greg (grysar) wrote,

Int'l Relations note: Being a critic of Israel does not imply that one is anti-Semite

There's been a fair amount of discussion on this issue ever since a shoddy paper by big name policy writers Mearsheimer and Walt attacked the "Israel Lobby." (It was shoddy because it glided over oil when explaining U.S. Middle East policy and tended to lump together too many separate organizations). More recently, Carter wrote a book comparing Israel's policy towards the Palestinians to South Africa's apartheid, which provoked another furor. Also, Gen. Wesley Clark, who I supported in the '04 primary said that there were prominent well-to-do American vehement supporters of Israel that were lobbying for war with Iran. (His wording was impolitic, there's a reason I won't be backing him in ‘08.)

Anyways, the latest salvo is a paper by the American Jewish Committee called "'Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism.". There's been a lot of blog discussion, but the main news article so far was from the NY Times.

Here's the first paragraph of the forward:

How can there be something “new” about something as old as anti-Semitism? Hostility to Jews—because of their religious beliefs, their social or ethnic distinctiveness, or their imputed “racial” differences— has been around for a long time. But, as this erudite essay by Professor Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University demonstrates, hostility to Jews has morphed into hostility toward a Jewish state, and that hatred has acquired the ability to leap across national, linguistic, and religious boundaries.

This is really starting to get obnoxious. This paper by the AJC and the strong line taken by Anti-Defimation League official Abe Foxman (not a free article) is an attempt to shut down legitimate debate. Irrationality abounds when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is discussed, that's going to be true of any longstanding violent dispute. Real anti-Semitism does exist and there have been more genuinely nasty incidents, notably in Europe (doubtless it's worse elsewhere, but it's less noteworthy). However, calling wolf is a poor media strategy. I've don't agree with vehemently pro-Israel organizations, but they've got ever right to argue the issue on its merits. Similarly, when someone does cross the line or acts as an apologist for terrorism, they should be called on it. But when charging bigotry, the burden of evidence is on the accuser. Given time, the guilty typically provide more than enough evidence. But being a critic of Israel does not qualify, in and of itself, as even circumstantial evidence of anti-Semitism.
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