AMID THE SHOCKWAVES of condemnation that followed the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a number of conservatives have been upset not at the savagery inflicted on the expatriate Saudi dissident and journalist, but at the widespread outrage over his grisly death. Some have openly disparaged Khashoggi, deriding him as an Islamist who supported the Muslim Brotherhood and palled around with Osama bin Laden. Others have mocked his calls for liberal reform as "a cover" for his "real work" of praising terrorists and attacking Israel.
Those belittling Khashoggi's terrible fate aren't indifferent to human rights. But they have overriding concerns. Their aspersions "are aimed in part at protecting [President] Trump as he works to preserve the US-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights," reported The Washington Post last week. Some on the pro-Israel right are motivated by strategic issues in the Middle East. Their focus, explains Ron Kampeas in a story for the JTA wire service, is on "cultivating Saudi cooperation in the diplomatic fight against Iran, keeping the Saudis on board the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and maintaining the kingdom as a bulwark against violent forms of radical Islam."
And still others want to make sure nothing undermines the unfolding détente between Israel and Saudi Arabia. When I wrote about Khashoggi in a recent column, one correspondent — someone deeply involved with human rights in other contexts — snapped: "Arab regimes kill people every day. Why the focus on this guy?" His answer: "Because the Saudi-Israeli alliance upsets the left."
Double standards are part of the human condition. All of us are prone to invoking principles in some cases that we find it convenient to ignore in others. And nobody can care equally about every one of the world's enormities and terrors. But inconsistency is one thing. Turning your back on human suffering and cruelty because it doesn't advance your cause is something different — and deplorable. . .