The late Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan once coined a pithy test for whether you have landed in a free country or not. Take a look at the newspapers, he suggested, "If all the news is good, you're not in a free country. If all the news is bad, you are." A corollary to Moynihan's test could apply today: If a nation is beset by concern about human rights violations and injustice within its borders, it is a free country. If it concerns itself only with the supposed human rights violations of other nations, it is not.
In this sense, Israel is just like the United States and other open societies. A free press and an independent judiciary, along with civic organizations, political activists, and professors, are watchful for any perceived deviation from the nation's high standards.
But it is different in Israel, too. Alone among the world's 195 nations, only Israel is the target of a delegitimization campaign. This intellectual and moral assault is distinct from criticism of Israeli actions (always legitimate). The delegitimization effort asserts not that Israel behaves badly, nor that it should refrain from this or that activity, but that it has no right to exist at all and/or that the Jewish people do not exist. Long the position of the Arab states and the Palestinians, the denial of Israel's essential legitimacy has spread over the course of the last decade to include a number of governments, non-governmental organizations, and, perhaps most significantly, a non-trivial number of writers and intellectuals.
It's also different for Israel because national morale is far more important for Israelis than for others. If significant numbers of Canadians or Poles become disillusioned with their countries, well, it's not healthy or desirable (nor would it demonstrate clear thinking about the alternatives), but it's not a threat to national existence. But because Israel is in persistent physical as well as ideological danger, an extraordinarily high degree of courage and commitment is required of each Israeli, starting with, but by no means limited to, extended service in the nation's armed forces.
Israel is the Middle East's only democracy and the only country in the region that respects human rights -- period. So it's remarkable to see the degree to which elements within Israel itself have joined the delegitimization campaign.
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