Thursday, August 6, 2009

Anti-Semitism and Israel’s Critics

The claim that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic has become something of a shibboleth. Indeed, the efficacy of the argument would seem to be borne out by the degree to which it is now essentially a cliché. At the same time, however, almost everyone tacitly acknowledges that there is at least some question about the matter, or the principle would not have to be so constantly invoked in the first place.

The argument over criticism of Israel, such as it is, seems to boil down to two irreconcilable propositions. The first claims that Israel is a country like any other which enacts certain policies. These policies are therefore open to criticism just like those of any other country. There is nothing, in fact, can be nothing anti-Semitic about criticizing specific policies, and the accusation of anti-Semitism is therefore little more than an attempt to muzzle those who point out unpleasant truths about Israel’s conduct.

This claim is fairly straightforward, but it has several serious problems. The first is that it is, self-evidently, untrue. Israel, like it or not, is a Jewish state, in fact the only Jewish state. It is therefore, by definition, not a state like any other. The idea that Israel’s identity as a Jewish state can be somehow – I hesitate to use the word “magically” – separated from how it is perceived and judged is a reassuring but nonetheless dubious fantasy.

Read the rest at The New Ledger.