There is a certain gathering place in downtown East Jerusalem known for attracting foreigners-- photo- and TV-journalists, the occasional Western diplomat, humanitarian employees and other assorted workers of good will. One may not hear much about the price of liquor or the quality of the food in this favoured spot; victuals and drink don’t seem to be the attraction. What attracts these foreigners to this Arab section of Jerusalem is the after-hours chatter—and the camaraderie one seems always to find among like-minded foreigners who do the dusty and sometimes dangerous work commonly associated with humanitarians and journalists who ply their trades in difficult, far-away lands.
There is something bracing about sitting among educated, articulate and highly-motivated professionals whose names are known and whose faces are sometimes famous. It’s even more bracing to listen in on their conversations, to hear how they made the day’s stories, or to get a private glimpse into the how tomorrow’s news might become shaped by an evening of friendship and conversation.
These professionals know how to enjoy an end-of-the-day drink among friends. Their friendship seems especially warm because it is fuelled by a shared ideology. They are united in their contempt for Israel; and, because Israel is a free country, these foreigners know they can drink as much as they want and be as contemptuous as they want. Why? Because Israel protects them.
When these friends talk, they talk openly about hate. They hate when Arabs are killed. They hate when Arabs are arrested. They hate seeing Jews stop Arabs at security check-points.
But they love Israel. They really do. Like nowhere else in the Middle East, they can gather here safely with their like-minded friends. They can accuse Israel of anything they want—and Israelis won’t arrest them for it. No one challenges them if they manufacture or misrepresent the day’s news events. They are free to concentrate on their profession: was Israel accused of a humanitarian crime today?
Humanitarians and journalists in Israel can do almost anything they want. It’s wonderful.
In the 64 years since modern Israel was established, some 44,000—66,000 Arabs have been killed by Israel (the number depends upon who you talk to). True, most of these deaths came as the result of attacks against Israel initiated by the Arabs themselves. But that doesn’t matter. Just say it’s Israel’s fault. Say Israel is guilty and you can become famous for defending ‘justice’.
Humanitarians and journalists love Israel. The work is easy. The salaries are good; and the Israelis give you above-average protection against harassment. Israel is the perfect foil for promoting anger at injustice. Israel is perfect because, generally speaking, when you call Israel immoral and unjust, the world cheers--and Israel responds with silence.
Israelis are afraid you might get insulted if they accuse you of lying.
Where else in the Middle East can you work against a government like that? In the Middle East, Israel is a humanitarian and journalistic Garden of Eden. Speak or write against the ruling powers in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza or Iran, and you could end up ‘disappeared; and if you are a humanitarian or journalist, you have no illusions about what that means. In the Arab Middle East, you keep your mouth shut, or else.
But Israel is different. There seem to be no restrictions. You can accuse Israel in the morning and then go happily in the evening to your favourite Arab East Jerusalem watering hole.
Israelis won’t touch you.
Without Israel, a humanitarian would have to risk his life in the Middle East. Without Israel, a journalist can be murdered or beaten. But in Israel, they can live humanely.
Israel is good to the humanitarian and journalist—very good.
Syria, on the other hand, isn’t a place for either. If some 44,000 – 66,000 Arabs have been killed fighting against Israel over the last 64 years, a similiar number has now been killed –and ‘disappeared’—in Syria during Arab-vs-Arab fighting over the last 21 months; and if 600,000 – 800,000 Arabs were made into refugees because of their wars against Israel, millions of Arabs in Syria have fled their homes over the last 21 months—fleeing from fellow Syrians.
In an orgy of internecine hate compounded by bloodcurdling inhumanity, Syria is pounding itself back to the Stone Age. Daily, Arabs killing each other violate international Human Rights code and commit horrific war crimes. But what’s a humanitarian or a journalist to do? Do you really expect them to risk their lives going into Syria to fight for truth and humanity?
In Israel, they can do that without risking anything.
Humanitarians and journalists are no different from anybody else. They need jobs. They want to enjoy life. Their friends in an Arab East Jerusalem watering hole are good to them. Should they jeopardize all that by working in Syria-- or Egypt or Libya or Lebanon or Iraq or Tunisia or Sudan or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Gaza?
There is no other country like Israel in the Middle East.
Israel is good to humanitarians and journalists—very good. It's a shame they don't know or appreciate just how desperately they need Israel and how good Israel is to them.