MESSAGE FOR ABE FOXMAN … DISAGREEING WITH ISRAEL IS NOT DEFAMATION

There comes a time when we must insist on common sense. We must reject the absurd. There comes a time when we must say, “Enough.” Real anti-Semitism exists. Real, ugly, hatred of the Jewish people is all too easy to find.
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When ‘Anti-Semitism’ Is Abused

Disagreeing With Israel Doesn’t Make One a Bigot

Real Anti-Semitism: We should all fight anti-Semitism. But some apparently need a reminder about the difference between real anti-Semitism and honest debate about Israel.
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Real Anti-Semitism: We should all fight anti-Semitism. But some apparently need a reminder about the difference between real anti-Semitism and honest debate about Israel.

By Sarah Wildman*

We were raised to be vigilant. We were taught to fight oppression, admonished to be New Jews — strong, muscular, defiant.

We were told to look for the signs, the slogans and the double-speak. We learned at the knee of those with tattooed forearms; knelt at the feet of those who lost brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, parents, grandparents, lovers, spouses, children.

We have cried, we have wailed, we have lit thousands upon thousands of memorial candles. And we have sworn, again and again, that we would never forget.

That is why when anti-Semitism is falsely applied, we must also stand up and decry it as defamation, as character assault, as unjust. That is why when we debase the term by using it as a rhetorical conceit against those with whom we disagree on policy matters, we have sullied our own promises to our grandparents. For if we dilute the term, if we render the label meaningless, defanged, we have failed ourselves, our legacy, our ancestors, our children.

I am speaking of the recent rise of the bogeyman of anti-Semitism wielded to criticize everyone, from the American ambassador to Belgium (himself the Jewish son of a Holocaust survivor), who was trying to negotiate the uncomfortable lines of Muslim-Jewish conflict in modern Europe, to foreign policy bloggers at Media Matters for America and ThinkProgress, the online magazine housed at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, responding to a story about divisions on Israel policy in the Democratic Party, freely called these blogs anti-Semitic.

Commentary took up her lead, and The Jerusalem Post than found a historian to ruminate over word choices on the blogs, likening their use to classic anti-Semitism. In the meantime, Elliott Abrams of The Weekly Standard took on Thomas Friedman, beginning his piece, “If you were an anti-Semite dedicated to spreading your hatred of Jews….”

We should know by now that supporting the State of Israel does not mean uncritical support by all, that Jewish identity is not always under attack when a government of Israel faces criticism. Love for the Jewish state does not, by definition, mean a love for all things the state undertakes. For some that may mean fighting the segregation of women in Beit Shemesh; for others that means pushing for Israel to get out of the territories.

We can — we must — write about these things. We can argue over borders and refugees, democracy and lack of democracy, worry over the increasingly uncomfortable tension between the ultra-Orthodox and the secular in the state to which so many of us in the Diaspora feel connected.

We can do so because such criticism is not, by definition, anti-Zionism. We can do so because such criticism is not, by definition, anti-Semitism.

There comes a time when we must insist on common sense. We must reject the absurd. There comes a time when we must say, “Enough.” Real anti-Semitism exists. Real, ugly, hatred of the Jewish people is all too easy to find.

But when we are forced to sift through the thousands of posts of an organization affiliated with the Democratic Party in order to come up with six or seven sentences that may, taken out of context, feel uncomfortable to the community with regard to Israel, that should not lead to pointing fingers, libeling writers and screaming about hate speech. We cannot jump up and shout that these think tanks are harboring anti-Semites or brewing hatred because we disagree with something they have written. We cannot call that anti-Semitism. We can call it policy disagreement.

When we take apart a speech about anti-Semitism by one of our ambassadors who has, through observation and analysis, come to the reasoned conclusion that the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and the failure of the peace process, has an impact on Jewish communities abroad, we should not call for his resignation. Instead, we must acknowledge that when Israel takes an action against the Palestinians — whether we agree with that action or not — the action may, and often does, reverberate elsewhere. But we cannot call those who acknowledge these things anti-Semitic. We can call that an uncomfortable truth.

And when Haredi men and women put their children in striped pajamas and place a yellow star emblazoned with the word “Jude” on their chests and parade in the streets of Jerusalem to protest the secular world, we can call that spitting on the graves of our ancestors.

And we can weep that we have lost all perspective.

Enough.

*Sarah Wildman is a columnist for the International Herald Tribune and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and is a contributing editor to the Forward.

Written FOR

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

5 Comments

  1. January 8, 2012 at 14:56

    […] Message for Abe Foxman … Disagreeing With Israel Is Not Defamation (desertpeace.wordpress.com) […]

  2. DDearborn said,

    January 8, 2012 at 15:24

    Hmmm

    And hating and despising a corrupt, evil, fascist, apartheid and clearly criminal police state that is attempting to exterminate the Palestinian people is NOT anti- anything except anti- israeli government. This has nothing to do with religion what so ever. It has everything to do with the actions taken by people that control the israeli government.

    In point of fact people that defend israel no matter what it does, and people that attack anyone that points out the obvious fact that the state of israel is a corrupt, evil, fascist, apartheid and clearly criminal police state that is attempting to exterminate the Palestinian people are in fact themselves evil, corrupt and aiding and abetting a terrorist state. The state of israel is a terrorist state. And by definition that makes the people that run and control the state of israel are TERRORISTS.

    AND THE LAST TIME I LOOKED BEING JEWISH DOES NOT GIVE YOU A FREE PASS TO BE A TERRORIST!!!!!! AND screaming antisemitism is not going to get them off the hook either. But trying to shot the messenger is a time honored and cowardly attempt at protecting the guilty-israel.

    PS: Under the Patriot act and other anti-terror laws passed by the US Congress, israel is by our own definition a terrorist state. As such anyone publicly supporting a terrorist organization such as israel is subject to arrest and imprisonment. It is high time we enforce the law and start arresting all these Americans? who are directly aiding and abetting a terrorist state. Does this mean that the likes of Elliot Abrams should be behind bars……..

  3. Redpossum said,

    January 8, 2012 at 16:53

    This is a very good article. I wish I had the eloquence of manner this author seems to articulate so effortlessly.

  4. January 9, 2012 at 06:23

    […] MESSAGE FOR ABE FOXMAN … DISAGREEING WITH ISRAEL IS NOT DEFAMATION « Desertpeace. January 8th, 2012 | Category: Uncategorized | Leave a comment | […]

  5. Fran SA said,

    January 9, 2012 at 12:21

    To be anti-semitic one has to understand what ‘semitic’ means?
    If I support Semitic people: Arabs, Palestinianas, Syrians, Iraqis, etc.
    I cannot be antisemitic, can I?
    Or there is something I do not understand about the very term. But all dictionaries seem to me pretty clear. Arabic language is a semitic language. So are the people. Are they not?
    Can anyone explain it to me?


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