During my student days, I asked my professor of political science, why the media and academia were vilifying Israel, while the coverage of dictatorial Arab and Muslim regimes was understanding and sympathetic? His response was a bland, "We hold Israel to a higher standard."
Pondering my teacher's response, I asked myself whether pillars of a democratic society such as academia and the media are using a fair and moral standard for judging the Arab-Israeli conflict, or is there a hidden prejudice that stems from latent anti-Semitism?
In retrospect, I realized that what began in the 1970s as "holding Israel to a higher standard," on the part of the academic-left, has mushroomed into today's moral relativism. The actions of Hamas terrorists who deliberately aim to murder Israeli women and children are equated with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) response of "surgically" bombing specific terrorist hideouts.
This past January in Gaza, Hamas terrorists used humans as shields — setting themselves and their weaponry up in hospitals and schools — deliberately seeking the incidental death of innocent civilians. There was an absence of condemnation by academia and the press.
Israel, however, was condemned by a large segment of the media and academia in the West for using "excessive force." These moral relativists on campuses and in the media did not regard as "excessive force" the firing of nearly 10,000 rockets by Hamas into Israel's Western Negev worthy of condemnation as "unacceptable by any moral standard." Nor did the Middle East Study Centers in American universities uphold Israel's moral right to self-defense and to protecting its civilian population from indiscriminate bombing.
How can the moral relativism argument be substantiated when suicide bombers who intentionally seek to kill as many innocent Israeli civilians as possible are compared with Israeli retaliation against these Arab-Palestinian terrorist killers? There is no moral relativism between an arsonist and a firefighter.
Academic elites, more than most, should be aware of the political and historical realities in the Middle East. Any unbiased student of history learns that when the Arab armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria waged a war against Israel in June 1967 they did so in order to annihilate the Jewish State — a job that was left unfinished in 1948. To Muslim-Arabs, the very existence of a sovereign Jewish State (a free and successful one to boot), in what they consider dar al-Islam (the domain of Islam), is offensive.
The fact that 5.5 million Jews live in a tiny compact state of less than 8000 square miles, and are facing over 300 million hostile Arabs living on a vast territory that encompasses over 5,000,000 square miles is astonishing enough. Moreover, the Israeli-Jews have managed to develop an ultra modern economy set in an open, free, and democratic society that grants equal rights to its Arab citizens, provides religious freedom to all, and respects everyone's civil and human rights. Seen from the vantage point of academic freedom and tolerant democratic fair-play, wouldn't that alone be a good reason to root for Israel? Not for the academic left, and their liberal colleagues in the media.
Consider the reverse: The Arab-Muslim world (including the Palestinians), with its enormous size and oil resources, is economically underdeveloped (except for the oil sector, which was developed by Westerners), mired in poverty, its people are led by dictators who deny them human and civil rights, religious and ethnic minorities are denied religious freedom and are persecuted, and the rule-of-law does not exist.
While Israeli scientists develop cures to hitherto incurable illnesses, the Arab-Muslim (and the Palestinians in particular) societies have given the world suicide bombers, plane hijackers, intolerant religious fanaticism, beheadings and the degradation of women.
A recent visitor to one of more than 45 U.S. campuses would have encountered "Israel Apartheid Week," and the vilification of Israel and Jews that clearly falls into the category of vicious anti-Semitism. Should that visitor speak with many of the professors occupying academic chairs of Middle Eastern Studies (which have been endowed by Saudi Arabia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, and other undemocratic oppressive Arab regimes), it would be unlikely that they would hear about Arab-Muslim or Palestinian-Arab intolerance, hate for America, Jews, Christians and Israel. They will instead be told that Jihad means "striving in the way of Allah" rather than the forcing of Islam on the infidel Jews and Christians.
The academic left, allied with radical and intolerant Islamists, have imposed terms of behavior such as relativism, multiculturalism, and political correctness in the campuses as well as on the American media (and, to a greater extent, in Europe), which threaten the very foundation of Western society, and especially academic freedom.
Professor Stephen Walt of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and his partner, Political Science Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, wrote a book on the supposed Israeli Lobby that became an accepted conversation item. But why has there not been a conversation about the far more wealthy and powerful Saudi/Arab lobby that has virtual control on the content of Middle Eastern studies? Where is the moral equivalency there?
On campuses and in the media, especially on National Public Radio, one is permitted to vilify Christianity. In Western Civilization courses, the excesses of Christianity are readily raised, but few would dare to take on jihadism and the excesses of Islam — either because of physical intimidation or for fear of being labeled "an Islamophobe and a racist." Ironically, Jews who endured the Nazi Holocaust are labeled as "Nazis" on American campuses by intolerant Muslim fascists and their radical-leftist allies.
The Jews, being a persecuted minority, have also traditionally been the scapegoats in both the Christian and Muslim worlds. That pattern continues on American campuses, except that now, instead of pointing a finger at Jews as individuals, the Jewish State of Israel has become the collective Jew.
Perhaps my political science professor was right in saying that Israel was held to a higher standard — a standard for Jews as a people and now as a nation — that deems they are to be perpetually punished victims — bound for suffering defeat, persecution and humiliation. A Jewish State that asserts itself, is able to defend its people, and is victorious in war, is an anathema to the academic left and the liberal media. For the NPR's and the Walts and Mearsheimers of this world the only proper moral standard for the Jewish State is to be at the mercy of their Arab aggressors.
Joseph Puder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.