We are family?

Martin Amis has been sharing his views on UK-Israel relations with Ha\’aretz.

\”I live in a mildly anti-Semitic country, and Europe is mildly anti-Semitic, and they hold Israel to a higher moral standard than its neighbors. If you bring up Israel in a public meeting in England, the whole atmosphere changes. The standard left-wing person never feels more comfortable than when attacking Israel. Because they are the only foreigners you can attack. Everyone else is protected by having dark skin, or colonial history, or something. But you can attack Israel. And the atmosphere becomes very unpleasant. It is traditional, snobbish, British anti-Semitism combined with present-day circumstances.\”

He\’s half-right. Israel does get a fair amount of stick from European lefties, but I have never bought the argument that this is a matter of anti-Semitism. Rather, it is a result of conscious or sub-conscious prejudice in our expectations of other middle-eastern states. We expect savage behaviour from them (and, sad to say, are all-too-often proved right). It\’s part of what the late Edward Said would have seen as the \’orientalising\’ narrative, the depiction of the East as a mysterious \’other\’, the home of Kipling\’s \”lesser breeds without the law\”.

We do hold Israelis to higher standards, but because of familiarity rather than prejudice. We see them as displaced Europeans, rather than Asians, so hold them to what we fondly still suppose to be European standards of behaviour. Our criticisms of Israeli behaviour are an inverted tribute to our kinship.