'Perplexed' Over Israel's Double Standards in the West Bank? You Don't Say, Mr. Ambassador

The U.S. ambassador to Israel has made a historical, if not archaeological, discovery this week. Maybe his country could also do something about it.

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United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv. January 18, 2016.
United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv in January 2016.Credit: Chen Galili
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Double standards? The law is not being applied equally to Palestinians and Jews in the territories? That is what is worrying United States Ambassador Dan Shapiro, the representative in Israel of the greatest power in the world? Suddenly the U.S. is “concerned and perplexed” over Israel’s policy in the territories.

Shapiro is in fact an expert on the Middle East, with long experience in American foreign policy in our serene region. He served on the National Security Council and advised Barack Obama on Middle Eastern policy during the latter’s first presidential campaign. His biographical details are important because of their relevance to the words “concerned and perplexed,” which describe the U.S. administration’s chronic condition.

The U.S. ambassador is far from perplexed. Even back when he was an undergraduate at Brandeis University, he was aware of the “double standards” created by the 1967 occupation: one bundle of laws for the Jews and one for the Palestinians. Jordanian law, British and Ottoman law, military orders and the “law of the wink,” – all used as needed for the two communities.

In 1982, when Shapiro was a high school student, then-Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp issued her earthshaking report stating that “there is no doubt a direct correlation between the numerous investigations that end with files closed and the many investigations that are dragged on, and renunciation of the right to file a complaint. Reality shows a vicious cycle in which incidents are not investigated for lack of complaints, while complaints are not filed for lack of proper investigation. The rule of law and public order certainly are not well served in this matter.”

The Karp report was not invisible to Shapiro’s predecessors. Thirty-four years have gone by since it was written and suddenly – it is as if a lightning bolt has struck the great power.

The United States is “concerned and perplexed”; terrified by the double standards. You don’t say, Mr. Shapiro. You’ve been serving in Tel Aviv almost five years now, you have accompanied all the vetoes the American administration imposed on every resolution that had even the slightest whiff of condemnation of Israel, and not a word (not publicly, anyhow) about Israel’s “double standards.” Pardon the interference in the internal affairs of the United States, but shouldn’t one who recently discovered such a major historical, or, better, archaeological discovery, do something about it?

Anyone who speaks of double standards should first look into what’s hiding in his own closet. The European Union has already moved at the speed of an iceberg in deciding to mark products made in the settlements. That’s not something that will set the earth’s axis off-course, but it is an actual step. Washington apparently has not heard about this option, perhaps because of the time difference, or perhaps because it still has not adopted European standards; it continues to mark measurement in inches.

But we all know the saying “better late than never,” and who knows better than you the biblical verse “whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy." So let’s see what exactly you mean by applying identical standards to Jews and non-Jews in the territories. Could you be suggesting that Israel annex the territories? Israeli law for everyone? Or maybe you mean that if the occupation is eternal, then only an enlightened occupation?

Dear Ambassador, the problem is not that the Israel Police does not investigate or locate members of Jewish gangs. The problem is that these gangs exist at all in the territories, and they exist in the territories, among other reasons, because your administration spoke in protest poetry to successive Israeli governments instead of speaking Israeli to them. American, as you know, is a language our prime minister understands well and he also speaks it fluently. But poetry is not exactly his genre.

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