There are other reasons, however, for the double standard directed at Israel. One is what the liberal Israeli philosopher and peace activist Avishai Margalit has termed “moral racism.” The bloodlust of an African or Asian people is not taken as seriously that of a European – or other white – people. After all, some might say (and many more might think ), what can one expect from savages? They don’t know any better.
This is, of course, a deeply colonial sentiment, and the legacy of colonialism works against Israel in another way, too. As was true of apartheid-era South Africa, Israel reminds people of the sins of Western imperialism. Israel is regarded in the Middle East, as well as by many people in the West, as a colony led by white people
Israel is still a democracy, and as such should not be judged by the same standards as dictatorships.
If some critics of Israel refuse to treat it as a normal country, however, the same is true of some of Israel’s staunchest defenders. Special pleading for Israel as a nation of victims – the natural heirs of the targets of Nazi mass murder – is another way to apply a double standard.
Israel as a nation of victims is, in fact, contrary to its founders’ creed. They wanted to create a new nation, a normal nation, a nation of good Jewish soldiers and farmers, different from the powerless Jews who fell victim to European persecution. It was only later, starting perhaps with the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1961, that the Holocaust became a staple of state propaganda. Later still, under such leaders as Menachem Begin, military enterprises were justified by references to the Nazi genocide.
That all Jews, including Israeli Jews, should remain haunted by a horrible past is understandable. But it must never be used to justify aggression against others. Israel is an immensely powerful country – freer, richer and better armed than all of its neighbors. Holding its leaders to account for their actions is essential, not only to protect Palestinians from brutality, but to preserve the freedom of Israelis. Allowing the past to cloud our critical faculties undermines Israeli democracy, and will have further dangerous consequences in the future.