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Jewish Light Editorial

Looking at the year’s biggest stories in St. Louis and Israel — Ferguson and the Gaza conflict —poses the opportunity for some strange comparisons.

Here’s one example: Many St. Louisans, while sympathetic to the underlying issues surrounding the Michael Brown case, felt the St. Louis region was unfairly singled out for chastisement. The questions raised in Ferguson about whether policing is fair, about the extent of racial profiling and disparate treatment, are hardly unique to our region, as we were sadly reminded with later instances in Staten Island, N.Y., Cleveland, Ohio, and elsewhere.

But those who tire of the focus on our area, on the negative PR afforded the Gateway Region, have a long way to go in feeling dissed. That’s because Israel is the king of targeted persecution, and that issue doesn’t seem likely to go away anytime soon. In fact, it’s a whole lot more likely to get worse.

Israel is a flawed democracy just as the United States is a flawed democracy. It affords vastly more civil rights than its Middle East neighbors, a largely free and always vibrant press and nonprofit organizations by the droves, including many whose primary purpose is to condemn the country for its lack of freedoms or its treatment of its minority populations. This doesn’t make the country perfect by any stretch, but it stands heads and tails above virtually every other country in the region.

Yet many who castigate Israel, including so-called human rights groups like Amnesty International, are wholly supportive of sovereign status for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza run by a Palestinian Authority working in collaboration with Hamas, which in its charter calls for the elimination of Israel and has engaged in practices that result in the indiscriminate death of Jews.

Do you want a fair analogy? OK, here you go: Imagine if either the Republican or Democratic Party, which together control almost all state and national legislative seats in this country, had a governing partnership with the New Black Panthers or Ku Klux Klan. Do you think most Americans would consider those extremist hate groups acceptable coalition partners to run things in this country?

We hardly think so. Yet that’s exactly what is on the table as the U.N. considers a new Palestinian state. And rather than holding the Palestinian leadership to a higher standard prior to granting statehood, many nations’ leaders are perfectly content with allowing a new sovereign that embraces a partner like Hamas, which blatantly restricts civil and human rights, and impairs journalists through implicit and explicit threats, on a regular basis.

Those who claim they are not anti-Semitic, but rather anti-colonialist, when they castigate Israel rarely will respond to the reality of Hamas’ terrorist mission and objectives, other than to say that somehow, like in Northern Ireland or South Africa, political pressure and sovereignty will ultimately make things better.

But here’s the rub…that supposition wholly belies reality.

That’s so for several reasons. First, both the PA and its Fatah leadership, and Hamas, refuse to recognize Israel. The best that President Mahmoud Abbas has been able to say in this matter is that Israel doesn’t need to be recognized by the Palestinians, as it already exists and is responsible for its own matters of state.

You know what? This is hooey. The U.N. exists for the purpose of sovereigns recognizing each other and their national rights and responsibilities. So how can an organization which refuses to recognize its neighbor lay claim to membership in an organization whose purpose is to create engagement among nations?

Second, even if the PA recognized Israel, Hamas will not, and in fact has taken an oath in favor of its destruction. And it won’t agree to demilitarization — for that matter, neither does the PA, according to the vastly overreaching proposed U.N. resolution. And get this: Hamas slams the proposal by the PA as “shameful” and a giveaway. Talk about mismatched expectations!

A truly useful international organization would say to the Palestinian people, at the very least you must divest of any partnerships with a repressive and terrorist regime; acknowledge your neighbor Israel’s right to exist; and demilitarize as a show of good faith. To date, the pressure for those requirements is not only minimal, it’s almost universally nonexistent, absent the threat of veto by the United States at the Security Council.

Israel is imperfect to be sure, as every democratic nation is. But with its continued relationship with Hamas, and its unrealistic proposal for statehood, the PA is perfectly imperfect. Yet Israel remains the focus of international disdain.

So next time you worry about St. Louis and how its been treated by the country and the media, just remember: It could be a whole lot worse.