Maajid Nawaz (I hadn’t realized that he was only 38) is, as most of you know, a former Islamist extremist and now an Islamic moderate who runs the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation. And he’s a brave man. I don’t know if he has bodyguards, but given his calls for moderation in Islam and his vigorous condemnations of Muslim oppression, he would seem to be in danger. (He regularly gets death threats.) His latest piece at The Daily Beast, “Why did Obama pander to the UN’s stunning anti-Israel bias?“, isn’t going to make him any more friends, for it’s largely pro-Israel.
Although Nawaz is against Israel’s building of settlements and in favor of a two-state solution, he’s an even stronger critic of despotic Arab regimes, and pulls no punches about it—or about the bigotry of low expectations that concentrates in Israel while ignoring the far greater oppression in many other lands. First, his position:
In truth, I believe Israeli settlements to be illegal under international law, built on occupied land, and that Netanyahu has been uncooperative while in office, and that a two-state solution is not only still possible, but is the only viable option for solving this conflict. Yet still I maintain that Resolution 2334 was an amateur, emotional move by liberal dogmatists that will only aid the Israeli right.
(See Malgorzata’s recent post on the risible UN Resolution here; she disagrees with Nawaz about the illegality of settlements and the intransigence of Bibi.)
As I don’t want to brain much today (it’s my damn birthday!), and you can read the piece for yourself, I’ll give just a few excerpts about the bigotry of low expectations, and the “whatabouttery” gambit:
Opposing Israel is The One Ring that binds us all. It is the sacred god that must not be questioned. So deep runs this bias against Israeli transgressions, that to call it out is to arouse immediately incredulity and ad hominem abuse.
The Security Council could not even bring itself to adopt the simplest of resolutions calling for a seven-day ceasefire to halt the tragedy of Aleppo. Yet when it came to pushing through a final year-end condemnation of Israel, the Security Council suddenly mustered the will to act.
(Nawaz loves Lord of the Rings analogies!) He goes on about the hyprocrisy:
On Wednesday, Secretary Kerry reinforced the view that the two-state solution “is now in jeopardy… The result is that policies of this [Israeli] government… are leading towards one state.”
This is simply false. The fact that this sentiment is even expressed betrays the deep bigotry of low expectations held in the West toward Arabs and Palestinians.
Settlements are illegal. But why is it that Israel is expected to integrate—and does a reasonable job of including—the 20 percent of its population that is Arab, yet a Jewish presence of 500,000 settlers in any future Palestinian state is deemed “an obstacle” to the two state solution? Are Palestinians assumed to be ethno-fascists? Are they not capable of building a multiethnic state just like Israelis? Is this how low the standard is to which Western leftists hold Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims?
In fact, there are eight million people in Israel, so Arabs constitute 1.6 million of them, many of them Israeli citizens with full voting rights. There are Israeli Arabs sitting in the Knesset. Yet Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said that if there were a two-state solution and Palestine absorbed the West Bank, every single Israeli Jewish settler (but not Arabs) would be expelled from that area. Is that fair?
And then, taking a big risk, Nawaz goes after the Arab states:
. . .there is not a single crime that Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stand accused of that an Arab totalitarian despot or absolute monarch has not committed manifold times and on a daily basis. From torture and occupation, to proxy wars in foreign countries, to treating non-citizens—including Palestinians—as second class, to a lack of democracy, Arab despots top it all.
Look at Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his coup in Egypt, the chaos in Libya, even the Taliban, Lashkar al-Tayyiba, al-Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIS, sexual enslavement, beheadings, child soldiers, and the use of chemical weapons—the reality of the greater Middle East lies bare for us all to see. Yet as America’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power noted, this year the UN passed more resolutions against Israel than these other problems combined.
I simply can’t comprehend that but have some explanations at the bottom.
And Nawaz’s ending:
. . . I maintain that Resolution 2334 was an amateur, emotional move by liberal dogmatists that will only aid the Israeli right.
There is nothing unique about the Israel conflict deserving such disproportionate attention. Baluchistan, Kurdistan, Cyprus, Kashmir, and Taiwan are but a few other disputed territories not fetishized like Palestine is at the UN and in our media. All of these disputes involve deep religious, historic, and political meaning for their respective parties.
Only the overwhelming narcissism of our Abrahamic faiths – including those among us who define themselves against them—would deem the religious and historic significance of the “Holy Lands” to mean anything more than other lost holy lands for Buddhists in Tibet, or Sikhs in Khalistan, which was lost to Pakistan a year before Israel’s creation. Only by releasing the “exceptional status” pressure from this conflict, by stripping it of its religious hyperbole, by removing it from the spotlight, by simply placing it on a par with every and any other conflict in the world—tragic but not unique—do we stand a better chance of solving it, because the stakes are lowered and the frothing prophets of doom, with their Armageddon pathology, are taken out of the equation. Let us call this “Israeli unexceptionalism.”
I remain unaware of a single Middle East pundit not tied to Obama’s State department who holds that the outgoing president has done a good job in the Middle East. Obama cut a deal with Iran and conditionally lifted sanctions, while the Iranians, Hezbollah and Russian President Vladimir Putin aided Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he used crude chemical bombs and massively destructive weapons against his own people. And just as Obama’s inaction allowed others to act in Syria, his inaction at the UN set the tone once again, this time reaffirming the notion that Israel is the region’s biggest problem. That is despicable. It is inexcusable. And I could remain silent no more.
Our actions in Syria, or rather failure to act against a state that bombed hospitals and used chemical weapons against its own people, was reprehensible. And yes, both Kerry and Obama’s actions of late have been despicable, singling out Israel while tacitly supporting far more egregious actions by Arab states. I hate to say this, as I use the words rarely, but I see the concentration of the UN’s opprobrium—and the Left’s opprobrium—on Israel, as a form of anti-Semitism. Is there another explanation for considering Israel an “apartheid state” (a misnomer if ever there was one), while remaining silent on the crimes and oppression in places like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia? And if it’s not anti-Semitism, it’s still a form of bigotry—a bigotry that excuses bad behavior by Muslims because they’re seen as “people of color.”