The View From Here | Israel at 70


Very little agitates me more than when a double standard is manifestly applied, whether in politics, in social relations, in the workplace — you name it.

As a strong believer in social justice, I maintain that we should be treated equally before the law. That’s why I applaud those who took to the streets April 10 for Equal Pay Day, demanding that women — who on average earn 78 cents for every dollar that men in similar positions do — receive equal pay for equal work.

It’s also why, 70 years after it declared its independence and then faced down an onslaught of Arab armies united in pursuit of its destruction, I continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself. The right of self-defense is enshrined in international law, guaranteed to every nation in the protection of its borders and society. Every nation, that is, but Israel.

At least, that’s the takeaway from such protesters as the estimated four dozen who disturbed patrons of The Philadelphia Orchestra last week. They want the orchestra to cancel its upcoming tour of the Jewish state and instead back the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

They say that Israel’s crime lies in “its policies of occupation and apartheid,” i.e., its treatment of the Palestinians, and they drew special inspiration from the deaths of “innocent” Palestinians who in spite of warnings from Israeli troops, stormed the fence separating Hamas-controlled Gaza from Israel.

Read between the lines, however, and you’ll see that what they’re actually doing is criticizing Israel for behaving as any state would when faced with ongoing violent incursions and attempted incursions by terrorists.

The orchestra, to its credit, is not backing down. Its interim co-president, Ryan Fleur, pointed out to The Philadelphia Inquirer that the tour is not political. Neither were its tours last year of Mongolia and China, a noted abuser of human rights. Did the protesters raising a stink about the Israel trip amass outside the Kimmel Center last summer to harangue China? Absolutely not.

The fact is the worst double standard of all is applied by so many when they talk about the Jewish homeland: The Palestinians have the right to violently agitate for a state of their own, but Israel must be shackled in its attempts to protect its citizens.

You can see the same process at work in how many news organizations have recently covered the probable gassing by Syrian leader Bashar Assad of his own citizens, giving equal billing to the international furor over the civilian casualties and an unrelated suspected strike by Israel on a joint Syrian-Iranian military installation. NPR News even reported Tuesday that both the Syrian gassing and the Israeli strike “threatened to escalate” the violence in the region. To even link the two, much less equate them, is disgusting.

Most won’t say it — and with all sincerity will vehemently deny it — but the reason why Israel gets singled out on the world stage has more to do with its Jewish character than anything else. It is not inherently anti-Semitic to criticize Israel, but it smacks of anti-Semitism to demand perfection from it when that demand is not placed on any other nation in the world.

To the protesters, I say you’re better off forming a picket line to castigate Myanmar, or Cuba, Venezuela or Russia, for ongoing and systemic human rights violations than choosing to put Israel in the crosshairs for defending its borders.

To the orchestra, I say thank you for standing up for cultural exchange.

And to everyone else, I invite you to join me in wishing Israel a very happy birthday. It most certainly deserves our support.

Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at [email protected]


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