When being anti-Israel is anti-Semitic
Bernard Pinsky

There has been much discussion and finger pointing about criticism of Israel, its actions and its policies, and Israel's defenders' claims that much of the criticism is based on anti-Semitism. Critics of Israel say they cannot speak out for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic. Defenders of Israel are concerned that anti-Semitism is the basis for the criticism in many cases. It is therefore important to know when in fact anti-Israel rhetoric is founded in, results from or itself creates anti-Semitism.

1. When the media prints every allegation against Israel, no matter how outrageous or unfounded, it is anti-Semitic. In 2002, front pages of newspapers around the world printed news daily of the "massacre" ongoing in Jenin. Unsubstantiated reports of Palestinian casualties started at 500, then quickly rose to 3000. There were reports of hundreds of Palestinian bodies rotting and being carted out in trucks. Despite Israeli assurances that fighting was building to building, and every effort was being made to avoid civilian casualties, virtually every journalist in the world used the word "massacre" and "thousands dead" over and over. In the end, UN investigators found that 56 Palestinians and 52 Israelis had died in the pitched battles. Some years before, stomach flu had spread through a Palestinian high school. The affected Palestinian schoolgirls told reporters that Israelis were poisoning them. The media published that allegation around the world. There are dozens of other similar examples. These unfounded allegations, even if eventually corrected, have a cumulative effect of depicting Israel unfairly. It is the duty of the media to verify their stories and not to print unfounded allegations. In the case of Israel, the media often has not done so. Not only is the breach of their journalistic duty anti-Semitic for treating the Jewish state differently than other states, but the printed lies cause anti-Semitism, as evidenced by the past 2 years of increased anti-Semitic incidents world-wide.

2. When several states do the same thing, but only the Jewish state is blamed, it is anti-Semitic. In 1981 Ariel Sharon, being in charge of the areas of southern Lebanon that Israel invaded to stop attacks and rockets from there, did not stop Christian fighters from entering Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. A massacre of several hundred people ensued, perpetrated by Christians against Muslims. In 1994, Belgian UN peacekeepers, in charge of and protecting Rwandan Tutsis in an area under their control, pulled out their troops after 10 Belgian soldiers died. Rival armed Hutus then proceeded to massacre more than 500,000 Tutsis. In 1995, U.N. commanders delayed a request for air support by Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serb forces slaughtered more than 7,000 Muslim civilians.

Years later, only Ariel Sharon is called a butcher. Only Ariel Sharon is indicted under Belgian international war crimes laws. Not only does no one ever refer to Belgians or the UN as culpable as Sharon for allowing much larger massacres, no one even remembers that someone else other than Sharon carried out the massacre. Only Sharon is vilified.

3. When people who fight racism fail to denounce anti-Semitism, it is anti-Semitic. The day after 9/11, the Vancouver Police organized a cross-cultural meeting and asked local media to attend. It was a show of solidarity for Muslims. On local television, local Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Jews stood up and said that 9/11 was not a reason to blame all Muslims, the 9/11 terror was the act of a few radicals, and that they stood with their Muslim Canadian brethren. No act of revenge or anti-Muslim action or discrimination was justified or acceptable in any way. Since then in Canada there have been several synagogue bombings, a considerable increase in anti-Semitic violence, fear of speaking out in favour of Israel on campus, and chants by thousands of Muslims on Parliament Hill and other places of "death to the Jews". The Vancouver police have not, and no other police force in Canada has organized a similar TV event like after 9/11. Too many leaders have not stood up and vigorously denounced the increasingly anti-Semitic atmosphere. Some politicians and others have spoken out, but not nearly enough.

4. When pro-Israel speakers are not allowed to speak, it is anti-Semitic. At Concordia University, a riot prevented the Israeli foreign minister from speaking. Anti-Israel demonstrators physically and verbally abused the intended audience, broke windows and went on a rampage. Police did not prevent the violence. The speech was canceled No criminal charges were laid. So far one violent student has been suspended by Concordia, not expelled. Later, Concordia Student Union canceled the rights of Hillel, the Jewish students organization, because there was a pamphlet on a Hillel desk about the Israeli army. Hillel has filed in court to regain its status.

5. When people repeat lies about Israel in the face of contrary facts, it is anti-Semitic. An incredible percentage of the world seems to have fully accepted that the Arab-Israeli conflict is caused by Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The conflict is very complicated, but that statement is simply false. Before 1967 Israel did not occupy the West = Bank and Gaza, and yet there were 3 wars fought in 19 years from 1948 to 1967. After 1967, Israel has offered land for peace on 3 separate occasions, the latest being at Camp David under Clinton. How could the falsehood that the occupation is the cause of the conflict have such currency if it weren't for willful anti-Semitic intent?

6. When only Jews are not entitled to a national homeland, it is anti-Semitic. Israel was established by a vote in the UN in 1947. Since then, its national movement, Zionism, has been labeled as racism at the UN and by many leftists. The same people do not label as racist the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza will not tolerate Jews in their midst. Jews have one small country, one-fifth of whose citizens are Arabs, but their national aspirations are said to be racist. Palestinians are not called racist for wanting a national homeland, which will add to the already existing 22 Arab countries.

7. When Jews are dehumanized, it is anti-Semitic. In Arab countries today, and unfortunately in many other countries, Jews are dehumanized to an extent reminiscent of Nazi propaganda of the 1930s. In Egypt, a TV series based on the lies of the 19th century Protocols of the Elders of Zion is being aired weekly. Palestinian textbooks paid for by Canadians and Europeans show Jews as bloodthirsty, evil sub-humans. All over Europe Israelis are characterized as heartless. The lack of response from all quarters is deafening.

8. When Jews are blamed for what others do, it is anti-Semitic. In 2002, hundreds of Palestinian armed militants stormed and occupied by force the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. They sought to hide from Israeli troops. Israelis surrounded the Church, but did not attack. While the standoff continued for weeks, Israel sustained daily condemnations for its actions: no less than the Pope condemned Israel for surrounding the Church. Not a word from all these critics about the Muslim militants who occupied the Church and desecrated it. Israelis didn't touch the Church or those inside, but got international condemnation and scorn.

9. When Jews who support Israel's right to exist are not equal to those who support its destruction, it is anti-Semitic. Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine, is an anti-war activist of impeccable credentials. He is anti-Sharon and in favour of Israel unilaterally abandoning the West Bank and Gaza, as it did in Southern Lebanon. Mr. Lerner wanted to speak against war at an anti-war in Iraq rally, but was refused by the rally organizers because he believes in Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

There is no reason for Israelis to accept advice from those whose opinions are based on anti-Semitic reporting or treatment of facts. Political problems have political solutions. Those who would stand up against anti-Semitism first and discuss the Arab-Israel conflict second, as opposed to the other way around, will make a genuine contribution toward peace.