Rachel Smalley: Is Israel above criticism?

Naz Shah, pictured, has been suspended over a Facebook post. Photo / Getty Images
Naz Shah, pictured, has been suspended over a Facebook post. Photo / Getty Images

Naz Shah, a Labour MP for Bradford in the UK, has been suspended from the party, accused of anti-Semitism over a post she shared on Facebook two years ago.

It showed a map of Israel super-imposed on a map of the United States. The headline said "The solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict - relocate Israel into the United States. Problem solved."

As tends to happen, that comment was spotted by someone and brought to the media's attention in Britain, and she's been stood down because the party believes it is offensive and unacceptable.

Shah has apologised. She said she never meant to cause offence, and it was foolish to share that post.

It was really foolish - she's an MP. The Middle East peace process is not something you can make fun of when you're a politician.

However, I would question whether her "crime" in this case is so severe that she should be stood down.

Compare her comments too with those of Donald Trump, who has said that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. And yet he is on his way to the Republican nomination and a tilt at the White House.

And that's okay? We're okay with suggesting everyone of Muslim faith should be banned from entering the US? And this is where the situation gets confusing.

Why is it that a criticism of Israel is so often viewed as a criticism of the Jewish faith? You can criticise any government in the world, any regime, and state, and it goes unnoticed - except Israel. You cannot criticise Israel without being attacked for it.

In 2014, I was very critical of the IDF when it bombed a United Nations school in Gaza, which was sheltering some 3000 civilians, despite the fact the UN had given the IDF the co-ordinates for that school many, many times to ensure it wasn't targeted.

Still, it was bombed and people were killed.

And when I criticised Israel for that, the response was extraordinary. The letters, the emails, the abuse was quite unlike anything I'd had before - apparently I was anti-Semitic!

And yet what I said was that the IDF was wrong to bomb a school because children had died in Gaza.

I didn't mention the religion. I didn't mention the faith. I didn't mention ethnicity or race. It was an act of war that I criticised.

Israel is a country, it seems, that is above criticism. And why is that? Why can we not question the morality of a country's actions?

Is it because in New Zealand we live in a secular state so to us state and religion don't go hand-in-hand. Or do they?

Debate on this article is now closed. Readers are reminded to keep their comments to a publishable standard.

- Newstalk ZB

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