Thursday, July 31, 2008

Israel Is Looking More And More Like China

In Meeting The Chinese Giant, Rabbi Shalom Salomon Wald writes about Steven Spielberg's resignation as artistic advisor to the 2008 Olympic Games and the statement issued by 168 rabbis calling for a boycott of the Beijing Games, based on China's relationship with Sudan and its actions in Tibet.

Hmmm, next thing you know, groups will be issuing calls for divestment...

In response to worldwide--and Jewish--criticisms of China, Rabbi Wald issues a familiar rebuttal, noting that:
the list of countries that offend human rights is long. Why single out one country, China, and ignore others? In June 2008, the Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights asserted that since 2002, approximately 7,500 detainees have died in Indian police custody; that is four per day, many of them under torture. Even the most severe critics of Chinese human rights violations have never suggested anything close to such numbers.

But in contrast to China, India is a democratic country where such abuses can be criticized by a free press and public. More importantly, India is a pro-Western country that is not yet seen as a challenge to American power. The point is: no Jewish protests have been raised against India. Nor have any been raised against Muslim or Arab countries that seek contacts or peace with Israel, even if their human rights record is anything but spotless. In other words, American Jewish condemnations of human rights violations are selective, and are colored by other motivations, including the tenor of America's overall relations with that country. American citizens single out China for condemnation because their government, media and business interests feel threatened by the Red Giant. But Israel's strategic position is different, and there are more heinous human rights abuses on which Israelis and Jews should focus their attention.

Regarding Rabbi Wald's claim about criticizing abuses in India--as he himself points out, as a democracy India is itself capable of addressing such issues. As far as criticizing human rights abuses in the Arab world--has Rabbi Wald ever attended a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council?

But there is a third, and to me more interesting comparison between China and Israel--the comparison between Taiwan and Jerusalem. Eric Olander writes about the well-known and strong feelings China has about Taiwan. Olander writes:
What really surprises me though is that despite China vast differences across economic, social, ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic and even political lines, 99.9% of all Mainlanders have one thing in common: Taiwan. While a student at Beijing University, I onced asked my professor why it was that everyone from the taxi driver on the streets of Changsha to the highest government official in Zhongnanhai was uniform in their determination on the Taiwan question, it was simply put to me: "Taiwan is our Jerusalem." China, my professor explained, is simply not complete without the re-unification of Taiwan with the Mainland. He went to say that if Taiwan was to ever to formally declare its political independence Beijing would have no choice but to claim the island by force for the Chinese leadership very legitimacy would be at stake. No Chinese leader, he concluded, could stay in power overseeing the formal end to the dream of a unified country. It just won't happen he demured. [emphasis added]
If only Israel's attachment to Jerusalem was declared as openly and forcefully--without hint of concession--as China's attachment to Taiwan. You can argue about the legitimacy of China's feelings about Taiwan and the actions China has taken as a result, but I would like to see the Israeli government declare itself and act just as unambiguously.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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