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Being Against Israel Is Not The Same Thing As Being Anti-Semitic

Submitted by Robin Messing on Sun, 02/09/2014 - 9:41am

Every once in a while I run across someone on the internet who insists that Muslims are out to exterminate Jews.  Or they insist that someone who has a "demonic view of Israel" is anti-Semitic.  This is nonsense.  Being against the policies of the Israeli government--even being against Israel as a Jewish State-- is not in itself anti-semitism.  Israel has done plenty to deserve criticism, and anyone who thinks Israel should get a free pass from criticism by painting Israel's critics as anti-Semitic only trivializes the meaning of "Anti-Semitism", just as someone who calls an unpleasant person a "Nazi"  trivializes the horrors of the Holocaust.  Israeli Knessett member Ayelet Shaked let the cat out of the bag when she implied that Israel is not a “a state of all its citizens”  To demand full equal rights for Palestinians--to insist that Israel become "a state for all its citizens" is not in itself anti-semitic.  Of course some who demonize Israel ARE anti-semites, just as some who eat meat are murderers.  That doesn't mean the government should force everyone to become a vegetarian.

And anyone who bothers to read A World Without Islam by Graham E. Fuller, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, would realize that throughout most of history Jews have done better under Islamic rule than they have under Christian rule.  Of course, I doubt most of those who hold such extreme views will go to the trouble of reading this book.  So I present to you several tweets MJ Rosenberg, an editor of AIPAC's Middle East Report from 1982 to 1986.  Rosenberg has since split from AIPAC and has become one of Israel's and AIPAC's harsher critics.  Though he is no fan of AIPAC or Israeli policy, to accuse him of being an anti-Semite would be beyond ridiculous.  Some may find his politics too left-wing for their taste.  And some may find his columns a bit too biting.  But there is no denying that he has many keen insights, and in just a handful of tweets he demolished the  "Those-who-hate-Israel-are-anti-Semitic" and the  "Muslims-just-want-to exterminate-Jews" memes.


Destroying the "Muslims-Just-Want-To exterminate-Jews"  Meme






I encourage you to read the article that Rosenberg linked to.  While it is oversimplifying it a bit to say the Kazak Jews were not hassled because the population was Muslim, Kazakstan does provide a fine example of a mostly Islamic nation where Jews can thrive.


Destroying the  "Those-Who-Hate-Israel-Are-Anti-Semitic" Meme






And for good measure Rosenberg threw in this tweet which undermines both memes at once.


Though Iran is less hostile towards Israel than it was under Ahmadinejad, there are still few states more critical of Israel than Iran is.  Yet Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif wished Jews around the world a Happy Rosh Hashanah in a tweet.



He also said that "Once the Palestinian problem is solved the conditions for an Iranian recognition of Israel will be possible"  I hope you've read the story that Rosenberg linked to about Iran providing money to a Jewish Hospital in Tehran.  If you did then you would know that Iran has given $200,000 to Dr. Sapir Hospital and Charity Center and pledged to give another $200,000 in a second installment.  If the Islamic Republic of Iran wants to exterminate the Jews they sure have a funny way of showing it. Iran is proof that one can be against Israel without hating Jews.


Update 8/7/14:  Dr. Steven Beller, an expert on Jewish history and anti-Semitism, argues that the backlash that we are seeing against Jews in Europe in response to Israel's war in Gaza should not be called anti-Semitism.  I strongly encourage you to read it.  Here is a highlight from his column.


Calling this hostility to current Israeli policies (which in any other context would be viewed as extreme nationalism), and towards the Jewish communities who are usually explicitly, and almost always implicitly, supporting these policies, ‘antisemitism’, or even the relatively recent ‘new antisemitism’ appears to me a deliberate attempt by Israel and its supporters to obfuscate the actual political and moral situation, and to smear Israel’s opponents with the guilt of the Holocaust. Let us call these protests ‘anti-Israeli’, ‘anti-Zionist’, or even, at a stretch, ‘anti-Jewish’, but I do not think they have the same causation as historic antisemitism, and it is misleading to continue dragging this term in here.
Even when historical antisemitic tropes are used by Arab and Muslim opponents of Israel and the supporters of its policies, the core reason for them doing this (to bolster their arguments) appears to me to be Israel and its anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, policies. If there is a rise in anti-Jewish hostility, and anti-Jewish attacks, in modern-day Europe, the main provoker of this hostility is what Israel does, either in expanding settlements, bombarding Palestinian civilians, or making deliberately excessive demands on a relatively moderate Fatah Palestinian leadership in peace talks. The existence of Hamas, and its defiance in letting missiles be lobbed into Israel is a tragic development (brought about partly by Israeli attempts to undermine Fatah), but the answer is not more violence that jeopardizes the position of Jews all over the world, but rather a genuine attempt to make sustainable peace. If Israel continues its attitude of defiance of international legal norms and of the wishes of the international community as regards settlements, then this is almost inviting a real resurgence of a form of historical antisemitism, together with, ironically, a xenophobia exacerbated by Islamophobia.


Update 9/10/14: This article contains several highly perceptive quotes about anti-Semitism vs Zionism.