.

Gabriel A. Goldberg, M.A.

– Why fiction about Israel is converted into truth

The people of Israel have a God ordained destiny in the land of Israel. They also have a divinely ordained law to treat fairly the “stranger” who joins the nation. After all, the Jew was also a stranger in Egypt (Exod. 22:21).

One of every two Europeans, however, believes Israel is committing genocide–a war of extermination–against the Palestinians. Many believe Israel is an apartheid state. With all the evidence to the contrary, why would seemingly ra-
tional people believe such pernicious lies?

A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Bielefeld, Germany, found that about 50 percent of Germans believe Israel is behaving towards the Palestinians as the Nazis behaved towards the Jews. Projecting Nazi-like crimes onto the Jewish state may provide therapeutic benefit for some Germans, but this toxic view of Israel is, in fact, widespread throughout Europe. Surveys in Switzerland, Norway and other European countries reveal similar opinions at comparable levels.

“Genocide” means a purposeful decimation of a people. The Holocaust, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, the Hutus’ massacre of the Tutsis in Rwanda, and Muslim Sudanese atrocities against Christians have one obvious thing in common: Mass deaths–by the hundreds of thousands or by the millions. Deaths by direct killing or by contrived conditions causing starvation and the like.

Yet, according to the United Nations’ own statistics, the Palestinian-Arab population grows year after year. That’s hardly a case for genocide.

Fiction is refuted by facts

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has formulated an index, HDI, to measure quality of life for 187 countries and UN-recognized territories. The index is a composite of various aspects, including health (life expectancy), education, income, technological development and other factors. Among the countries ranked is “Palestine (State of)” (sic). The 2013 Human Development Report notes that Palestinian life expectancy has increased by over 10 years since 1980.


The life expectancy rate in the European Union is about 80 years. In the USA, it is 79. South Africa, under 50. Egypt, 73. Palestinian life expectancy in Gaza and the “West Bank” is 75 (!) years, equal to the life expectancy of a black person in the USA. How, then, is Palestinian life expectancy at all comparable to that of, say, a Jew in Europe under Nazi occupation? Or a Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994?

The UN report likewise notes yearly improvements for the Palestinians in the other areas of life quality, too. In fact, if just the Arab states are considered, the Palestinians have an above-average HDI rate. So where is the evidence of genocide?

We have dealt with the apartheid accusation against Israel several times in HASHIVAH. I will only summarize the salient points to lay bare the absurdity of the accusation. On page five is a list of Arabs’ rights in Israel. This is a short list, but the point is made. Even the charge of cultural genocide is clearly false.

Israel is not at all like South Africa, the paradigm of apartheid (separateness), where whites and blacks were segregated and blacks did not possess basic rights and freedoms. In fact, Arabs have more rights in Israel than they do in Arab countries.

The anti-Israel campaign spreads

Still the lie of apartheid persists. The Israel Apartheid Week campaign–to disseminate information about Israel’s alleged racist crimes against the Palestinians and to promote boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)–was initiated by Arab students at the University of Toronto in 2005. It has since become an annual event at universities around the world. Student unions at several Canadian universities have approved resolutions urging university divestment from Israel.

Though the American public remains decidedly pro-Israel, the scene on university campuses is less so, with several left-leaning student and academic associations endorsing boycotts of Israeli universities and academicians. On a positive note, the chancellors and presidents of a hundred US universities recently rejected academic boycotts and the hypocrisy of singling out Israel.

Churches join the chorus

The United Church of Canada has endorsed a boycott of Israeli goods, as has the United Methodist Church in the USA. The Presby-terian Church USA, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopalian and Lutheran denominations have all adopted or considered boycotts and divestment. US Pen-tecostal churches are also being targeted by pro-boycott activists within their movement. Church of England leadership has advocated a boycott of Israel. The Methodist Conference in the UK is considering a boycott. Australian, Norwegian, Swedish mainstream church leaders have called for boycotts, as have some German Lutheran leaders. The German branch of Catholic NGO Pax Christi has likewise endorsed a boycott.

– Palestinian-Arab Rights in Israel today

This is Israel:

  • Arabs can vote
  • Arabs are citizens
  • Arabs, some of whom are openly hostile to the State of Israel, are members of the parliament, the Knesset
  • Arabs are members of the cabinet
  • There are “Arab” political parties
  • Arabs sit as judges on district courts and the Supreme Court
  • Arabs attend the same universities as Jews
  • Arabs are treated at the same hospitals as Jews
  • Organ transplants are given Arabs as well as Jews
  • Arabs are doctors and nurses at those same hospitals
  • Arabs have access to the same shopping centers, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, theaters, parks, beaches and other leisure sites as Jews
  • There are Arabic newspapers
  • Arabic and Hebrew are official languages
  • Arab culture, history and language are taught in school
  • Islam is freely and openly practiced
  • Islamic holy, historical and archeological sites are preserved

Some businesses are fleeing Israel

The constant delegitimization and demonization of Israel as an illegal, racist occupier has had its results. Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German railway company, pulled out of its involvement with the Jerusalem to Tel Aviv high-speed rail project. The British-Danish security company G4S has declared its intention not to renew contracts with Israel when they expire. Dutch companies Vitens and Royal HaskoningDHV cancelled Israeli contracts. Dutch investment firm PGGM, sounding a moral tone, has decided to divest from several Israeli banks due to their activities in the “settlements.”

The EU has demanded the labeling of products from Israeli “settlements” as coming specifically from occupied territories and not from Israel. More recently, the EU decided that no EU funds, scholarships or grants should be used to support any Israeli enterprises or activities (academic, business or other) over the “Green Line” in so-called Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. British Prime Minister David Cameron has signaled intent to intensify action against Israeli “settlements.”

These actions are directed against Israel ostensibly out of concern for international law and human rights. In truth, however, they are not the reason.

Humanitarian crises conveniently ignored

The longest ongoing military occupation today is that of Tibet by China. Since it invaded in 1950, China has killed as many as a million Tibetans (by some estimates more). About 150,000 Tibetan refugees have escaped on foot via the Himalayas. Almost all Tibetan temples and monasteries, some 6,000, were destroyed. Millions of ethnic Han Chinese have been settled in Tibet to overwhelm the native population. In apartheid fashion, top administrative positions in Tibet are only given to Han Chinese.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and occupied one-third of the country. Thirty-five thousand Turkish soldiers continue to occupy northern Cyprus. Roughly 140,000 Greek Cypriots were expelled and over 100,000 Anatolian Turks were brought in as settlers. Over 500 Greek Orthodox churches were destroyed. Fifty-five were turned into mosques.

Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since 1975.

Why don’t these same church leaders, student unions, politicians, elitist intellectuals, businesses and others clamor for a boycott of China, Turkey or Morocco?

Of course, in today’s uncertain economic times, no one in his right mind would boycott China, cutting off access to the world’s largest market as well as the cheap labor it offers. Economics trumps caritas. The bottom line is the Dollar, the Euro and the Pound Sterling, not humanitarian concern and international legality. Or how else can one explain that although Dutch PGGM now avoids Israel, it continues to invest in Chinese banks and oil-exploration businesses that are active in Chinese-occupied Tibet?

In direct contradiction to its stated policy on Israel, the EU offers funds and grants to Turkish enterprises and individuals in occupied northern Cyprus. Morocco? The EU has recently signed trade agreements with Morocco that include the region of occupied Western Sahara.

Israel, whose legal claim to Samaria and Judea (and Gaza) and right to build settlements there are backed by international law (ratified by the League of Nations and the UN), is singled out for punitive action. Meanwhile, those who have indeed invaded foreign territory and overwhelmed indigenous populations with settlers are allowed to continue their illegal occupations with little of the acrimony heaped upon Israel and without economic penalties. That’s a double standard.

Australian FM and Canadian PM mince no words

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop calls the Israel boycotters “hypocritical beyond belief.” One might expect at least clergy who are familiar with the New Testament’s leitmotifs to avoid such obvious hypocrisy. Let’s be perfectly clear: These activists are not acting out of concern over human suffering. Were they concerned, they would have called for mass demonstrations over the 130,000 mostly civilian deaths in Syria in the last three years, more even than in the over 60 years of the Arab-Israel conflict. Blockaded by Syrian government troops, children in rebel-held areas are dying today of starvation. Where are the humanitarian flotillas? You’d think these faultfinders would protest the demise of Christianity throughout the Islamic world due to violent persecution. Have they ever considered a tourism boycott of Egypt or Turkey?

When only Jews, or in this case the Jewish state, are targeted for special punitive action, what is that called? When special EU rules and laws are enacted selectively, targeting only the Jewish state, what is that called? That big elephant in the room is anti-Semitism, yes, that “A” word.

Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper says: “This is the face of the new anti-Semitism. It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation.”

Why does the Oxford Union debating society consider it legitimate to debate whether Israel has a right to exist or not? It has never debated Jordan’s right or Great Britain’s or, for that matter, any other state’s right. Why does the German regional newspaper, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, editorialize that Israel should not be the “Jewish” state? Perhaps it is news to the Neue OZ editors, but Israel has been the “Jewish state” since 1948. Why does Swedish editor Per Jönsson compare the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Hitler? The only nation in the Middle East threatened unabashedly with genocidal war by its enemies since its creation is Israel, and today by al-Qaeda, Fatah, Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran.

History repeats itself

A view of a Jewish-run shop in Germany, after being vandalized by Nazis and covered with anti-Semitic graffiti, on Nov. 10, 1938.

A view of a Jewish-run shop in Germany, after being vandalized by Nazis and covered with anti-Semitic graffiti, on Nov. 10, 1938.

All of a sudden, “Don’t buy from Israel (the Jewish state)” sounds a lot like the slogan, “Don’t buy from Jews” of the 1930s. All of a sudden, EU rules on Israeli settlements remind us of laws previously enacted in Nuremberg. No, not quite the crude anti-Semitism of the Third Reich, but with the same intent to disenfranchise Jews from their rightful home, and definitely with similar racial, religious selectivity. Of course, they won’t say “Jews,” but “Israel” has the same effect.

Critics of Israel wave off accusations of anti-Semitism claiming that criticism of Israeli policy is not synonymous with anti-Semitism. Fair enough. As we have seen, however, the mainstream public discourse on Israel has long ago abandoned rational-ity and reached the absurd. Fed by the excessive criticism of Israel in the mostly leftist press, many Europeans are today unable to define genocide and apartheid correctly, but they do know who they hate. The singular, hyper-focus on Israel betrays the deniers of anti-Semitism.

Not all 200 million Europeans who believe the outrageous lies about Israel are vicious, boorish anti-Semites. Neither were all Germans members of the Nazi party. But the masses who went along with the propaganda and party policy were dutiful followers. After 80 years, little has changed. Democracy, education, Western values and spiritual vocation are no hindrance to bigotry. French author Emile Zola’s clarion call rings truer than ever, J’accuse . . .! Jews are again being unfairly indicted; they have become the world’s whipping boy once more.

Bible-believing friends of Zion have a 2,500-year-old obligation to raise their voices declaring the truth about Israel: “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it on the distant islands and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and guard him as a shepherd does his flock” (Jer. 31:10). We have seen how lies about Israel have become the norm in the world today. It is not too late for you, dear reader, to pray, but also to act.