For 43 years this proud Moslem people has felt itself cut off from the Islamic world and unjustly occupied by an alien Israel. Then just this Monday its leading moderate is assassinated. Riots break out and in one day the occupying forces shoot dead 60 innocent civilians.
Yet this time the Islamic Conference and the Arab League do not call the original murder a premeditated act of terrorism by the occupying government. The State Department does not issue a statement intimating that blame for the original murder and subsequent rioting lay with the intransigence of an occupying government that refuses to go along with an American peace plan. CNN does not play over and over again a tape attributing the original murder to the climate of "fascism" in the occupying country.
Why not? Because I lied in the first paragraph. The occupying power that I identified as Israel is really India. The above events happened in the Indian province of Kashmir, predominantly Moslem, bent on independence and for 40 years forcibly kept under Indian control.
It is ironic and instructive that during the week when India massacred -- with international impunity -- 60 mourners at the funeral of assassinated Kashmiri leader Moulvi Mohammed Farooq, Israel was being universally attacked for the murder near Tel Aviv of seven Gazans by a deranged Israeli gunman, and for its handling of the subsequent Palestinian rioting.
Unlike the Indian case, there is no connection between the Israeli government and the original murder. (Pakistan's minister of information has openly accused India of being behind Farooq's murder.) Yet from all sides the massacre by a mentally unstable Israeli ex-con is being traced directly to Israeli society, to the Israeli government, and to our favorite obstacle to peace, Yitzhak Shamir. The secretary general of the Islamic Conference, for example, declared the shooting part of a "world Zionist plan and deceitful conspiracy aimed at terrorizing the Palestinians and forcing them to leave their country."
In fact, the massacre was immediately and unequivocally denounced by Israel's entire political leadership. Contrast this with the Feb. 4 attack in Egypt in which two masked men intercepted an Israeli tour bus and machine-gunned nine passengers to death. This was not the wild act of a madman, but a planned, premeditated "operation" (as Abu Iyad, the security chief of the PLO, called it). Various groups claimed the honor of having perpetrated it. The PLO response was to blame it on Yitzhak Shamir. This so disgusted the Egyptians, on whose soil the crime was committed, that they denounced the PLO for its "very weak and inappropriate" response.
Yet, despite the premeditated nature of this crime and despite the wink it got from the PLO, CNN did not run footage blaming the attack on a climate of hate fomented by the PLO or Egypt. This week, however, it ran incessant footage of a Palestinian blaming the Tel Aviv massacre on growing Israeli "fascism."
The double standard applied to Israeli actions is old news, but this week it has been particularly egregious. A lone madman goes on a rampage and the rush is on by media and moralists alike to establish collective Jewish guilt.
The State Department has its own mealy-mouthed version of collective guilt. Said its spokesman, "in the absence of the peace process" -- read: because Shamir won't say yes to Baker -- "the potential for this kind of senseless violence . . . goes up."
Really? In February, the Egyptian foreign minister explained the bus attack in Egypt as "an attempt to place obstacles before the peace process which is proceeding with relative success," and the State Department deemed it "an obvious attempt to halt efforts at reconciliation and dialogue."
Well, which is it? Does the peace process induce Semitic extremists to murder, as we heard in February, or does it diminish "the potential for this kind of senseless violence," as State instructs us now? Or are all these excursions into pop sociology merely ways of extracting cynical political advantage from whatever bloody headline comes out of the Middle East?
The Tel Aviv massacre gave rise to extensive Palestinian rioting that was put down by the Israeli army at the cost of 15 lives. This moved State to call upon Israel "to exercise restraint." But when on the same day Jordan was putting down its rock-throwing Palestinians in the Bakaa refuge camp (which raises the question: Why do Arabs keep Arabs in refugee camps for 42 years?), the State Department had no problem.
"Jordanian authorities acted quickly. They've contained the incident at the camp," said the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "I think those are valuable steps." On the very next day, these valuable steps left two Palestinian rioters, one 14 years old, dead at the hands of Jordanian authorities.
Israel is pilloried according to a moral standard to which no other nation in the world is held -- not India, not Jordan, not the United States itself. (In 1967, in the Detroit riots alone, 40 were killed.) This is not to say that because others have done worse, Israel stands exonerated. Faced with an occupation it never sought and which it can find no way to end safely, Israel has on occasion behaved badly.
The fact that others, faced with far smaller threats, have behaved far worse and yet Israel is singled out for blame is powerful evidence of a double standard meant not to serve justice or save Palestinians but simply to skewer Israel.