When is criticizing Israel anti-Semitic? by mattsteinglass
February 1, 2007, 10:09 am
Filed under: Israel, Jews

I’m going to refrain from going after the more objectionable aspects of Alvin Rosenfeld’s long essay on the “new” anti-Semitism and its supposed Jewish sympathizers. Basically, the essay is an attempt to recast serious opposition to right-wing Israeli ideology as equivalent to anti-Zionism, and anti-Zionism as equivalent to anti-Semitism. None of those equals signs are legit. Here’s the point in the piece which I think sums it up:

Israel’s policy of encouraging Jewish settlement in Gaza (which it
abandoned in 2005) and the West Bank has long been a flash point
of dispute, and its sometimes harsh treatment of Palestinian Arabs
living in those areas has also drawn a great deal of negative attention.
Criticizing such policies and actions is, in itself, not anti-
Semitic. To call Israel a Nazi state, however, as is commonly done
today, or to accuse it of fostering South African-style apartheid rule
or engaging in ethnic cleansing or wholesale genocide goes well
beyond legitimate criticism.

In fact, “calling Israel a Nazi state” is not “commonly done today” by anyone on the American political scene, and certainly not by any Jews. Accusing Israel of “fostering South African-style apartheid rule” is a perfectly legitimate argument and has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Accusing it of “engaging in ethnic cleansing” is similarly a legitimate claim; it may be accurate or inaccurate, but it is certainly not an “illegitimate” critique. Accusing Israel of “wholesale genocide” is clearly inaccurate, and one might say “illegitimate”, and should not be lumped in with the other accusations.

Interestingly, Rosenfeld doesn’t mention any of the many Israeli left-wing groups who compare Israeli policy in the territories to apartheid. Presumably he doesn’t feel he has the street cred to accuse Israelis of being anti-Semitic.


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