I stumbled across a couple of articles in today’s papers which inadvertently highlighted the double standard that the world community, and in particular, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (the BDS movement, which sounds an awful lot like an intestinal ailment) has towards Israel.
On the one hand, there was Vivian Bercovici’s piece in the Star highlighting the distortions of reality employed by proponents of the BDS Movementin their campaign to delegitimize Israel. As Ms. Bercovici chronicles, proponents of the BDS movement routinely accuse Israel of being guilty of apartheid, genocide and, generally, crimes against humanity as a result of its treatment of the Palestinians.
OK, but then we have Tairah Firdous and Brett House’s piece in the National Post, chronicling the mistreatment of Kashmiri civilians at the hands of the Indian Army. According to them:
India’s grip on Kashmir is literally overkill: Some 70,000 Kashmiri civilians have died at the hands of India’s security forces since 1989. Their excesses go broadly unpunished. India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act gives the forces extraordinary powers to arrest people without obtaining a warrant, and to shoot first and ask questions later, all under immunity from prosecution. All of which goes largely unnoticed in the West.
I want to emphasize that last part. If Firdous and House are right, CIVILIAN deaths in Kashmir since 1989 have been several orders of magnitude more than ALL Palestinian deaths (including combatants) at the hands of Israeli Defense Force over the same period. Yet, there’s no BDS movement for India.
In fact, the parallels between Israel’s experience in the occupied territories and India’s occupation of Kashmir is telling. Like Israel, India (and Pakistan) was formed by dividing an existing territory previously governed by the British. Much like Israel’s birth, the creation of India lead to sectarian violence, death and ultimately large, and largely involuntary, sectarian migration (with large migrations of Muslims to Pakistan and Hindus to India mirroring the similar migrations of Palestinians to the occupied territories and neighbouring countries and of Jews from their traditional homelands in the Islamic world to Israel). As with Israel and its Arab neighbours, India and Pakistan would fight wars over the disputed territory in the 1950s, 60s and 70’s. As with the occupied territories, Kashmir’s population is largely (though by no means exclusively) Muslim. As with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the Kashmiri dispute has been the subject of UN resolutions (albeit, far fewer) that are largely ignored by both sides. And as with the Palestinians, Kashmiri separatists (backed by the Pakistani government) have resorted to terrorism to achieve their goals.
All of which raises the question, given the similarities between the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the India-Kashmiri dispute, why does the BDS movement focus obsessively on Israel, without so much as a peep about India? Usually, if challenged about their focus on Israel, relative to, say human rights abusers (often grossly more serious human rights abusers) in the rest of the Middle-East, Africa or China, BDS proponents will respond that, since it is a democracy, Israel should be held to a higher standard than those other countries. Ok, but setting aside the irrationality of that argument (is a human rights violation really less of a violation because your government is a brutal dictatorship?), it falls apart completely when dealing with India which, after all, is the world’s largest democracy. If the claim is that the BDS movement holds democracies to a higher standard than dictatorships, why is Israel held to a higher standard than India?
Of course, we know the answer, or at least we think we do: It’s because the proponents of the BDS movement hate Israel.
They’re not necessarily antisemitic (though, let’s be honest, many are – antisemitism has a long and ignoble history in left-wing ideology). Rather, Israel represents a nexus of the many antipathies of the modern left. It is seen as a “European”, “colonial”, “settler” country imposed on a third world peoples – this despite the fact that many Israelis emigrated to Israel from other middle-east countries, and can arguably make the same moral claim of a right to return to the homeland of their people as that made by proponents of the BDS movement on behalf of the Palestinians (as an aside, I think a “right to return” is nonsense, and a recipe for perennial war, for this very reason – do we really want Germans asserting a right of return to Prussia in what is now Poland?). Israel is associated with the United States, which the modern left loathes (although this demonstrates the extent to which the attitudes of the modern left have been shaped by the foreign policies of the former Soviet Union. Until the mid-1960’s, Israel was treated as a left-wing darling, it was only when the Arab world definitely threw their lot in with the Soviets, that leftist sentiment turned against Israel). Israel is modern, the Palestinians are romantic. In short, Israel is the embodiment of everything the BDS movement hates.
India doesn’t have those problem. It isn’t seen as “European” or “colonial”, rather it wears its anti-colonial credentials on its sleeves. India has traditionally maintained it’s independence from the US (although it has developed closer ties in recent years), and until recently adopted a generally socialist (though not communist) world view. Why that makes its occupation of Kashmir less problematic than the Israeli occupation of the West Bank isn’t obvious, but no one ever accused BDS proponents of being rational. Or maybe the BDS movement, despite its moral preening, has its own variant of Harry Truman’s dictum about a bastard being OK, so long as he’s “our bastard”.
All of which comes back to my original point, here we have two countries, dealing with similar long-term and seemingly intractable conflicts, which have resulted in significant civilian casualties and other human rights violations (though, seemingly, significantly more in India than in Israel). And I don’t want to pick on India. For all I know, its soldiers try their best to reduce civilian casualties, as the IDF does (though, really, more than 3,000 civilian casualties a year? Try harder), and certainly, as with Israel, India faces enemies that are no better (and often worse) in their regard for human rights. I’m not saying that India should be subject to a BDS movement, for the same reason that I don’t think Israel should be subject to the BDS movement. At the very least, I can claim that I think Israel and India should be held to the same standard.
But, if you DO believe that Israel should be subject to the BDS movement, if you DO believe, as Naomi Klein, and others, do, that Israel is guilty of apartheid, genocide and war crimes, then how do you justify your silence and inactivity in respect of similar “crimes” by India in Kashmir? Why is one utterly ignored, while the other is obsessively targeted? Why do you have one standard for Israel, and a different one for India (to say nothing of the world’s worst human rights abusers? Where are the “Free Demascus” fleets?)
If proponents of the BDS movement are really motivated by genuine concern for human rights, they should be making the same demands from India as they do from Israel. And if they don’t, well, that tells us that their high falutin posturing about human rights is little more than a cover for their anti-Israel hatred. Their double standard will be revealed.