Is criticism of Israel antisemitic?
I reproduce below the conclusion of a long-winded article from a far-Leftist source that objects to most criticism of Israel being called antisemitic. The body of the article is a long list of things that Isreal has done which the peacenik writer regards as wrong and worthy of condemnation. That everything he lists is part of Israel's desperate defence of itself against the boiling hostility of over a billion Muslim neighbours he completely ignores. If he were any more unbalanced he would fall over.
But his conclusion is not wholly unreasonable. Nobody claims that all criticism of Israel is wrong. It must be open to the same criticism that can be levied at any nation state.
What does rise to the level of antisemitism, however, is criticism of Israel that is merely hate-speech -- criticism that is unmoored from the historic and present reality of Israel and the Jews. There is a lot of that, going so far in the case of the Palestinians as actually denying the historic connection of Jews to the land of Israel. It is in the context of attitudes as irrational as that that Israel's recent declaration of itself as a Jewish state must be seen.
Something that always amuses me is talk about Israel denying "human rights" to Palestinians. Does that include a right for Palestinians to attack and kill Israeli Jews at random -- something they still frequently do? No wonder Israel abridges their "rights" by using fences etc to control them!
Perhaps the most amusing thing about our peacenik author is that he would be up in arms about all other forms of alleged hate speech but cannot recognize any hate speech about Israel
We face a time when conformity to authoritarian attitudes are said to show respect for security, when fear of dissent is bolstered by warnings about the presence of allegedly illegal others. Free speech is stifled by US legislators in order to prevent criticism of the human rights abuses of a significant ally, and all this in a country whose First Amendment of the constitution says, inter alia, “Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech or of the press….”
A reported rise of anti-Semitism across Europe and the United States has been fueled by widening definitions of this prejudice, as in attempts by authoritarian governments to outlaw almost any criticism of Israeli government policies.
Anti-Semitism remains a dangerous and illegal act but in relation to Israeli policies, it needs to be addressed with a certain subtlety, not by bullying to disallow criticism of a powerful country. In Open Democracy, Antony Lerman displayed such subtlety by insisting on the need to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and criticism which spills over into anti-Semitic hate speech.
If the principle of free speech is to be maintained, the world needs neither the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, nor the Anti-Defamation Awareness Act let alone the racism legitimated by the Jewish Nation State Law. Lerman argues that citizens in all democracies should simply keep the obligation to abide by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects freedom of speech.
Support for freedom of speech must remain central to the values of western democracies and not be eroded by false claims about anti-Semitism.