| Does anyone ever wonder why the Palestinians, alone
among peoples without a state, have their own seat at the UN (an organization
that spends almost a quarter of its time fighting on their behalf)?
does the Palestinian refugee problem have its own international organization
(UNWRA) with annual budget of $350 million, while every other refugee in the
world (almost twenty million at last count) are lumped together in the "other"
category, supported by the United Nationals High Commission for Refugees
Why is Palestinian statehood one of the planet's top foreign
policy goals, yet independence of for Kurds, Tibetans and Basques has been
permanently removed from the international agenda? Why is Palestinian suffering
on the West Bank being debated in universities, cities, towns and churches
unendingly as Sudanese bury two million people unlamented?
other nations (including the Kurds and Sudanese) have suffered over the years
(often at the hands of those who denounce Israel the loudest), it's impossible
to make the case that Palestinian suffering is the greatest in the world and
thus deserves the most attention. However, there is one key difference between
the Palestinians and every other group whose similar yearnings for a land to
call home are routinely ignored.
At last count, there were not 22
Tibetan nations, or 22 Basque nations, or 22 Kurdish nations, much less 22 such
countries that control half of the world's oil reserves. However, there are 22
Arab countries that have pumped enough resources out of the ground to keep the
Palestinian issue on the front burner forever (resources that are also useful
in buying Arab human rights abuses off the international agenda).
at in economic terms; the prominence of the Palestinian "struggle" makes
perfect sense. It's simply another example of the rich and powerful getting
what they want.
Given this reality, the pose of most of Israel's
critics as "speaking truth to power" seems particularly ludicrous. How can the
divest-from-Israel movement simultaneously be "silenced, stilled voices" and
also be allied with the goals of dozens of oil-rich potentates, and all of the
friends in oil-company boardrooms, foreign-ministries and UN agencies that
money can buy?
This is where the rhetoric of human rights comes in so
handy. By wrapping an anti-Israel propaganda project in a smothering blanket of
human-rights vocabulary, critics of Israel get the best of both worlds: the
ability to ally themselves with wealth and power, while posing as battling for
the underprivileged, embracing Goliath while claiming to be Gandhi.
There are occasions when wealth and power are harnessed to admirable,
even moral purposes, so there is no necessary reason that the
divest-from-Israel groups should be embarrassed by its alignment with the goals
of rich, powerful countries. At the same time, the pretence of being a voice in
the wilderness would seem a little less absurd if they did not own a megaphone
provided by the oil industry.