Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Is criticism of Israel anti-Semitism?"

This question is discussed at length in the comments to Stanley Fish's article, "Is it Good for the Jews?" It's about the silliest question imaginable for several reasons. First, no one--neither Israel's defenders nor its detractors--can decide whether "criticism of Israel" is criticism of specific acts done by the Israeli government or an all-out attack on Israel's right to exist. The easy answer would be that the former is not anti-Semitic but the latter often is. But it's not so straightforward. Of all the conflicts going on in the world, why do so many people in the U.S. and Europe, people with no particular connection to Arabs or Jews, care so much about the one between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Does anyone have an opinion about specific things done by the Indian government or the French government? How about all the governments of South America and Africa? Sure, we all have the right to criticize each of these states' actions, but few seem interested in doing so. Among those who believe that Jews a) control the world and b) do so in an organized and systematic manner, i.e. don't just happen to gravitate towards certain fields valued by society in 2007, and c) do so specifically to cause harm to everyone else, of course it's more worthwhile to learn about Israeli policy than any other policy on the planet.

Here are some of the more heartening things commentors had to say:

"I have found that it is unwise to engage American Jews on the subject of Israel. Even if they are kindly, humane, and liberal on other topics, they often defend political behavior on the part of Israel that to my mind is indefensible."

"Stanley Fish has chosen to ignore a fundamental truth about persecution of the Jews, a precept that most of Europe understands but that the U.S. cannot: American’s ongoing and unstinting support of Israel has angered Arabs the world over. America’s media, largely controlled by Jews, has stifled open and honest debate on this sensitive subject and thus, Amercians remain largely ignorant and willfully naive about the attacks that occured on 9/11."

"It would not be wrong to say “the Israelis are out-nazing the nazis.
One of the reasons given for going to war in Iraq was Iraq had or were building nuclear weapons which would destabilize the region. Israel has nuclear weapons yet the U.S. doesn’t condemn Israel and even provides materials for these weapons. I do not consider myself an anti-semite but this country has a primary obligation to it’s citizens not sending billions of dollars to Israel at the expense of U.S. citizens."

"as i get older, i have come to realize that zionism was a useful political position for the 19th and 20th century jews–it is no longer viable since it involves oppression of a whole group of people."

"Actually, I don’t even consider Israel as a Jewish State; it’s just another political entity wrapped up in it’s own survival and self-interests, no different than any other modern state. I consider Israel to be a very small subset of Jews who brook extreme nationalism, religious fanaticism, and outright imperialism all in the name of some delusional idea that God gave the early Jews a deed to certain properties in the Middle East."

And of course, the best is left for last:

"Okay, despite all, the big money of dual-citizen Jews, even though they are only two percent, gives them incredible sway in media, politics and Hollywood. Their Neo-Cons own President Bush and his cartel, and not one Jew loses a life in war in Iraq. The tail of USA seems, indeed, to be wagging by the powerful sons of Israel, who now want war with Iran, in which, again, no Jew would lose a life. That is the source of my disdain."

I don't have an answer. Comments like these make me want to give up worrying about any of this.

3 comments:

Jeff Hughes said...

"Of all the conflicts going on in the world, why do so many people in the U.S. and Europe, people with no particular connection to Arabs or Jews, care so much about the one between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Does anyone have an opinion about specific things done by the Indian government or the French government? How about all the governments of South America and Africa?"

Well, I can't say anything about European interest on the subject, but the root of widespread American interest is obvious: the American government (and thus, the citizens of the United States) provide enormous material support to the Israeli government. It matters to us because we have a great deal invested there, money many believe to be unjustly invested.

golddog said...

Of all the conflicts going on in the world, why do so many people in the U.S. and Europe, people with no particular connection to Arabs or Jews, care so much about the one between the Israelis and the Palestinians

Why does it matter? It matters because of its geo-strategic importance. If Israel were in Africa or Asia, I suspect that far fewer people would care.

The cause of its importance is the biggest cliche in American foreign policy: America's economic interests are dependent on its access to cheap energy. A large scale conflict in the region -- larger than Iraq -- would be disastrous for oil prices. The inelastic demand for oil combined with the higher prices would mean a world wide economic downturn.

Anonymous said...

There are many reasons for the US "interest" in Israel. The situation is similar to the US taking the side of Britain in the period of 1939-41. The values of Britain and the US were obviously more similar than those of Nazi Germany and the US. Regarding criticism of Israel, there is often antisemitism involved. Why do I say this? Look at criticism of China with its record of minority repression (Tibet) and pollution of the environment. If I make these criticisms everyone understands that I do not imply I do not like the Chinese people or that I think China should not exist as a country. With Israel the subtext of criticisms is often that Israel should not exist and Jews are evil.