The most selfish country of all
We will derive no pleasure from seeing our president standing at attention to the sounds of the Chinese anthem at the Olympics.
The international community took the correct pedagogical approach in addressing the misbehaving child: Acting via its Olympic Committee, it decided to award China a precious plaything, the Olympics. Israel's representative also supported this. It was an unspoken pact. The Chinese would get another chance, despite their poor behavior, and would work to improve themselves. The deal was unsuccessful. China did not improve its ways, and it continues to behave badly.
The entire international community is not making an extraordinary effort to end the genocide in Darfur. But when a chance for intervention and sanctions arises, China makes sure to undermine this. The Chinese are great experts at foiling plans, and thus the Security Council has not made any progress on the issue of Iran and its nuclear program.
And now, the military junta of Burma (Myanmar) is enjoying immunity as it massacres courageous demonstrators. In this case, too, China stands alongside those committing crimes against humanity; it feels comfortable in their presence. After all, China itself still cruelly represses any expression of freedom, and the last thing it needs is for a democracy to arise next door, in Burma, as the result of a popular uprising. If, heaven forbid, the revolution were to triumph, the neighbors may hiss across the fence, "You're next." And then where could China's leaders turn?
There were calls in Europe and America this week to boycott the Olympics next summer. But other sanctimonious voices spoke against mixing politics and sports, as if international sports bodies had never tasted politics, and the very decision to hold the Olympics in China were entirely devoid of political considerations. Hitler also used a similar argument more than 70 years ago: that sports and politics are two separate things. He stood in the stands, applauded and came out clean. However, the leaders of China are not Nazis - though many Chinese would not agree with this statement, especially those waiting in line for a firing squad. The Tibetans also would not agree, like the other ethnic and religious minorities living in the emerging superpower.
There are apparently no righteous countries in the world. Each country makes its own calculations. Israel also knows how to calculate, and even excels at it. Nonetheless, it appears that China is today the most selfish country of all, along with Putin's Russia. China answers to no higher power except the god of accelerated economic development - at any human-inhuman cost. It is already the largest polluter on earth, surpassing Bush's America.
Perhaps it is too late to move the 2008 Olympic Games. Maybe it is not too late. It is certainly not too late to remove the crown of political victory from the heads of China's leaders, and the public relations medal from the lapels of their official uniforms.
It was reported last week that Ora Namir, formerly our energetic ambassador in Beijing, received a personal invitation to the games and proudly accepted. One can imagine that if David Hacohen, the legendary ambassador to Burma in the early days of its independence, and our independence, had received such an invitation, he would have returned it to its senders from Tiananmen Square. When Hacohen was ambassador, Burma was one of Israel's most faithful friends, and its only friend among the bloc of non-aligned countries. Burma's founding father and first prime minister, U Nu, was a good friend of David Ben-Gurion as the latter delved into Buddhism.
I am not recommending that Israel jump first and boycott the games when our own human rights record is lacking, and the jump is ludicrous and even dangerous. We must hope that there will be no sudden revelation of any Israeli involvement in the junta's activity and armament. Such things have happened in the past.
In any case, one can expect that at least President Shimon Peres, Ben-Gurion's quintessential student, at least will remain at home and not drag himself to the VIP section of the stands. We will derive no pleasure from seeing our president standing at attention to the sounds of the Chinese anthem.