The website of El Pais had an unusual headline this morning, one that seemed to suggest an alliance between the Pope and Iran: “El Papa e Irán se unen al intento de evitar que Trump lleve la Embajada a Jerusalén“. Later in the day, El País changed the headline, but the fact remains that Iran and the Pope agree on one score, at least.
This is a memorable day. Not only did the Pope and Iran appear to join forces, if only for a brief moment, but Finland is celebrating the centenary of its independence, and Trump ended, presumably once and for all, any US pretence of being an honest broker in the affairs of the Middle East. Trump’s announcement today, when he declared that henceforward the US embassy in Israel will be in Jerusalem, paved the way for a great leap in terms of Russian and Chinese hegemony, something you may or may not welcome.
For my part I doubt there is less injustice and poverty in Russia and China than in the US. Moreover, much as I criticise the US, this much must be said for the country: I am absolutely sure that it treats political opponents far more leniently than Russia and China.
However, outside the country, the record of disastrous US interventions all over the world knows no parallel. I put to you that accumulated US crimes against humanity, or complicity in such crimes, outnumber even those of WWII Germany.
Moreover, there is every indication that human impact on the climate will see dramatic consequences within a very short space of time. The US has turned its back on the Paris accord, whereas China seems determined to make a tremendous effort to help save the climate, and that may perhaps be worth more than political freedom. We shall see. All indicators appear to suggest that saving the climate may be worth considerable sacrifice.
Back to Jerusalem: The speech held today by the Emperor could have been written by one of Netanyahu’s script writers. It was not so much about America and American interests as about Israel, which it lauded at length as a successful democracy.
Now I assume that what is usually implied when we speak of “democracies” is not merely the right to drop a piece of paper in a ballot box. I have never been to Israel, so I must ask: Is Israel a democracy?
In Israel, are all permanent residents, regardless of race, gender or religion,
- equal in every way before the law?
- equally allowed to purchase and keep property and to keep inherited property?
- equally entitled to education, health care, employment and social services?
- equally entitled to the protection of the courts and law enforcement?
If the answer to all of these question is “yes”, well, then Israel has made, unbeknownst to me, a very good start and merely faces the challenge of upholding the law. There are some other industrialised countries that also find this difficult, most notably the USA, where blacks need to remind the public that “black lives matter”. Racism is not theoretically condoned in the USA, so I suspect that discrimination of blacks is also a consequence of a political system that systematically favours the wealthy and chastises the poor.
But if the answer to any of these questions is “no”, the country is not a democracy, but something rather more systemically antediluvian, governed by rules that are alien to the industrialised world, though still, perhaps common in some primitive societies.
If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, I repeat, Israel is pursuing a path that is alien to the common good, I’m afraid, one that is similar to and as ignoble as that of systemic anti-Semitism.