I’ve been going back and forth with Breitbart.com’s Joel Pollak for hours. This is just one of the threads.
But here is the crux of the matter:
I think that Pollak is wrong to say that the Obama administration is anti-Israel. I also think he’s wrong to say that allowing the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to speak about Israel to the Security Council indicates support for that meeting (which is what Pollack wrote in a piece on this subject).
It’s wrong-headed to think that the U.S. needs to agree with everything that Israel does and it’s wrong-headed to think that the U.S. needs to prevent anyone from saying anything negative about Israel. That’s not what it means to be an ally, even a very close ally, and that’s not how the relationship between the U.S. and Israel ought to be measured.
What Pollak seems to believe is that the only way to demonstrate friendship is to agree with every choice your friends make (even if your friends are doing stupid or irresponsible things) and to silence anyone who disagrees with those choices.
But this isn’t friendship. This is a sort of blindness that one most often sees in the earliest stages of infatuation: “My lover can do no wrong and I’ll ignore anyone who points out any flaw with her.”
What Pollak would have us believe is that anyone who would criticize Israel on human rights is simply making up a lot of nonsense in order to push an agenda at the Security Council. But we all know that Israel has human rights problems. Its government is actively expelling people from war-torn countries in the wake of straightforwardly racist demonstrations; its soldiers routinely use violence against non-violent protesters; its miliatry engages in assassination and uses disproportionate force that endangers civilian populations; its Palestinian prisoners are in an almost constant state of self-imposed hunger as a means of protest; its settler population is armed and unwilling to live peacefully with Palestinian neighbors on land that has been on the negotiating table for twenty years; and the list goes on.
What Pollak seems to need from the Obama administration — in order to prove its pro-Israel bona fides — is full-throated condemnation of anything critical that anyone says about Israel. The use of the veto on the Palestinian statehood bid was insufficient, as was the use of the veto on a resolution about Israel’s settlements. Indeed, for Pollak, the failure to veto this meeting on Israel’s human rights record demonstrates the administration’s true feelings of enmity toward Israel.
To my mind, what it demonstrates is that the administration is willing to play the political game that Russia, China, France, and the UK are all playing. In order to hold the meeting on Syria that several of these governments would like to hold, there will also have to be a meeting about Israel. For Pollak, this means that the U.S. is willing to sell out its ally. But we all know that’s not true, not when it matters. What the U.S. is hoping is that the same isn’t true with regard to Russia and Syria.
What I mean is that while this meeting about Israel will have no consequences at all — because the U.S. has already made abundantly clear, through the use of the veto, that it won’t allow any consequences — the meeting on Syria might have some consequences if Russia’s commitment to Syria wavers or can be made to waver.
One final thing: If the U.S. and Israel don’t want anyone to say anything bad about Israel, then they’re going to be forever out of luck. No country is immune to criticism. But one way to deflect criticism is to do better, to give honest critics less to complain about. Every country in the world, Israel included, can do better with regard to human rights. Attempting to silence the critics is a much less effective strategy than simply giving them fewer things to say.