Apr 2003 Journal

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Proportionate response (editorial)

The phrase proportionality of response, which is much bandied about these days, connotes that if one party to a conflict uses a certain class of weapons, the other ought not to raise the ante by retaliating with more advanced – and therefore more devastating – armaments.

Thus, when Israeli soldiers used rubber-coated bullets to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian youths, the IDF was widely accused of a disproportionate response – and this sort of criticism has exponentially increased since.

Among Israel’s most influential UK critics are the left-of-centre broadsheets The Guardian and The Independent. In his anti-Sharon zeal, the Guardian editor notoriously drew an analogy between the armed Israeli incursion into Jenin and al-Qa’ida’s attack on the twin towers. Over at the Independent, the cartoonist Dave Brown is an equally vehement scourge of the Jewish state. His cartoon of a naked, baby-eating Sharon, published on the eve of the Israeli elections (and on Holocaust Memorial Day), stung both the Israeli Embassy and the Board of Deputies into strongly-worded public protests.

In reply, the offending cartoonist contended that he merely meant to produce a topical variation on Goya’s flesh-creeping painting Saturn Devouring One of His Sons. Persuasively seconded by Gerald Kaufman MP, he refuted the charge of antisemitism, although the image of the Israeli leader devouring babies chimes eerily with the age-old blood libel, according to which Jews bake Passover matzos in the blood of slain Christian children.

Since Britain, unlike Continental Europe, has not witnessed a modern recrudescence of the medieval blood libel, Dave Brown could probably enter a plea of ignorance in the wholly hypothetical event of the case coming to court. No mitigating circumstances, however, can absolve him of the charge of disproportionality. Thanks to his cartoons (and Robert Fisk’s dispatches), Independent readers, if asked to name the single individual who most gravely threatens the peace of the Middle East, would undoubtedly say Israel’s Sharon – and not one of those Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Saddam of Iraq, Assad of Syria, Khatami of Iran, and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

In the sheer number of their individual victims – not to mention their denial of human rights – they are all villains of a far deeper die than Sharon. Each of the four, moreover, finances Palestinian terror organisations which specifically target Israeli children on school buses and in discotheques. And why does the double-dealing Arafat, who is perfidy incarnate and the virtual instigator of Sharon’s political resurrection, not receive commensurately savage treatment from Dave Brown?

What about the monstrous Robert Mugabe, who threatens to starve an astronomically larger number of his own subjects than Sharon’s tally of Palestinian civilian casualties? And isn’t what Putin did to Grozny far worse than the ‘massacre’ of Jenin, which cost 57 civilian lives? Not to mention nuclear-armed Kim Yong Il, who has turned North Korea into a stage set for Orwell’s 1984.

The reason why these miscreants receive less harsh treatment from the cartoonist probably lies in a mixture of double standards and ignorance. Double standards means that a Third World dictator is less harshly judged than a First World one. After all, Mugabe was exonerated by South Africa’s Premier Tom Mbeki, chosen heir of Nelson Mandela. The ANC leaders even collude at UN elections with Colonel Gaddafi, the man behind Lockerbie. (In consequence of an African/Muslim bloc vote, a Libyan now heads the UN Human Rights Commission, and, as if that were not grotesque enough, thanks to the bloc’s numerical preponderance within the world body, an Iraqi is about to chair the UN Disarmament Commission.)

More important still is ignorance. Left-Liberal opinion-formers in the UK simply lack any conception of the dehumanising fanaticism driving the godfathers of Hamas and Hezbollah terror gangs, and sundry other enemies of Israel. Non-acquaintance with real evil also determines attitudes in the wider world. Western Europe has not experienced dictatorship since 1945, while for the East of the continent, liberation only dawned in 1989. Therefore two generations have grown up in France and (West) Germany that take the luxury of freedom for granted, and indulge in the perverse sport of biting the hand that both fed and liberated them. Czechs and Poles experienced repression until a mere 13 years ago. That is why President Bush – Dave Brown’s other favourite target alongside Sharon – draws jeers in Paris and Berlin, but cheers in Prague and Warsaw.

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