State Dept: Criticism of Israel = Anti-Semitism?

In the most recent edition of its annual “Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism” released Thursday, the State Department — and hence the U.S. government — moves ever more closely to a long-standing neo-conservative tenet: that criticism of Israel or Israeli policies often, if not always, equals anti-Semitism. The report also suggests that comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to South African apartheid — as former President Jimmy Carter did in his 2006 book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid — also amounts to anti-Semitism. And it focuses on the United Nations as a breeding ground for anti-Semitism as expressed through criticism of Israel, another major neo-conservative theme that has intensified sharply over the past five years, notably through the efforts of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the National Review Online and the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.

Here’s the argument as laid out in the introductory section of the report entitled Contemporary Forms of Anti-Semitism”:

“Anti-Semitism has proven to be an adaptive phenomenon. New forms of anti-Semitism have evolved. They often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism. However, the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that — whether intentionally or unintentionally — has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character.

“The new anti-Semitism is common throughout the Middle East and in Muslim communities in Europe, but it is not confined to these populations. For example, various United Nations bodies are asked each year on multiple occasions to commission investigations of what often are sensationalized reports of alleged atrocities and other violations of human rights by Israel. Various bodies have been set up within the UN system with the sole purpose of reporting on what is assumed to be ongoing, abusive Israeli behavior. The motive for such actions may be to defuse an immediate crisis, to show others in the Middle East that there are credible means of addressing their concerns other than resorting to violence, or to pursue other legitimate ends. But the collective effect of unremitting criticism of Israel, coupled with a failure to pay attention to regimes that are demonstrably guilty of grave violations, has the effect of reinforcing the notion that the Jewish state is one of the sources, if not the greatest source, of abuse of the rights of others, and thus intentionally or not encourages anti-Semitism.

“Comparing contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is increasingly commonplace. Anti-Semitism couched as criticism of Zionism or Israel often escapes condemnation since it can be more subtle than traditional forms of anti-Semitism, and promoting anti-Semitic attitudes may not be the conscious intent of the purveyor. Israel’s policies and practices must be subject to responsible criticism and scrutiny to the same degree as those of any other country. At the same time, those criticizing Israel have a responsibility to consider the effect their actions may have in prompting hatred of Jews. At times hostility toward Israel has translated into physical violence directed at Jews in general. There was, for example, a sharp upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide during the conflict between Hizballah and Israel in the summer of 2006.” [Italics added.]

Of course, it would be interesting to apply this analysis to the rhetoric used by senior political figures, neo-conservative groups (such as FDD or the American Enterprise Institute), and media in the U.S. and Europe about Islam, Muslims or about various kinds of Islamic political movements in the Arab and Islamic worlds, particularly with respect to the notion that these actors may have a “responsibility to consider the effects their actions may have in prompting” Islamophobia. [I suspect the report’s author meant “promoting” rather than prompting.]

The report purports to apply a definition of anti-Semitism established by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) to its own analysis. But it actually goes beyond that by suggesting at various points, particularly in relation to UN conferences, resolutions, and the reports by UN Special Rapporteurs, that any comparison of the treatment by Israel of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories with apartheid amounts to anti-Semitism. Carter, however, goes unmentioned, perhaps because the report’s scope does not cover the anti-Semitism in the United States. If it did, I suppose it would have to also address the anti-Semitism — as opposed to the philo-Zionism — of the Christian Right, and that wouldn’t be good for a Republican administration. That anti-Semites like Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell can be the most zealous supporters of Israel, particularly a Greater Israel, for theological reasons certainly poses some delicate challenges for those disposed to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. So far as the neo-conservatives are concerned, however, that conundrum was settled 25 years ago when Irving Kristol noted that Jews should not be concerned about an alliance with the Christian Right despite its anti-Semitic beliefs. “Why would it be a problem for us?” he wrote back in the early 1980s. ”It is their theology; but it is our Israel.”

The report is being issued in advance of next Wednesday’s a meeting at AEI next week on the subject of “Anti-Semitism and the War on Terror” featuring Germany historian Matthias Kuentzel, the author of the ‘Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11.’ As pointed out in the AEI blurb, the author’s “central thesis is that a great deal of contemporary Islamist anti-Semitism comes directly from the Third Reich, that it was institutionalized in the Middle East during the Second World War, and that is has grown ever since, thanks to organizations and individuals who — in many cases — received direct ideological, political, and financial support from teh Nazis and who are still very active.” AEI fellows Michael Ledeen and Michael Novak (who personally assured me at another AEI seminar back in 1981 that the Argentine military junta could not possibly be considered a neo-Nazi regime as alleged by one its most famous victims, Jacobo Timerman, after his release — as a result of pressure from Jimmy Carter, no less — from one of its secret torture prisons) will comment after the presentation.

Visit Lobelog.com for the latest news analysis and commentary from Inter Press News Service’s Washington bureau chief Jim Lobe.

Author: Jim Lobe

Visit Lobelog.com for the latest news analysis and commentary from Inter Press News Service's Washington bureau chief Jim Lobe.

  • Mace Price: The Despised Redneck of Barstow

    …To be succinct or blunt one; there is a place where subjective judgements of anti-Semitism end, and reality begins, and it is not for The United States Department of State to determine the juncture…We all know it well enough.

  • phil

    Like a knight in shining armor rides The Despised Redneck of Barstow” with a dead-on closing statement. Way to go.

    Way to go Mace and remember to buy gold. Some bad stuff going on in the financial marketst this morning, eh?

  • James

    Man oh man, you dumb Americans STILL do not get it-

    The Israelis are running The United States of Israel!

    • “STILL do not get it?”

      Good lord, James, look at the content of this thread. A stunning number of us, probably a majority, clearly DO get it! Pick several dozen other blogs or websites at random and I guarantee that you’ll find that the anti-neocon, anti-Zionist, anti-imperioalist, anti-war view is the prevailing one, not the exception. What you apparently don’t understand is just how wide the gap is between the ideology of the U.S. government and that of the majority of the people. No better lesson can be taught in just how little control “we” have over “our” [sic] government and its policies. What you, as well as a sizable number of Americans, obviously don’t “get” is that American “democracy” is a myth and always has been.

  • I am correct go study it yourself, Jews were not subject to the Inquisition.It was for Christians only. The Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 and the Inquisition lasted to well into the 18th century. In 300 years about 3000 people were executed,by far most penalties were spirtual penances.The courts of the Inquistion were actually quite moderate for the times.By the way a leading Jewish Scholar is Netanyahu senior,again I am correct.

    • Eugene Costa

      Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller

  • I highly recommend the film “Battle of Algiers” to those who reactively assume that the targeted killing of civilians automatically marks the killers as less moral than the enemy they seek to depose.

    Killing of any kind is something we should all avoid if possible. But the unmistakable sympathy created for the film’s protagonists (Algerian terrorists seeking to defeat an occupying imperial power)raises the question of the relativism (i.e. self-serving quality) of the west’s current “moral” argument against the use of such tactics.

    You rarely hear today aspersions of moral inferiority cast against the American Indians who fought the “white man,” often by attacking civilians. On the contrary, today it is more acceptable to say that the U.S. settlers were the immoral ones for taking the land in the first place, and that the Indians only responded as they could to defend their land.

    In addition, it has been documented that the Israelis targeted civilians (the Stern gang) in their early fight for a Zionist state. Like many of today’s Americans, many of today’s supporters of Israel would prefer to use the “morality” card to defend their hegemony; and both would be in the category of “do as I say NOT as I did, when I was as weak as you are today.” The message taken is, “arm yourself with nuclear weapons, because only then you will able to fight on a FAIR playing field with civilized people like us.” At least that is what it appears Iran has taken away from the west’s pronouncements.

    Food for thought.

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  • Dave

    Notice the ever so incremental increase in the control of our discourse.
    This is how the enslavement begins – it was similar in the Soviet Union after “the same tribe” obtained their ruthless control over their subjects which resulted in “anti-Semitic statements being a capital offense” (kinda lets you know who was in charge then).
    Anyway,all of us should take a solemn oath amongst one another to resist these small but noteworthy steps towards the end game that is slowly unfolding.
    WE MUST NEVER FORGET

  • Mace Price: The Despised Redneck of Barstow

    …No doubt, that what you are prescient enough to see is that we here, on this forum are present witnesses to a subversion of discourse founded on State sponsored–and worse, Legislated fear. These actions euphamistically known, and acknowledged, as Political Correctness, Hate Speech and other such subjective epithets and opinions that are in reality implements of a new tyranny. These both Partisan against, and defiant of The 1st Amendment if not freedom of thought itself.

    …Coming events never fail to cast their shadows beforehand…and I for one do not like what they portend…Trust me gentlemen: You won’t either.

  • reader

    State Dept: Criticism of Israel = Anti-Semitism?

    According to Raimondo’s latest article, criticism of China is Sinophobic

    My god, China censors what their own citizens, who are mostly Chinese btw, can read on the Internet. They cracked down in big way on information coming in and goung out via the Internet, and removed all reporters from Tibet, and shut off the landline phones and electricity (some people still in there got info out via cellphone). How totalitarian does it get?

    I have nothing against the Chinese people themselves, just like I have nothing against Israelis if I criticize Israel policy.

    I am sorry to put this on your thread which isn’t about China, I just had to get this off my chest.

  • loved blueneck

    @brad smith….

    so you are saying that Sabra and Chatilla, Der Yassin…are just figments of the imagination of antisemites…..right?
    stop talking about something you know nothing about. Yor ignorance is only willful.

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