Does Criticizing Israel Make a Person Anti-Jewish?

Aidan Maconachy
 


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Joe Lanzman has a quiz on the web site Slate (Feb 2 - 2007) to determine if you're anti-semitic. The quiz appears to have been prompted by a study for the American Jewish Committee written by professor Alvin Rosenfeld which points to an increase in “virulent anti-Zionism in many quarters of the left".

Many Jews believe that if you are critical of Israel and/or anti-Zionist, you are also anti-Jewish by extension. Well by that measure many orthodox Jews must be anti-Jewish also, because a large number of them are anti-Zionist and think the creation of the state of Israel was a big mistake.

Ironically the orthodox are arguably more Jewish, in the purest sense, than the American pro-Zionist brigade, many of whom rarely darken the door of a synagogue.

The reason many affiliated with the Israel lobby in the US pull out the anti-semitic card and act like offended victims when Israel is criticized, is because they want their cake and eat it too. They want to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, have a powerful American-equipped military, receive 20 billion a year from Washington . . . and . . . play the persecuted victim if anyone says boo. It's quite an amazing charade.

Jews of the diaspora were victimized when they were minorities in European countries in the earlier part of the 20th century. The holocaust shamed our common humanity. But this is 2007. We are discussing the modern democratic state of Israel that is both wealthy and armed to the teeth.

Many in the pro-Israel lobby wield significant power in America and have influential connections in government. They also have loyalties to superpower junior in the Middle East. For them to try and sell themselves as victims is somewhat ludicrous.

How does criticism of the democracy of Israel makes a person anti-Jewish? Zionist Jews aren't the exclusive owners and operators of Israel. About one fifth of the population of Israel is Arab, mainly Muslim. There is a small Christian minority. In addition a percentage of Israeli Jews are non-religious and secular in lifestyle, many of them European immigrants. You also have a significant number of orthodox who don't share the Zionist vision.

Some American Zionists assume that due to Israel's unique relationship with the US, the military and political challenges it faces etc - it should be permitted to operate a double standard. We should all turn a blind eye in the name of solidarity. In other words discriminatory practices, *** exploitation involving women held in “debt bondage", high handed military tactics and land grabs should all be whitewashed because hey if you criticize any of it, well . . . you're obviously a bigot and a Jew hater. How convenient.

When activists speak about about human rights abuses in Israel, they are doing nothing differently from what they do elsewhere. Amnesty International has reports on similar problems from every corner of the world. So why is it that when human rights issues are addressed in the context of Israel - with complete justification - some Jews immediately cry anti-semitism?

When a country declares itself to be a democracy and signs international agreements, it also assumes responsibilities and liabilities, especially in the area of civil rights. The mere fact of being Jewish doesn't confer special privileges on a citizen or a country, nor should it permit discriminatory behavior toward Israelis of other faiths or of no faith at all who don't hold Zionist beliefs.

If Jews are offended by valid criticism of Israel, then maybe they need to push for a Zionist Republic or a Jewish theocracy of some sort. Ahmadinejad regularly gives the finger to criticism while taking cover behind the walls of his Islamic regime. But as long as Israel presents itself to the world as democratic, it better prepare to be judged as harshly as America has been judged under George Bush - if and when such criticisms are warranted.

Aidan Maconachy is a freelance writer and artist based in Ontario. You can visit his blog at http://aidanmaconachyblog.blogspot.com/

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