Blind focus

Just as I implied recently in my response to the online debate between Village Voice editor Allison Benedikt and columnist for The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg: Activists often wear blinders.

I include myself in that statement. It wouldn’t be fair otherwise. But I don’t think most activists acknowledge their own tunnel vision. They’re too busy protesting.

I’ve been casually following the reports of the atrocities taking place in our neighboring country of Syria. I’m disgusted, and frightened, but not surprised. It’s not news that Bashar Al-Assad is yucky, to say the least.

But what drives me absolutely bananas is that the human rights activists who are ever focused on Israel (in particular those whom live abroad) have much less to say about Syria committing daily acts of terror against their civilian residents than they do about Israel.

Do these activists understand what is happening on a daily basis in Syria these last few months? Have they read not only about the children being killed over the last four months, but the ones tortured?

None of us have the full picture considering Syria has stopped allowing members of the media or human rights organizations into their country. The reports comig “out of Syria” are coming from those who escaped into Lebanon or Turkey where reporters and aid organizations are standing by.

Contrary to Israel who has been navigating a diplomatic and public relations nightmare over the past weeks in regards to the “Gaza Flotilla Activists” and who this week is preparing for the influx of hundreds of protestors staging a “fly-in” to Ben Gurion Airport on Friday, Syria is giving the big F-U to everyone.

Activists can comment on the situation in Israel because there are various reports coming out of this country about events and activities, from various political viewpoints. News and opinions are ever-flowing out of Israel.  Debate is considered healthy here and encouraged. Not so Syria.

I think this is something left-wing political activists protesting against Israel tend to conveniently forget.

It’s true that Israel is making efforts to keep these protestors out of the country. (And she’s been ripped a new one by the international media for doing so.) But, unlike Syria, Israel is not closing her doors to all who disagree with her policies. Syria, on the other hand, is and I do not need to be a paying member of Amnesty International to know this.

Going back to the Benedkit/Goldberg debate (because it will relate, I assure you): In his last words on Allison Benedikt, Goldberg shared some comments from his readers on the topic. One comment in particular was particularly powerful for me, and I’d like to share it here because it sums up a bit what I’d like to, if given the opportunity, sometimes yell back at left-wing activists who blast Israel. Particularly the ones who fail to shout just as loudly or write just as passionately about the atrocities commited by Israel’s neighbors.

After all, we do not in this region exist in a bubble. (As much as even I often pretend that we do.) We exist as one piece of a volatile puzzle. And if human rights activists really care about human beings, they would turn their heads slightly to the east and start shouting, too, about Syria.

Goldberg quotes his reader as writing:

From a reader who argues that Benedikt, and like-minded writers, mistake Israel for a fascist state, when in fact it is the most liberal country in its neighborhood:

 Allison Benedikt portrays support for Israel as an illogical aberration among otherwise right-thinking liberals. How could someone who is ostensibly progressive support this oppressive vestige of the colonial era? But this couldn’t be more wrong.  Here’s a list of liberal touchstones.

1)  You support the rights of gay and lesbian men and women.  Check.

Therefore you must support Israel, one of the few countries in the region where homosexuals aren’t persecuted and even murdered, by state sanction.

2)  You support the rights of women.  Check.

Therefore you must support Israel, one of the few countries in region where women enjoy all the rights men do, and aren’t required to drape every part of their body in the anonymity of the burqa or veil, and are allowed to drive, and may serve on the hight court, and are even the top general in the military.

3)  You support the rights of minorities.  Check.

Therefore you must support Israel, where a substantial number of cabinet members are Arab, where the quality of life for Israeli Arabs is higher than in neighboring states, where there is no tradition of legalized slavery as there was in the Arab states until the 1960s, when it was abolished under European pressure, but still continues in a form of servitude for migrant workers from abroad.

4)  You support democratic government.  Check.

Therefore you must support Israel, a fact that really speaks for itself, in these times in particular, where tyrants around Israel are slaughtering their citizens in droves as they hold on desperately to power, and where the people have always been disenfranchised.

5)  You support a free press.  Check.

Therefore you must support Israel, where an opposition thrives in the media.  Has she read Haaretz?

You could go on and on and on, ad nauseum, but the truth is supporting Israel is consistent with liberalism.  Not support Israel is consistent with totalitarianism.

I invite the activists out there, the ones on the flotilla and the ones boarding planes this week and the ones with blogs and the ones writing columns in newspapers, i invite you to diversify your interests, so to speak. Consider all the victims and violators in the region.

Ask yourself a really hard question: Why is it that I am so focused on Israel?

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