Waiting for Nobel

The relentless, obsessive focus on Israel is driving the world crazy

When will Israel's achievements be recognised?
Douglas Davis
On 1 February 2013 14:58

Insomniacs lull themselves to sleep by counting sheep. Not me. I count Nobel Prizes being handed out in austere Scandinavian ceremonies. Modestly, I confess, I am the sole recipient. There is, however, a problem: the category for my Nobel Prize does not yet exist. But I am optimistic that the Nobel Prize for Inconvenient Truths will soon be created.

Kåre Kristiansen would have approved. He was a man of acute vision who recognised an inconvenient truth when he saw one. Kristiansen, for example, resigned from the Norwegian Nobel Committee after it decided to award the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat. When I spoke to him about the episode, he was in no doubt that his fellow judges were bonkers. How, he asked, could they award the peace prize to “the world’s most prominent terrorist”?

Staying in Scandinavia (but not, I promise, a moment longer than necessary), an academic researcher asked a senior Swedish human rights official why her country had supported a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council condemning Israel for perpetrating the massacre-that-never-was in Jenin. “You needn’t worry,” she replied. “We know that there was no massacre in Jenin.”

How, then, did she explain Sweden’s vote? Well, she declared, the Swedish government wanted to demonstrate its solidarity with the countries of the “South”.

Enter the European Union, which has elevated the business of ignoring inconvenient truths to an art form. Now, we are told, Europe – led by Britain and France – is preparing a grand peace plan that will be presented to Israel and the Palestinians in March. Hosannas! The vast majority of Israelis would cheer the prospects of peace. As it is, though, the vast majority no longer believe that the Palestinians, divided or not, are capable of declaring an end to the conflict. A solid track record over the past dozen years says they are correct.

Well-meaning peacemakers have failed in the past because they confused politics with culture. And nothing suggests that the Europeans learn from past mistakes. In political terms, the issues in dispute are indeed capable of resolution. But the dispute is not political; it is social, cultural, historical and, most of all, religious. The Arab Spring holds a clue: Islamism trumps everything. And the very existence of Israel represents not only a stain on Arab honour but, even more important, a blasphemy against Islam.

Europe’s peace plan, like so much else in the Middle East, is not quite as it appears. Was it mere coincidence that the European peace initiative was leaked at precisely the time that France was pouring troops into Mali to prevent Islamist insurgents from taking over? President François Hollande’s justification was that, “We can’t have a terrorist state at the door of Europe.” Quite so.

But Hollande would have more credibility if France was not the first to scream blue murder when Israel seeks to stop Islamist lunatics in Gaza from firing missiles into Israeli villages and towns. It happens that Bamako, that thriving capital of Mali, is 6266km from Paris. By contrast, Gaza is, literally, a step away from Israel.

It would be comforting to imagine that Europe is preparing a peace initiative for purely altruistic reasons. The inconvenient truth, however, is that Europe is once again seeking to buy off Islamist fury by using Israeli currency.

With the season of goodwill now a distant memory, the annual Israeli Apartheid Week fest is almost upon us. And nowhere are inconvenient truths more inconvenient.

It is surely no longer necessary to rehearse the facts that Israel is a fully functioning democracy; that it enshrines equal rights for all of its citizens in law, has an activist, independent judiciary, enjoys a flourishing free press, upholds freedom of religion, movement, expression… And it is surely no longer necessary to list the names of Arab members of parliament, ministers, judges, ambassadors, academics and generals. All that does not sound like apartheid to me.

But the relentless, obsessive focus on Israel is driving the world crazy. What intrigues me is why so many intelligent and thoughtful people are prepared to suspend disbelief and throw their time and energies into the burgeoning BDS industry (boycott, disinvestment, sanctions, for the uninitiated) that has been set up to demonise and delegitimise the Jewish state.

Some, animated by anti-Semitism, use Zionism to express the oldest hatred. Others, overwhelmed by the Holocaust, cleanse their conscience by projecting Europe’s guilt on to the “new Nazis” of Israel. Still others, like the Swedish human rights official, adopt an anti-Israel stance by way of expressing solidarity with the Third World.

What they all have in common is that, at some point, they will have had to overcome (or overlook) a lorry-load of inconvenient truths. Fortunately, Israel remains unaffected. Its economy continues to grow faster than any other industrialised country; its universities remain world-class, as do its orchestras, artists, writers and poets. Its technicians continue to innovate and its scientists continue to win Nobel prizes.

Ah, Nobel Prizes. I am already preparing my acceptance speech for Stockholm. Or will it be Oslo. Whatever.

Douglas Davis is a former senior editor of the Jerusalem Post

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