12 August '15..
The double standard to which Western countries hold Israel is well-known. Not just from the endless condemnation of Israel at the U.N., but because an official representative of one of the largest Western blocs of nations, EU Ambassador to Israel Jesper Vahr, made a now-infamous statement last year during a panel discussion on relations between Israel and Europe.
"Israel should insist that we discriminate, that we apply double standards, this is because you are one of us," Vahr said. "Israel should want to be held to European standards, not Middle Eastern ones. So I think you have the right to insist that we apply double standards and put you to the same standards as all the rest of the countries in the European context."
This is an extremely common sentiment, certainly not reserved for Europe, and one that journalists in the mainstream media are not shy to use as an "excuse" for subjecting Israel to a kind of scrutiny that practically everyone else on the planet is exempted from.
It is therefore worthwhile to look at the moral standards that the West holds itself up to. Certainly, if the West claims that all it is doing is to hold Israel to its own moral standards, it is relevant to ask whether the West lives up to those standards itself.
On Aug. 3, the British newspaper The Guardian reported, under the headline "Hundreds of civilians killed in U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS [Islamic State] targets," "credible reports" of at least 459 noncombatant deaths, including 100 children, in 52 airstrikes. The "credible reports" were collected by a new project, run by journalists, which calls itself "Airwars." On its website, Airwars claims to be "a collaborative, not-for-profit transparency project aimed both at tracking and archiving the international air war against Islamic State, in both Iraq and Syria. With a dozen nations reportedly bombing -- along with the air forces of Iraq, Iran and Syria -- there is a pressing public interest need for independent, trustworthy monitoring."
The U.S. led coalition has launched over 5,700 airstrikes at Islamic State targets in the campaign, which has lasted almost one year.
The point here is not to question the legitimacy of destroying Islamic State -- which is more than overdue -- although one can certainly question whether the air campaign serves any purpose other than easing the bad conscience of the West in the face of the mass rape and executions by the organization of civilians in the territories that they have captured.
The point is that the West has killed thousands of civilians by way of collateral damage in the various military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. It has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians in the so-called "drone wars" that the U.S. (primarily under President Barack Obama) has been, and still is, conducting in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. And now it turns out that at least 459 civilians have been killed in strikes against Islamic State.
What this means is that the West does not even come close to meeting the high moral standards that it sets for Israel. When Vahr nonchalantly stated that he thought Israel should "have the right to insist that we apply double standards and put you to the same standards as all the rest of the countries in the European context" he conveniently "forgot" this small detail.
When I was studying international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, around the time that the British teamed up with the U.S. to go to war in Iraq in 2003, it was much in vogue to claim that the West only fought "humane" wars. In these wars, supposedly, practically no civilians would get killed, as the forces would rely heavily on the latest technology and precision bombing. The idea was that war could be fought easily and cleanly, transforming it into a bloodless, technological affair that would leave the TV spectators at home happy and untroubled by gory and unpleasant images of dead soldiers and innocent civilians.
My professor, Christopher Coker, had indeed written a whole book called "Humane Warfare" and confidently assured the class that most of us would become "humanitarians," venturing out into the world to "do good."
It is true that an unfortunate number of newly minted academics consider themselves crusaders of the Holy Bible of Human Rights -- especially because most of them end up only crusading against Israel and conveniently forget the rest of the world. However, the idea of humane warfare turned out to be a complete delusion as the casualty figures cited above clearly show.
War is not, and never was, a bloodless affair. The point here is not to castigate the West for the civilian casualties that are inevitable in warfare, nor to criticize that war is a complicated endeavor in the age of asymmetric conflicts.
However, for the West to claim to follow a set of moral standards, which it is blatantly unable to live up to in practice, and then to castigate Israel for actually fighting much more morally than most other Western countries are capable of themselves is not only delusional, it is insincere and hypocritical. Proof of Israel's moral warfare is in the remarks made by several independent military experts regarding Israel's Operation Protective Edge. It was found that Israel took far more precautions than required by the laws of armed conflict and that Israel did indeed sacrifice soldiers' lives in order to fight more morally.
The West expects Israel to live up to impossible moral standards that it does not set for anyone else -- not even for itself. The West's own moral standards are clearly flexible and can be lowered when reality requires it. Only Israel is supposed to live up to the impossible standard of that delusional concept of humane warfare, according to which no civilians are ever hurt and no blood is ever spilled.
Not even Israel can engage in delusional warfare.
Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel.