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ABC Mini-Encyclopedia

Antisemitism - or legitimate criticism of Israel?

Is it or is it not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel? 
            (Based on an article, prepared by the Auckland Jewish Council.)

No one will deny the historical existence of anti-Jewish hatred and persecution, but few want to believe that it is still prevalent in the modern, post-Holocaust world.

However, the establishment of the state of Israel, a Jewish state, has seen the development of newly disguised anti-Semitism (meaning, in this case, being anti the Jewish people) too, which takes the form of discriminating and demonizing political criticism of Israel.

 

In itself, political criticism is a free right reserved by citizens of democracies, and it is irresponsible to label it otherwise. To condemn the political actions of the Israeli state is not, of itself, to be anti-Semitic. Israel's policies, as regards settlements and targeted killings, are legitimate targets for criticism and should be subject to scrutiny as the actions of other countries are.

But if it is complained (as it is) that some Jews are unable to distinguish between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, it would seem that this is a widespread phenomenon that non-Jews suffer as well. After all, why should anti-Israel protest necessitate the defilement of Jewish graveyards, the burning of synagogues, fresh Nazi-themed graffiti at Holocaust camps and memorial sites, or verbal and physical assaults on Jews in Paris and Berlin? How do these acts advance political discourse?

Since the Israel-Palestine peace process collapsed in 2000, when Chairman Arafat refused even to discuss Israeli PM Ehud Barak's astoundingly outreaching peace proposal and initiated the second Palestinian Intifada, anti-Semitic incidents in the western world have reached their highest level since the Holocaust. Acts of anti-Semitism reached such proportions in Europe last year that Time magazine felt prompted to devote a cover issue to its resurgence, and a British daily, The Sun, published a full-page article headed "The Jewish faith is not an evil religion".

In such times, it is important to ask whether the distinction between being anti-Israel and being anti-Semitic has been blurred, and to consider that on occasions, in fact, they are the same thing.

Today, we witness a distinct tendency towards acceptance of this new anti-Semitism in "polite society", under the guise of political comment. Especially some political and intellectual circles are contributing towards a climate of anti-Jewish antipathy in which it quickly becomes legitimate to hate Jews again.


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