Perhaps the most important distinction in the “intellectual war” over Israel’s
legitimacy is between anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment.
its importance cannot be overstated, as enemies of the Jewish people frequently
manipulate the two concepts’ sometimes transmutable definitions to their
That said, the distinction must be clearly understood among
defenders of Israel’s right to exist, as the consequence of misinterpretation
invariably leads to a circular contagion effect that further divides and
exacerbates attitudes between opponents in this seemingly never-ending
However, first and foremost, I believe firmly that it must be
clearly stated that there are those who take issue with Israel geopolitically,
who are not remotely anti-Semitic.
INDEED, I have met a number of good
men and women who don’t have an iota of hatred for Jews in their being, who
occasionally (and even frequently) take issue with Israel’s political practices,
and in return have been assailed by overzealous defenders of Israel as being
This, of course, is unfair, as these critics are clearly
expressing a valid disagreement over policy – not denouncing an entire
To be sure, such a knee-jerk generalization is the equivalent of
an Obama loyalist telling me that because I take serious issue with his
administration’s handling of Middle Eastern policy, I really hate Obama
himself...and black people, as well.
It’s simply irrational and
While I do think that Obama is a remarkable man in many ways, I
find his limitations regarding foreign policy just as notable, and they must be
pointed out considering our obvious existential struggle that necessitates his
pronounced ongoing support toward the US’s only ally in this region of the
LOOK, I, myself, have taken serious issue with Israel’s frequent
bumbling with respect to diplomacy and media relations. In fact, I have been
downright horrified and angered by the sloppy timing and handling of sensitive
state announcements in terms of the diplomatic fallout they invariably
Just this week, after averting a near perfect storm on the heels
of doomsday scenarios predicting Israel’s unprecedented and imminent isolation
following the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral application for recognition of
statehood and full member status in the UN, this government decided to announce
plans to advance the building of 1,100 housing units in the contested Jewish
Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
The timing of this announcement – shortly
before accepting a proposal by the Quartet to re-launch talks within 30 days,
with the stated goal of reaching a final-status solution by December 2012 –
clearly left an exacerbated US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who happens
to support Israel, rightfully pissed off.
To her credit, Clinton
diplomatically stated that Israel’s announcement and timing regarding the highly
charged construction project was “counterproductive to our efforts to resume
direct negotiations between the parties.”
But this was actually just code
for: “Really, Bibi?! You want to announce another surgical procedure while
you’re still on the gurney, with guns pointed at your head, a doctor who’s
burned out and ready to quit – while you’re still awaiting a life-or-death
This example, of course, doesn’t take into account the March 2010
Ramat Shlomo debacle that coincided with Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to
Israel to jump-start direct talks, leaving our most important ally with egg on
its face – on an international stage, no less.
I could practically hear
from my apartment in Jerusalem the US administration shouting (in an agitated
Desi Arnaz voice to Lucy): “You gotta lot of explaining to do!”
THAT SAID, I’m
an ardent Zionist, and support this country with all my heart. Indeed, its very
existence and security is central to me on more levels than I could possibly
articulate, for many reasons.
However, few things are more troubling than
watching a loved one shoot himself in the foot. And, in terms of diplomacy,
Israel’s feet looks like a picture of Mitt Romney being used for target practice
at Rick Perry’s Texas ranch’s shooting gallery.
Therefore, it’s entirely
reasonable to expect – and hear – dissenting voices that civilly challenge
dubious decisions made by the Israeli government, without being deemed
anti-Semitic or enemies of the state.
By dismissing fair, logical
arguments from otherwise decent people, we are only alienating ourselves and
potential allies by further blurring the already amorphous anti-Semitism/anti-Israel equation.
HOWEVER, THERE are indeed those whose
anti-Israel rhetoric is a direct extension of their anti-Semitism – who very
much want Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth.
And they must be
called out and dealt with accordingly.
For example, on college campuses,
it is an all-too-common practice to falsely condemn Israel as a practitioner of
apartheid and genocide, surreptitiously raise funds for terrorist organizations,
and harass and even assault Jewish students.
Indeed, last month hundreds
of US college and university presidents were set to receive warning letters from
the Israel Law Center instructing them of their legal obligations to prevent
anti-Semitism on campus – and their legal duty to prevent university funds from
being diverted to terrorist activities directed against Israel.
rights group carried out the legal campaign in response to “an alarming number
of incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Jewish and Israeli students
on US college campuses.”
To quote the Israel Law Center’s lawyer, Nitsana
Darshan-Leitner: “Anti-Israel rallies and events frequently exceed legitimate
criticism of Israel and cross the line into blatant anti-Semitism, resulting in
hateful attacks against Jews.”
Furthermore, according to the Community
Security Trust, a charity that monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for
the Jewish community in Britain, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK
set a new high in 2009 – the most since records began. Many of these attacks are
framed as anti-Israel rhetoric, when it is clearly beyond the realm of
Meanwhile, Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire
Central, which organizes the French Jewish communities’ religious affairs,
recently stated that while anti-Semitic attacks in France were nothing new, he
was alarmed at how “normal” they were becoming.
“It is a situation that
is becoming banal,” he grimly said.
Sadly, the rest of Western Europe is
not far behind.
Such instances of flagrant anti-Semitism – based on
patent lies – must be readily identified for the hate speech that it is, and
calmly corrected to reflect facts.
AN INTEGRAL part of fighting the intellectual war requires clearly distinguishing who is driven by rational
argument, and thus can be reasoned with, and who is driven by hate.
simply don’t have the luxury of making mistakes in this
Winning this war will be a Herculean feat that requires
rational, discriminating minds in the face of profoundly daunting
Therefore, legitimate challenges against Israeli doctrine must be
accepted, respected, and civilly debated as a means of changing hearts and
However, blatant anti-Semitism cannot be tolerated under any
circumstance. Indeed, it is essential that those who propagate such vitriol are
clearly identified and brought to task – and to finally recognize that terrorist
entities such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida have no intention of being
reasoned with, let alone recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
IN THE end,
understanding and acknowledging the distinction between anti-Semites and
of Israel is crucial in defining and framing a potentially constructive
Meanwhile, textbook hate-mongers who engage in violence and
slanderous, dangerous diatribes have, and deserve, no place in civilized
Simply put: A key element of winning the intellectual war
comes down to determining who can be reasoned with, and who