Calling out anti-Semitism
If you discriminate against the only Jewish country in the world, is that anti-Semitism?
Let’s take the European Union (EU), which routinely discriminates against the Jewish state. Among the numerous “occupied territories” around the world, for example, the EU has singled out only the Jewish state for special labeling of products from those territories.
Is that anti-Semitism?
A less well-known example of EU discrimination comes from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), a group that aims to improve democracy and human rights in non-EU countries. In the Middle East, does it focus on countries where gays are lynched and journalists are jailed and women are stoned to death?
No, it focuses on Israel, the only Jewish state and the only democracy in the Middle East.
As Evelyn Gordon reported last week in Commentary, from 2007 to 2010, the EIDHR spent more on promoting democracy and human rights in “Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories” than in all other countries of the Mideast combined. Combined!
This is the same Israel, by the way, where an Arab judge sentenced a Jewish president to prison, where an Arab student finished first in her class at the Technion and where Arab gays from neighboring countries come to find safety from persecution.
But even if we allow that Israel is far from perfect and has its share of injustice, is the blatant singling out of the Jewish state a sign of anti-Semitism?
I think so, but don’t take my word for it. Listen to Mark Joseph Stern, a fervent Israel critic who writes for Slate on LGBTQ issues and has railed against what he calls Israel’s “brutal occupation” of the West Bank.
During the recent Creating Change conference in Chicago, when LGBTQ activists singled out for condemnation an Israeli-American LGBTQ group just for being associated with Israel, Stern had the courage to call it what it is.
“A legitimately troubling problem has begun to tear at the seams of the LGBTQ movement,” he wrote. “That problem is anti-Semitism.”
What specifically troubled Stern was the unfair singling out of the Jewish state.
“I would like to ask why, exactly, 200 protesters saw fit to punish A Wider Bridge and the Jerusalem Open House for the sins of a country to which they are connected. Plenty of groups at Creating Change are based in states with deeply unjust laws and police practices. Plenty of participants come from countries that are far more repressive than Israel.
“But the protesters did not single out any of these people. Instead, they stormed a reception featuring Israeli speakers, sponsored by an Israeli-American advocacy group. In other words, they stormed a reception for a bunch of Jews.”
As much as I value the sharp Jewish impulse for self-criticism, it’s important to also know when to fight back. Stern is a liberal critic of Israel who fought back against the scourge of anti-Semitism in his own liberal world.
The Jewish community ought to follow his lead, while being careful not to throw out the accusation too loosely.
The way I see it, if you claim to fight for human rights and yet you single out the Jewish state for special condemnation, while giving murderous, homophobic, sexist and bigoted non-Jewish states a pass, you’re not just a hypocrite or a critic, you’re anti-Semitic.
Pro-Israel liberal groups that criticize Israel have enormous credibility in this regard. They must direct their critical eye at organizations such as the EU, the United Nations and other human rights groups and put them on notice that singling out Israel for special condemnation will be called out for what it is.
Let’s face it, Israel’s enemies have one big thing on Israel: the occupation of the West Bank (which I call disputed, but most of the world calls illegal). Israel’s enemies know that Israel has no easy way out. Right now, it can’t just withdraw from the West Bank even if it wanted to, lest groups such as Hamas and ISIS swoop in and create yet another dangerous terror state in a region already in meltdown.
The Palestinian Authority also knows that should the Israel Defense Forces leave the West Bank any time soon, their own necks would literally be on the line from the blades of Hamas or ISIS.
And yet, Israel’s enemies are conveniently using this complicated situation to single out Israel and isolate it as the world’s most maligned country.
This is not just unfair. It’s anti-Semitic, and we should call it what it is.
David Suissa is a columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.