ADL conference on anti-Israel rhetoric

Politicians, activists, leaders aim to distinguish between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism.

June 2, 2010 13:55
3 minute read.
ADL conference on anti-Israel rhetoric

ADL 298.88. (photo credit: AP)

As Israel comes under fire for its raid against the Gaza-aid flotilla, a conference of distinguished Israeli politicians, activists and international Jewish leaders took place Tuesday to address and define the topic of “Anti-Israel Rhetoric: Criticism or Anti-Semitism.”

The conference in Herzliya was organized by the Anti-Defamation League to address the various methods and arenas in which Israel is delegitimized.

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Commentary and analysis of the sea raid, however, often took over the proceedings, with all the participants having something to say about how the global media are reporting on it.

Former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman told The Jerusalem Post that Monday’s emergency meeting session of the UN Security Council did not surprise him at all.

“The convening of the Security Council or the General Assembly for an anti-Israeli session will serve nothing more than a stage for Israel bashing,“ said Gillerman, about what he perceived as a “knee-jerk” reaction to the raid on the Gaza flotilla.

“I do not think that [the Security Council] serves any purpose,” said Gillerman. “It never has. Not a single session of the Security Council has ever helped the life of a single Palestinian, or saved the life of a single Israeli. There is a lot of hypocrisy and double standards there.

“What happened last night is an example of that because you had a session where the word ‘Hamas’ was not even mentioned once, and the fact that the siege really is not on Gaza but on Israel was not acknowledged once, either,” he continued.

“That, in fact, is the reality. It is not Gaza that is under siege but it is Israel that is under siege by Iran and its proxies.  I don’t give much credence to what happens at the UNSC.”

Gillerman addressed the one-day gathering, as did Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Abraham Foxman, the national director of the ADL, and a handful of others. The speakers touched upon topics ranging from defining the difference between criticism and anti-Semitism, methods of financial divestment and means of Israel delegitimization via the media, the UN and NGOs.

“Criticizing Israel is no excuse for anti-Semitism.  When criticism contains anti-Semitism, it loses its legitimacy,” said Foxman during his speech.

“Whether anti-Semitic slurs are used or not, criticism made in bad faith is not legitimate. Bad-faith criticism is not about human rights or the laws of war or negotiating peace. Bad-faith criticism is simply an attack on Israel.

“In my experience, those who have no hatred for Jews or for the State of Israel will find their legitimate criticisms given full consideration,” Foxman continued. “They and their comments will not simply be brushed aside.  Because as Jews – Israelis and non-Israelis – we hold ourselves to a high ethical standard and we want to respond to legitimate criticism.”

Absent from the proceedings was a discussion on the emergence of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and the new power these sites hold in acting as a pipeline for dialogue and distributing information.

Foxman admitted to the Post that social media sites present a serious challenge facing communities concerned with civility and civil discourse, and new standards for discussion and debate are needed to address the growing online phenomenon of anti-Israel rhetoric.

“I think Facebook and Twitter have changed the nature of communication for the good and for the bad,” said Foxman. “Now they provide a super-highway for communicating bigotry. This topic permeates everything we talk about; social media sites make anti-Semitism more permissive, uglier, and also provides a level of anonymity to hatred and double-standards.

“It is out there in ways we have never seen before and we have not yet developed the antidotes with how to deal with it,” he said. “It is a major challenge since it enhances and legitimizes anti-Semitic kinds of behavior.”

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