The Tundra Tabloids mentioned last week that Daniel Taub, Senior Legal Advisor to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came to Helsinki to give a lecture on the Israeli position concerning a number of key issues that the Jewish state is currently facing. It was an excellent morning session which provided a lot of useful information and an opportunity to both comment on what Daniel Taub said, as well as ask a few questions from the guest of honor himself.
Daniel Taub started off by discussing some of the perceptions many Europeans have concerning the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, with one such perception revolving around the myth that:
“the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is basically the core of all the problems in the region and possibly even in the whole of the rest of the world. And if only you guys could bang your heads together and solve this problem, so that peace would reign.”
He brought up the Israeli point that the conflicts involving Libya and Chad, Iran and Iraq and the Kurds, Syria and Lebanon and Sarajevo, had nothing to do with the solving of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All were completely unrelated, and the assumption that “if Israel could put everything straight other issues could be solved“, is totally unfair, not just to Israel, but to people involved in other conflicts and to other persecuted minorities as well.Another difference of understanding with the Europeans rests on the question of what the conflict between the two sides is actually about. The common perception is that the conflict revolves around a dispute about territory. Meaning that in a sense, if only borders could be drawn and territories divided, everything would be solved. Taub made it clear that:
“There is a growing realization that our conflict obviously has a territorial dimension, and clearly a territorial compromise will be a part of any solution. But it’s not at root, a territorial conflict. If it was a territorial conflict it wouldn’t have been the case, that when we pulled out from every inch of the Gaza Strip in the disengagement plan, then the Hamas started firing their Qassam missiles.”
“There is a more profound ideological dimension which is fueled by winds of fundamental extremism blowing through our region from the direction of Iran. And in our region it finds expression in the Hamas and in the Hezbollah and so on.”
The issue of what is a terrorist is something that has been addressed time and again here at the Tundra Tabloids. Usually it’s within the context of how the media, to be exact, the Finnish media, reports acts of terrorism. One of the perceptions Taub discusses however, revolves around the notion held by some, that if they’re (the terrorists) elected members of the Palestinian Parliament, and they are elected members of the Lebanese government, and so on and so forth, than these people can no longer be considered as terrorists.
Taub: “But in Europe, generally if somebody becomes a political party, that means that they leave their military past behind them. You don’t run as an armed militia for an election to parliament.”
The Tundra Tabloids agrees with Daniel Taub. We have to remember the initial frustration that many Israelis had, after Yasser Arafat, –who had initially agreed with both Israel and the international community on the White House lawn, that peaceful negotiations would determine the end of the conflict between the two sides– refused to shed his military uniform.
While many in the West would afford him that right, the symbolism of that uniform was not lost on Israel. And as the historical record has proven, the military symbolism embedded in his uniform was not lost on Yasser Arafat. He continued to carry out his planned terrorist war against Israel, –though he swore that both himself and the Palestinian cause has embarked on the road to peace– until the very day he died.
Another European perception that came up in the lecture, concerned the imbalance of power in the conflict, which supposedly determines the side holding moral superiority. The assumption being, the side which appears to be more weak and to suffer the most, must therefore be the party that has right on its side. Taub offers this salient explanation:
“The question isn’t whether if you have power, the question is how you use power, and if you are using your power with restraint, and you are constantly asking yourself what is proportionate and what is legitimate, how do we use the minimum amount of power necessary”
This is a very good point. What determines the morality of a side in conflict, is whether or not they are actively and consistanly asking all the right questions in their policies that deal with the conflict. Are they seeking legal guidance, do they take into consideration the legal ramifications into their decision making processes etc etc ? Taub further expounds:
“I find that in the equation we are struggling with impossible questions, and probably one of the most important tools that we have in this balancing act is our Supreme Court. And I have to say that I’m not aware of any other court in the world that grapples to the same degree with these sorts of issues.
Not for just Israelis but for every Palestinian can petition the Supreme Court, in real time, and our court is very activist, in the sense it sends the security forces back to the drawing board and says that you’re not allowed to do this, that this might help for security but you’re not allowed to do that.”
This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Israeli courts, the Israeli government and the IDF are actively engaged in the complex problems that arise from fighting against Palestinian terrorism that that operates from within the civilian population, and securing the safety for its own Israeli citizens.
One of the very last points I’ll mention from the lecture is the need for the international community to hold all parties to the same standards of morality and expectations. There has to be an end to the lowering of the bar of standards for one side, while expecting the other to take up the slack. Daniel Taub quoted US President, George Bush’s statement of “the soft bigotry of lower expectations” to help prove his point.
“It really sends a message that these are second class members of the western communities, and that we can’t hold them to the same standards as everyone else. And the correct approach it seems to us, has to be not to lower the standards, but to keep the standards where they are, and to help these Muslim leaders reach them.”
I fully agree with Taub. To accept a lowering of the bar, is to by default, agree to an institution of “soft racism”. It would be the very same kind of soft racism one found in the formely segregated southern states of the US, in which the white majority, firmly believed that black African Americans could never make it on their own. The thinking was that African Americans would always need their “white folks” to help them out.
What an excellent lecture. One can always hope that Europe’s political leaders, as well as other interested parties will take to heart the sound points and clear logic that Daniel Taub offers. It was a pleasure to visit with him and hear his points of view.