To Criticise is to Victimise: Anti-Semitism and its Relationship with Israel

Mohamed Torokman/Reuters


Every form of discrimination and intolerance is just as detestable and insipid as the last. Anti –Semitism is no exception.

It is because this kind of discrimination is so despicable that it genuinely angers me when someone who speaks out against the actions of Israel is condemned as an anti–Semite. By automatically labelling anyone with a negative opinion of Israel’s actions as anti– Semitic, we are shutting down any opportunity for constructive discussion. It is difficult to discuss anything when the immediate response is to accuse someone of inciting hatred.

It is a fine line, but there must be a distinction between anti –Jewish sentiment and anti-Israeli sentiment. They are not synonymous.

In a 2002 panel on the ‘Differences Between Criticism of Israel and Anti-Semitism’, panelist Ali Abunimah eloquently points out that the self-evident explanation for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the radical power inequality between the two factions. This is something that stems directly from the dispossession of the Palestinians and the subsequent military occupation that has only worsened with time.

Within this lies a very genuine criticism about the behaviour of Israel. It is a criticism, however, that is often drowned out by accusations of anti-Semitism. Some, such as Arsen Ostrovsky, an international human rights lawyer living in Israel, have gone so far as to say that Israeli’s “are being targeted for one reason and one reason only: we are Jews.” Ostrovsky links this violence to the pervasiveness of Palestinian infrastructure.

 (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)
(AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

When I came across this statement I was dumbfounded to say the least. Many Palestinians who carry out such acts of violence are likely less than fond of their Israeli oppressors. But we must not forget that in this situation that is exactly what Israel are – oppressors.

Between June 2006 and August 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued 62 resolutions to Israel. All 62 of these resolutions were broken. Meanwhile, the other 192 nations under the council’s jurisdiction received a grand total of 55 resolutions between them. It seems odd that an international human rights lawyer would forget this.

Palestinians are not attacking Israeli’s because of their Jewish heritage. The attacks are a response to decades of maltreatment and violent oppression – they would be happening no matter what race, creed or colour the Israeli people were. In fact, it is important to mention that since the beginning of the Second Intifada on 28th September 2000, at least 9410 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli’s whilst only 1,207 Israeli’s have been killed by Palestinians.

By pointing all of this out, I am not condoning or excusing violence towards Israel’s citizens or Jewish people. I am simply highlighting that, due to Israel’s actions, there is room for genuine criticism – it is infuriating to see these criticisms buried deep beneath accusations of anti-Semitism that are only made to justify increasingly brutal and oppressive actions.

To speak out against Israel is not anti-Semitic. Certainly anti-Semitism exits, but in throwing around the label of anti-Semite for simply disagreeing with the actions of a repressive state, we have helped to create a situation in which nothing can be questioned without moral outrage at the questioners apparently indisputable racism.

Because of this, progress is halted and the conflict worsens. The Israeli government must be held accountable for its actions just as any other government in the world should. It should not be allowed to justify its actions through accusations that everyone who disagrees with them is simply spreading hatred and intolerance towards the Jewish people.

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