Israel’s political tactics and treatment of Palestinians have long been issues of hot debate and strict scrutiny among world leaders and human rights activists.
Unfortunately, criticism of Israel is stifled, if not altogether shunned, in the media.
The hesitation to criticize Israel stems from the fear of being misunderstood and labeled as anti-Semitic.
As was once said on ABC’s “Nightline”, some of Israel’s opponents “face branding as racists” and risk “the slander of anti-Semitism” because of their condemnation of Israeli policy.
Many people simply give up trying to raise their voice on the matter because the allegation of anti-Semitism is more trouble than it is worth.
It seems as though the Israeli agenda uses the anti-Semitism label to protect itself from criticism, scrutiny, and accountability.
In any effort to condemn Israeli policy, Israel uses the anti-Semitism claim to shield itself from taking responsibility for its actions.
This is unacceptable.
Israel is a sovereign nation and not immune to criticism from the global community.
“What you’re looking at is a coordinated, systematic campaign to delegitimize criticism of Israel,” said Hussein Ibish, communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Israel is a thorny issue that involves everything from politics and religion to morals and values.
Even so, if they’re going to throw anti-Semitism into the mix, perhaps it’s worth a closer look.
When you look at the true origin of the term “Semitism,” you see that its use in this case is wholly unwarranted.
Accurately, a Semite is one whose language is Semitic, including the Hebrews, Arabs, Assyrians, Phoenicians etc., not specifically a Jew.
Considering the scope of its definition, the term “Semitism” covers a large and diverse area of genealogical and cultural ground, of which Jews are only a segment.
To criticize Israel is to criticize its policies and tactics as a government and to protest its aggression and hostility.
To be anti-Semitic, one would have to criticize Jews as a people, as a religion, as a race.
Anti-Israel attitudes are not guilty of any of those views.
If someone criticizes Israelis, it is because of their involvement with Israel and not because of their association with the Jewish religion.
Perhaps the biggest indication that the two terms exist on different playing fields is the fact that membership in one group doesn’t mean automatic membership in the other.
The fact is, not all Israelis are Jewish and some of Israel’s strongest critics are Jews themselves, concerned with justice and peace in the Middle East.
The labeling of anti-Israel attitudes as anti-Semitic is causing a problem with regards to free debate and criticism.
Paul Findley, a former Congressman and author of “They Dare To Speak Out,” acknowledges that “the fear of being called anti-Semitic is much more effective in silencing candidates and public officials than threats about campaign money or votes.”
Equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism deters people from speaking out and quells debate about Israeli policy.
For instance, the campaign for a divestiture drive on college campuses, in which schools are pressured to sell their holdings in companies that do business with Israel, has been charged with being anti-Semitic in nature.
In a Washington Post article by Michael A. Fletcher, he writes that such a charge “stifles a crucial debate about Israeli policy toward Palestinians.”
The campaign is merely intended to protest Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
Israel’s usage of the anti-Semitism claim, to dodge blame and criticism, does not do much to advance its cause.
It makes people hesitant to express their real beliefs and proves that Israel is quickly running out of excuses for its actions.
Rafif Safi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org