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Is all criticism of Israel antisemitic?

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Is all criticism of Israel antisemitic? 

See also: Anti-Semitism

See also: Is all criticism of Israel anti-Semitism?

It is important to recognize that Israel, as a democracy, is receptive to fair and legitimate criticism. A valid, yet negative, analysis of Israeli policies should not be considered antisemitic, any more than criticism of another country should be considered racist.

However, all too often condemnations of Israel cross the border from valid criticism into regions of denigration that can be considered antisemitic. The generally accepted term for this type of disparagement is "the new antisemitism." Just as in the past Jews were made into the scapegoats for many problems, today there are attempts to turn Israel into an international pariah.

The line between legitimate criticism and the new antisemitism type of criticism is often difficult for some to judge. Former minister Natan Sharansky, in his seminal 2004 article "Anti-Semitism in 3-D," laid out the criteria for defining the boundary line. The 3-Ds of the new antisemitism are: demonization, double standards and delegitimization.

Demonization: Just as the Jews were demonized for centuries as the embodiment of evil, so too Israel has been called an evil entity. Much of the criticism in this category consists of comparing Israelis to the Nazis and Palestinians to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Holocaust inversion is not only prevalent in the Arab world, it is gaining ground in the West as well. This propaganda technique is particularly heinous as it not only fraudulently depicts Israel's struggle to defend itself, it also diminishes the extraordinary suffering of Holocaust victims, in itself a form of Holocaust denial.

Double Standards: The test for judging a double standard is to check whether Israel is being judged by different criteria than other states under similar circumstances. Double standards are often found in international forums, in which Israel is unfairly singled out for criticism and held up to standards not applied to any other state. At the same time, the behavior of other nations in a comparable, or even worse, situation is ignored. The application of double standards can often be recognized by the unreasonable quantity, as well as the quality, of the criticism.

A significant example of double standards can be found in the calls for boycotts of Israel. If such calls were part of a larger campaign against the many regimes that grossly violate human rights around the world, Israel would argue that its inclusion in such a list is not legitimate. However, when Israel alone is singled out for a boycott, this is a clear demonstration of antisemitic activity.

Delegitimization: The new antisemites are attempting to delegitimize the very existence of the Jewish state. They do this either by undermining its right to have been established in the first place or by attempting to turn present-day Israel into a pariah state, for example by using loaded terms such as Apartheid or human rights violator. As Natan Sharansky wrote: "While criticism of an Israeli policy may not be anti-Semitic, the denial of Israel's right to exist is always anti-Semitic. If other peoples have a right to live securely in their homelands, then the Jewish people have a right to live securely in their homeland."

Although valid criticism of Israel has absolutely no connection to antisemitism, some of the unreasonable condemnation has its roots in antisemitic attitudes, often disguised as "anti-Zionism." As a nation dedicated to the principles of democracy, Israel believes that criticism, whether by other nations or our own people, is a powerful force for positive change. However, there is a clear distinction between legitimate calls for improvement and the attempt to delegitimize Israel through the use of far-fetched analogies, demonization techniques, singling out or holding it up to standards not applied to other states. These types of criticism ignore the context in which Israel must strive to survive in the face of violent attacks against its citizens and, all too often, against its very existence.

 


These texts are taken from material published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs. with additional comments and hyperlinked materials. They were apparently published in connection with the Annapolis peace conference of 2007, but they have extensive applicability beyond it. They explain fundamentals of Israeli policy as well as the meaning of Zionism and history of the conflict.

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Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs text is at Israel, the Conflict and Peace. Original text  is copyright by Ami Isseroff and Zionism-Israel Center.

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