Monday, July 12, 2010

Letter to the editor: Why people protest against Israel and not Iran.

I'm a sucker for punishment, I'm sure they won't publish it but I wrote this because I haven't seen this point being made anywhere and I think it gives a pretty good answer to a commonly thrown accusation and even if they don't print it, I've been meaning to write about this for some time now.

Sir,

Eddie Naughton asks where are all the do-gooders protesting the death
sentence for Sakine Mohammedie Ashtiani in Iran (letters,
Jul 12th). The Irish branch of Amnesty International has a section
of their website devoted to Iran and are covering this case amongst
others, so the do-gooders are on the case.

As for why Iran and other states like it do not draw the same kind of
protests that Israel does, I would guess that it's because Iran does
not attempt to present itself as a modern, moderate, Western-style
democracy. Iran is not in the process of joining the OECD, it does not
seek approval from the West nor does it claim to have similar values
and morals to Western countries. So protesting outside its embassy or
criticising it in public is mostly a waste of time. Nobody expects any
better from them.

Israel on the other hand does all of these things. It wants to be part
of our club and that makes it vulnerable to bad press and peer
pressure. The Israeli government knows this and puts huge resources
into media and internet campaigns to defend its image - far more than
other states abusing human rights. Unlike in Iran, Israeli government
policy can and has been changed by public opinion, within the country
and without. They are listening. The USA, their main sponsor, is also
sensitive to such publicity.

In summary, people protest loudly and publicly against Israel because
it might actually work. People don't do the same with Iran and others
because it seems completely futile. Nobody has time to fight them all,
they're just fighting the battles they think they can win,

Iran is run by the religious and even if the last elections weren't actually rigged, the choice of candidates is controlled by the religious too. Holding a placard outside their embassy is pointless. Iran's problem seems most likely to be solved by an uprising of its citizens, at which point it will hopefully be a much more just and democratic place (it had a real democratic government in the past which was overthrown in 1953 by that beacon of democracy, the US).

Israel is controllable by its citizens and only able to do what it does because the USA currently approves and pays for it. All it would take is a moderate stance by enough of its citizens or an awakening of the US electorate to their massive subsidising of Israel or just to the reality of its actions. This all seems much more achievable and public action is a viable method.

It does not require a hatred of Israel or a hypocritical bias to explain why people focus on it. If anything, Israel is sick and in need of help (as was/is Northern Ireland). A peaceful, just Israel would be a great thing for Israelis, Palestinians, the region and the world. It would upset the plans of the radical Zionists and the fundamentalists who believe the land is theirs because it says so in their book. I'm not sure they can ever win that fight anyway so in reality, they'd probably be better off too. It would upset the plans of Muslim fundamentalists too.

So the reward could be huge and the goal appears achievable. I think that's why people choose to fight this fight and not the others.

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