The true narrative

There is a real difference between anti-Semitism and ‘anti-Israelism,’ and there should be no doubt on how to tell the two apart.

In my last column, I wrote about the different methods used by our enemies to perpetuate anti-Semitism, using examples from stories published in the international news media throughout December. Some of the people who wrote and spoke to me about the column disagreed with my claim that these are really attacks against Jews, saying that these lies are really targeting Israel and its politics.
So is there a real difference between anti- Semitism and “anti-Israelism”? Of course and, in almost all cases, there should be no doubt on how to tell the two apart. Anti- Semitism is ingrained in the subconscious of our enemies and it has nothing to do with what Israel does or does not do.
Let’s take some examples from Muslim countries in Africa which have been in the news recently.
In Tunisia, former president Zine el- Abidine Ben Ali is now an exile following the civilian uprising which began a few weeks ago. Citizens took to the streets and rioted following the government’s decision to double prices on basic foodstuffs as if the corruption and sky-high unemployment weren’t enough. The result of the riots were predictable – hundreds dead and injured. Bloodshed is what the world must expect when dictatorships take action against their own people.
Watching the coverage of these events, Muslim media outlets went and did “man on the street” interviews to get reactions from protesters. “It’s so bad,” one woman said, “even the Jews wouldn’t treat us like this.”
Not only was this woman ignorant enough to make this statement, the TV station also felt it served its purpose by showing just how desperate the situation has become.
Keep in mind that Tunisia is considered a “moderate” Arab state. It’s just a corrupt dictatorship instead of a corrupt, religious dictatorship. You don’t have to be a political science major to figure out what they think of the Jews in a radical Arab state.
Another reason people took to the streets in Tunisia was one of the recently released WikiLeaks cables which describes the country as a despotic police state. No surprises there – but wait – remember anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists are claiming the WikiLeaks fiasco is a Mossad plot.
Therefore the riots in Tunisia are Israel’s fault. Surely you see the logic. I wonder, now that Ben Ali is gone, if those same anti-Semites will credit or blame the Jews for the results of the revolt? NOT TO be outdone was the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, a man whose government hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and is still wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in Darfur.
The people of south Sudan went to vote on independence from the north. The referendum was the key element of the peace accord that ended of the Sudanese civil war in 2005.
Now that it looks like the southern Sudanese want separation, Bashir realizes that the referendum might have been a mistake, especially since the south controls about 80 percent of the country’s oil production.
Arab media ran pictures of “radical” Muslims burning pro-independence voters to death. Once again bloodshed is the way to keep the people in line in dictatorships.
As for Bashir, he was interviewed saying that the move for southern independence was very dangerous for the entire country and – you guessed it – an international Zionist plot. Nothing like blaming the Jews to get your people all riled up.
To folks in their right mind, these kinds of accusations sound preposterous, but they have to be taken very seriously.
In countries where the literacy rate is between 20%-60% (depending on who you want to believe), and there is no way for people to access or process alternate versions of the “truth,” lies become fact. Today, there are no bigger lies in the Arab world than those being told about the Jews.
Not only do they make no effort in trying to hide it, they flaunt it.
These examples – and there are hundreds more – have absolutely nothing to do with Israel’s actions or politics.
How can any Westerner excuse accusations against a nation which has not actually committed the actions for which it has been blamed? Israel makes mistakes and legitimate criticism is something we should all expect and even encourage. As with every country, we are constantly changing our policies, strategic assessments and so on. When that same criticism becomes automatic, that’s anti-Israel. If a party condemns Israel’s actions spontaneously, how could it be otherwise? Everything else, be it conspiracy theories, blood libels, demonizing or outlandish statements are all anti-Semitism, pure and simple. They are all following methods which date back thousands of years, designed to blame Jews for all of the problems.
No one should accept these practices.
They represent an ancient injustice which has merely morphed in the 21st century.
It is up to every Jew to be outraged when s/he hears even a shade of anti- Semitism and to challenge it at every corner. It’s just as important that the State of Israel make it a national priority to do everything in its power to combat anti-Semitism just as strongly as it fights our enemies on the battlefield.

The writer is an independent media consultant, an adjunct lecturer at IDC Herzliya’s School of Communications and a former producer at the Fox News Channel in New York.