Six years ago I began work as a secondary school teacher in a small country town of about 3,000 people in South Australia. It’s probably pretty safe to say that the major fear of most new teachers is that of behaviour management of the students in class.

Fortunately most of the students at my school are pretty good. But there are a few exceptions! One young boy, let’s call him Frank, to protect the guilty, was a challenging case to say the least.

Frank’s behaviour was fairly brazen. He seemed to have no fear of getting into trouble even when caught in breach of some of our most important rules in a grievous fashion. After only a few weeks I discovered where this brazen attitude to breaking school rules came from. The fact was that Frank’s mother would always “back” Frank in any dispute. Frank could do no wrong in his mother’s eyes regardless of the often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Frank’s mum was extremely vigorous in her son’s defence and often threatened to have the entire schools behaviour management policy and procedures audited by the government (a threat that often strikes fear into most schools as it requires so much extra work to be done by the school to show that it is following proper procedures with all students).

With Frank having his mum ready to “back him in” regardless of whatever he did, Frank’s behaviour deteriorated to a point where he was openly hated by the rest of the students in the school as they were frequently a victim of his vicious bullying and harassment of anyone he pleased to or deemed to be in his way.

A mountain of paperwork was accrued during Franks stay at school that detailed his poor behaviour. This mountain grew and grew as Frank’s behaviour issues were never resolved. As well as this, Frank’s mum took this ever growing mountain of paperwork as clear evidence that Frank was being singled out and picked on by all staff. It was a mass conspiracy involving everyone, even the new teachers who had no history with Frank to bias their view of him.

The obvious point of all this, in my view, is the parallel with this example and the Zionist State of Israel with it’s nearly 60 year history of criticism by countries all over the world.

During my 3 month stay in the West Bank and Israel as part of my EA, I heard many Jewish people affirming to me that Israel is always being “picked on” and that it receives far more criticism than any other country in the world and is treated like a rogue state like North Korea. The really interesting thing is that this view of criticism of Israel is shared by many liberal Zionists and even Israelis in groups like Machsom Watch and others who do a wonderful job of trying to stand up for Palestinian rights.

I must admit that when I heard members of Machsom Watch echoing this view of criticism of Israel, I had to really check myself and ask if indeed they had a point. They also reacted very strongly against the idea that Israel was a racist country and in fact claimed that Israel lead the world in combatting racism in all its forms.

But in the end, much to the dismay of my very good friends in groups like Machsom Watch, I had to firmly disagree with them. I do not believe that Zionist Israel is picked on or criticized out of proportion to its faults and failings, as all countries inevitably do have.

When you analyse criticism of Israel, two things very much stand out above all others.

  1. Virtually all criticism, if not absolutely all, from the international community via bodies like the United Nations and various human rights groups, relates to one issue and one issue alone. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.
  1. The Israel-Palestine issue has not been resolved for over 60 years of conflict.

Claims that criticism of Zionist Israel is based in and motivated by anti-Semitism are very difficult to maintain in the light of the above indisputable facts.

Anyone who has sat through the nauseating criticism of Jewish people by Nazis and other anti-Semites will immediately recognize that in the eyes of anti-Semites, Jewish people or Israel as a Nation, has no redeeming qualities whatsoever and that every aspect of their lives and communities deserves the harshest criticism and vilification.

As a peace activist who has spent a reasonable amount of time in Israel and the occupied territories, I can attest to many admirable qualities of Jewish people, just as I can about any group or race of people you might like to mention. The nation of Israel itself has rightly won the admiration of the rest of the world in numerous areas just as my home country of Australia has. Over the last ten years that I have been involved with this issue, I have never heard anything like a universal condemnation of Israeli society in all its many facets by advocates of Palestinian rights. Criticism always centres on the same issue: the unresolved issue of the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people. If this issue was resolved tomorrow, criticism of Israel would dwindle to insignificance very rapidly. But while the conflict remains unresolved and Israel clearly acts in a manner that is contrary to International Law, as has been acknowledged by authorities on this topic for decades, criticism of Zionist Israel will continue to pile up as it did for Frank in my high school example.

It has been my consistent experience that criticism of Israel can, and does, occur in a context completely devoid of anti-Semitism. Even criticism of Zionism itself centres on its colonialist aspirations, reflecting the tenets of International Law which deem colonialism as illegal.

Zionist Israel has never been treated like rogue states such as North Korea, Iran or Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Those countries, as well as many others who have been in regular breach of International Law, have come under sanctions of all descriptions, from the international community as well as direct military action being taken against them.

But when has Israel ever been treated like this? They have avoided all consequences of breaking international law due to the intervention of the U.S. just as Frank’s mum’s intervention protected him and empowered him in his poor attitude and behaviour.

In the end, those who protect and empower anyone to oppress and dispossess others is not acting in anyone’s best interest and a “use-by date” can be clearly seen on the structures of their power and oppression.

CRAIG NIELSEN

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