Being ‘pro’ one side needn’t make you ‘anti’ the other

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SFI - taking sides

You get attacked for being blindly pro-Israel just for objective analysis. The pro-Palestinian lobby expends so much emotion that a cool presentation of the reality on the ground is called bias, at least in Britain and Europe.

Nick Gray –

Is there another international situation that raises as much raw, visceral emotion, even at the highest levels, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

It doesn’t matter if your world is religious, secular, left, right, or a blend of all or some of the former, a mention of either the word “Israel” or the word “Palestine” seems to cause a suspension of reality and release a blizzard of emotive statements, assertions and accusations that have absolutely no foundation in reality at all.

If I applaud an Israeli company for employing poor Palestinians and giving them a decent wage, behold I am “pro-Israel”. In fact, I am also being thoroughly “pro-Palestinian”.

If I suggest that Israel built her security barrier more tightly around Bethlehem than my sock is on my foot, to the detriment of innocent Palestinian businesses, I run the risk of being labelled anti-Semitic. In fact I haven’t a shred of anti-Semitism in me.

Commentators who venture onto the choppy waters of Israeli-Palestinian politics and peace processes must make sure they do not adopt the sloppy and often rabid ramblings of the NGOs with their fingers in that same pie. And the best defence against veering in that direction is a solid armoury of facts – something that seems to have gone missing from the discussion.

After a number of years of visiting the region, and studying and writing about the Israel-Palestinian issue, a few things have become evident (to me, at least).

The first is that Western NGOs and campaigners have adopted (what somewhat stereotypically put could be described as) the colourful, usually exaggerated speaking style of a section of the Middlea Eastern mindset. This is all about not checking facts, emotion, passion and, having said whatever you said, not losing face by backing down later.

Unfortunately, passion and emotion in the context of Israel and the Palestinians has caused too many cats to be let out of various bags. And, as we know, getting cats back into bags is nigh impossible.

The second thing I’ve noticed is that, although we Westerners are said to use rational mental processes when addressing difficult issues, we blindly accept everything we are told without checking for any resemblance of reality.

This becomes self-evident when a Palestinian leader tells the Western media, in English, that he wants peace with Israel. We nod and smile and applaud the Palestinians for wanting only a peaceful agreement with Israel. But when the same leader says the opposite in Arabic to his own people, selective deafness seems to set in.

Furthermore, many people (including Western governments) hear what they want to hear and, as a result, blank out repeated evidence that the Palestinian leadership is actively inciting their people and their children to hate both Jews and the state of Israel.

The rational, objective reality is that the Palestinian leaders are not showing any evidence that they genuinely want peace with Israel or the Jewish people – and never have done. But anyone who points this out is immediately labeled “pro-Israel”, and generally denigrated accordingly.

Thirdly, I’ve noticed that I am not allowed to be both “pro-Palestinian” and “pro-Israel”. You have to put me in a box, because the two protagonists’ positions appear so unalterably opposed to each other that it is impossible to be both. Frankly, that’s rubbish.

Why? Because we are talking here about people, their lives and their families. Most Israelis and Palestinians actually just want to earn a living, feed their families and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Contrary to the received wisdom, many will actually get on with one another, trade with one another, and, given the chance, talk to one another.

To be “pro-people” is to want the best for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Insisting on being “pro” one side or the other means that you automatically treat one side with greater favour than the other. The assumption is that if I am labeled “pro-Israel” I must therefore be “anti-Palestinian” and vice versa.

Read any literature from the NGOs and campaigners who claim to support the Palestinian cause and you quickly find that not a good word can ever be said about Israel (the only Middle East state that is a liberal democracy, has complete religious freedom, excellent records on women’s and gay rights, free speech and offers free medical care to her enemies).

Taking this to an extreme, no criticism of the pro-Palestinian position is allowed in public debate and it is a recorded fact that a number of Israeli or Jewish speakers have been shouted down in university venues or not even allowed to speak at all.

The factually-inaccurate claims of “apartheid”, “racist state” and all the rest go on, duly and loyally amplified by Western NGOs and politicians. Facts: who needs them? One-time sufferers under South African apartheid exonerating Israel from any shred of the same carry no weight at all; what matters is the continued pursuit of the idea that Israel is a pariah state, to be vilified ad nauseam.

Corruption in the Palestinian leadership? Paying terrorists salaries from foreign aid? Suppression of free speech in the Palestinian-ruled areas? Incitement to hatred of Israel? All deemed politically incorrect, almost taboo subject, and thus totally out of court in any debate or discussion on the conflict.

I have written several times in The Commentator that it does NGOs and campaigners no good to buy into deceptive language and false claims from history. Worst of all, it does no favours to the Palestinians themselves.

Instead of wailing at “pro-Israel” entities, they should be campaigning for real issues that affect Palestinians’ lives: corruption, human rights abuse, freedom of expression, a free media, religious freedom, etc.

The Commentator has been lambasted in the not-too-distant past for being blindly pro-Israel. It is not; it simply makes space for objective reporting and analysis and rational presentation of reality and facts. Let’s face it, the pro-Palestinian lobby expounds so much that is mere rhetoric and emotion that a cool presentation of the reality on the ground immediately appears to have a pro-Israel bias.

If they were truly pro-Palestinian and not just anti-Israel we could all sit down for a sensible debate about real, lasting answers that could help the lives of ordinary Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Oh, maybe I’m pro-Palestinian after all!

Nick Gray is Director, Christian Middle East Watch, a British organisation dedicated to objective and factual discussion of Middle Eastern issues, especially of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nick, who is a regular contributor to The Commentator, blogs at