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Commentary Last Updated: Mar 5th, 2008 - 01:02:31

Israel�s moral compass is flawed
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 5, 2008, 01:00

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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he doesn�t want lessons in morality. He�s right. He and his Cabinet are a lost cause on that front. Any attempts to appeal to their sense of right and wrong would be akin to pouring mineral water onto stones hoping for flowers.

The world has condemned Israel�s callous treatment of Gaza, where 1.5 million souls are imprisoned, starved, humiliated and subject to being picked off at whim, yet the Israeli government remains impervious to criticism.

Over the past days, over 100 Palestinians have been slaughtered by Israel�s war machine; at least half were civilians and children. Israel says it is targeting workshops where homemade rockets are put together. Who would have thought so many women and toddlers would be working away in such places?

They�re not, of course. If Israel knew where those workshops were, the rockets headed in Israel�s direction would have been stopped long ago. No, this was a brutal exercise in collective punishment. They knew that innocents would die and they went ahead anyway.

Here�s the proof. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Monday sought advice from governmental and military authorities as to the legality of targeting civilian-populated areas. Anyone blessed with even a rudimentary set of morals would know in their heart that murdering babies is wrong and wouldn�t need to consult an army of lawyers.

No, Israel doesn�t need lessons in morality. It�s evident they would be a complete waste of time. Its own deputy defense minister threatened to inflict a holocaust on Gaza. He eventually had to apologize; not to Palestinians, by the way, but to Israelis upset by his use of the term exclusively reserved for the genocide of Jews in World War II.

Last week, on this page, I wrote about mandatory Holocaust education in British and French schools, organized school trips to Auschwitz and the French president�s scheme whereby French 10-year-olds would forge a personal link with a Holocaust victim of his own age.

I quoted President Sarkozy as saying, �Nothing is more moving for a child than the story of a child his own age, who has the same games, the same joys and the same hopes as he, but who, at the dawn of the 1940s had the bad fortune to be defined as a Jew.�

Wouldn�t it be equally as moving for a child to learn about a living child, who would love to have the same games and experience the same hopes as he, but who, today, has the bad fortune to be defined as a Gazan?

But Western compassion is selective. It is framed at state levels by individuals who would prefer to eulogize those whose lives were cruelly cut short over half-a-century ago than people dying now whose only crime is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And it is framed by a media that gladly floods their broadcasts with gruesome historic pictures and films of Nazi death camp inmates, yet shirks from showing viewers the ashen faces of dead Palestinian children lying on cold mortuary slabs -- naturally, to avoid upsetting viewers.

Britain�s Sky News, for instance, spent days giving almost blanket coverage to Prince Harry�s homecoming, virtually ignoring the real story. Fox News is doing a good job in its role as Republican propaganda machine dissecting every aspect of the various presidential hopefuls down to their facial expressions. Gaza, it seems, is barely worth the odd fleeting snippet.

To be fair, many Arab-run networks are similarly squeamish. Or have they been told not to stir public emotions? Throughout the past days I�ve been satellite-hopping. To my dismay, only three Arabic-language channels have focused their coverage on the tragedy unfolding in Gaza outside of scheduled news broadcasts.

Governments that exercise control or influence media to keep such horrors from permeating the homes of ordinary people are shrewd. They know full well that most ordinary folks operate under a moral code and would be outraged to see the suffering and carnage perpetrated by Israel in the Middle East.

Rather than risking inciting the public with the ugly truth, the media feeds us with the crude antics of Britney or Paris, Oscar ceremonies, ball games, music videos or the minutiae of an investigation into a missing blond-haired 5-year-old.

Ponder on the morality of the media-inspired public response to Madeleine McCann as opposed to Gaza�s maimed and orphaned babies. According to the British newspaper Independent, there were 465 stories about her in the British press, the family received 1.1m pounds in public donations, while a host of celebrities -- including Simon Cowell, Sir Richard Branson and J.K. Rowling -- offered rewards totaling 2.6m pounds.

Remember the extensive media coverage, reserved for captured Israeli soldiers, which encompassed every detail of their personal lives? How many of you are familiar with the name Gilad Shalit? How many of you know the name of even one dead Gazan child?

Perhaps we all need to search our consciences when it comes to fundamental questions of morality when a living Israeli soldier is worth more airtime than dozens of Palestinian children enduring the kind of suffering most of us can�t even imagine; day after day, year after year.

Unless we fight to retain the part of us that makes us human, we might as well give in to the laws of the jungle: Dog eat dog, might is right. As I write, members of the UN are arguing over the wording of a resolution proposed by Libya. Arab states want a strong condemnation of Israel�s strikes on Gaza. The usual suspects, the US and Britain, are demanding a watered-down version heaping most of the blame on the Palestinians.

In other words, a people incarcerated and struggling to find food and medicines are the villains, while their rich and powerful jailor is the innocent victim. If that�s an example of the morality adhered to by Israel and its friends, they can keep it.

Monday, the Israelis shut down their Gaza operations just in time for the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Jerusalem yesterday. It wouldn�t do to embarrass their American guest, now would it? Moral, the Israeli government isn�t. Polite to those who hold the purse strings and the weapons they are. Let�s give them some credit, eh!

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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