Why can't Israel be more like Morocco?

If double-standards exist towards Israel in the UN and elsewhere, it is only because our leadership has facilitated it through its own weakness and predictability. Unlike, say, Morocco.

Ari Soffer

OpEds Ari Soffer
Ari Soffer
Ari Soffer

It isn't often that we are gifted with such a shameless example of international double-standards vis-a-vis Israel as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's astonishing apology for claiming that the Western Sahara is "occupied". To be sure, double-standards against Israel are a regular feature particularly within the UN, but there is usually at least some kind of token effort made to mask their rank discrimination against the Jewish state.

Not so for Mr. Ban, who - after assuring his career as a public speaker when he steps down at the end of this year, by stepping up his verbal attacks against Israel for its "occupation" - has now made it abundantly clear (if ever there was a need to clarify) that such a word can only apply to the State of Israel, period.

Without getting into a detailed legal comparison of the two cases at hand (the flimsy basis for branding Judea-Samaria as "illegally occupied" has been addressed by far abler commentators than myself), it is fair to say that Ban's fawning, apologetic approach towards the Kingdom of Morocco's "occupation" of Western Sahara stands in stark contrast to his increasingly regular criticism of Israel's "occupation" of Judea and Samaria/"the West Bank."

And we all know he is not alone. Similar, glaring double-standards are common among all of Israel's leading detractors.

Put aside, for a moment, the rank anti-Semites who rule the Islamic Republic of Iran - which, as it touts itself as leader of the "Axis of Resistance", occupies, oppresses and engages in cultural (and periodically physical) genocide against three separate peoples (the Kurds, the Baloch and the Ahwazi Arabs), while also occupying the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa from the UAE for good measure. (Not to mention supporting the minority-rule of the mass-murdering Assad regime.)

Put aside as well the Islamist government of Turkey, which - until it was forced to come crawling back to Israel after frittering away its international status, had positioned itself as a "champion of the Palestinian people" against the "brutal Israeli occupation", even as it occupies Northern Cyprus and occupies, brutalizes and slaughters the Kurds.

Put aside all of our sworn enemies, including those Islamist regimes whose very ideology is based on anti-Semitism and Islamic supremacism, and look towards our biggest trading partner and major ally: the European Union.

The very same EU which, as it endlessly lectures and berates Israel for "occupying" Judea and Samaria, and even enacts sanctions against us such as the recent labeling decision, is all too happy to do business with Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, or Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. Certainly we will see no similar apology from EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen, for recent comments in which he sneeringly claimed Judea and Samaria are not part of Israel at all.

And even our greatest ally, the United States of America, is capable (particularly under Obama) of lecturing us about how terrible it is to "rule another people" without granting them independence or full national rights - while simultaneously denying the millions of (loyal, peaceful) residents of the "American Territories" (can we just call them "the Territories"?) such as American Samoa or Puerto Rico their basic political rights - like, say, the right to vote.

The world's punchbag?

How is it that even our "friends" and allies feel no qualms whatsoever about treating Israel with such utter contempt? How is it possible that such blatant, shameless hypocrisy exists within the international system, to the extent that we have come to take it as a given?

"Anti-Semitism" is the answer often thrown by Israel and its supporters. They treat Israel differently because they hate Jews - there's really nothing more to it, nor is there anything we can do to fix the problem.

But, while sheer Jew-hatred does explain the genocidal hatred of Israel from the likes of Iran, automatically falling back on the "anti-Semitism" card is in reality an act of supreme laziness. Difficult though it may be to face, if we looked ourselves in the mirror we would realize that Israel, in fact, is all too often the architect of its own ill-treatment by dint of its quisling, downright cowardly reactions.

Instead of merely whining about the unfairness of the double-standards, Israel would do well to contrast its own actions with those of the Kingdom of Morocco, for example.

When Ban Ki-moon made his initial comments - during a tour of Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria - the Moroccan government reacted with unbridled fury. Yes, the desert kingdom flexed its muscles, condemned the comments without reservation, organized mass anti-UN protests and then did something unthinkable: it expelled UN peacekeepers from Western Sahara.

The result? This groveling apology from UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric:

"His use of the word was not planned, nor was it deliberate. It was a spontaneous, personal reaction. We regret the misunderstandings and consequences that this personal expression of solicitude provoked."

"Nothing [Ban] said or did in the course of that trip was meant to offend or express hostility toward the Kingdom of Morocco, which is a valued member of the United Nations," Dujarric continued, before going on to assure everyone that the UN maintains its neutral (yes, they don't take sides!) stance vis-a-vis the dispute over Western Sahara:

"The position of the United Nations has not changed," Dujarric said. "He has not and will not take sides on the issue of Western Sahara."

Of course, this is hardly surprising. As recently noted by a former senior UN official, the United Nations has in recent decades become little more than a bloated, multi-billion dollar corporation, built atop a vast, paralyzingly-confusing, eye-wateringly expensive bureaucracy, which provides cushy, well-paid and exotic jobs to an international array of pen-pushers, attention-seekers and, of course, "peacekeepers". These employees are there for the good life - hence they aren't ashamed of bolting at the first sign that they may actually have to do some real work towards their mission - and, most importantly, they further perpetuate the UN "brand."

Morocco's actions, bluntly put, threatened its business interests, and so the UN quickly backtracked, "principles" be damned. You can rest assured the peacekeepers will soon return, perhaps after some nice inducements are paid from the UN's coffers to assuage King Mohammed VI's hurt feelings.

Israel, in stark contrast, reacts to being used as a punchbag much like... well, an actual punchbag. Our officials may moan about it and issue meaningless condemnations from time to time - but they will always, reliably, rush to resume business as usual the next day, like a Stockholm Syndrome-inflicted victim of domestic abuse.

The UN mounts unfair, harmful diplomatic attacks against us repeatedly, while implanting UNRWA to literally indoctrinate the next generation of Palestinian terrorists? The European Union funnels billions into flagrantly anti-Israel NGOs which undermine the very sovereignty of our democratic government - and who lead all diplomatic (and some violent) attacks against us - and actually encourages and funds Palestinians to grab land in violation of international agreements? The Europeans, Americans and others pour money into the Palestinian Authority without even the mildest of efforts at ensuring that money doesn't end up bankrolling incitement and terrorism, or in the hands of Hamas?

Anti-Semites, the lot of them! But, we probably shouldn't make too much of a fuss, because it might, you know, alienate them.

Maybe, if our leaders are feeling particularly hurt, we might ask the EU to make nice and give us a photo op to make up for it.

Time to take responsibility

That is not to absolve the UN, EU or anyone else of responsibility for their biased actions; they all have agency, are run by otherwise intelligent people, and made a conscious, unforgivable decision to treat the Jewish state differently to others. That is wrong, and yes, often tinged by varying degrees of anti-Jewish prejudice.

But then, that's life. Respect isn't something you ask for, it's something you earn - from allies as much as from enemies.

As the Jewish people emerges from two millennia of disenfranchisement and exile, part of our rehabilitation as a free, independent nation must involve learning to conduct ourselves as such, instead of simply transposing the ghetto-leadership model of servility onto our sovereign state.

The first step involves accepting that there are no "friends" in international relations, only interests and, subsequently, allies - whatever AIPAC (or presidential candidates) and others may tell us.

Countries do not "like" one another based on some emotional, personal affinity as individual people may, but rather do business and forge alliances based on mutual interests. Strength, not likability, is therefore the only real currency in international relations - and it is not merely based on the size or power of a country's army but on the way in which states exercise their potential strength.

This is a basic fact which Netanyahu and his government - despite his occasional lip service - have either failed to fully grasp or lack the courage to effectively implement. As I have noted previously, the ongoing talk of rapprochement with Turkey - after everything the Erdogan regime has done to us - is yet another astonishing example of willful Israel weakness.

(This is also, incidentally, a key failing of Israel advocacy organizations, who all too often bend over backwards to portray Israel as "good" or "likable", and then look on in wonder when ignorant students still flock to the more assertive, "stronger" side on campus.)

No amount of watered-down NGO laws or strident comments from our deputy foreign minister will change the basic equation which currently stands, which is that Israel is an easy target for international bullies, extortionists and opportunists to boost their profile, bolster their careers and further their own policies and interests.

The moment we change that basic equation, perhaps the UN might grant us at least as much respect as it grants to the mighty Kingdom of Morocco.