How to Criticize Israel without being Anti-Semitic: The Unofficial Guide

The news media have once again been ablaze with reports of Israel’s military attack on Gaza. The historic Israeli-Palestinian conflict has, consequently, returned as a subject of discussion at cafés, salons, and dinner tables.

The discussion, however, is not an easy one to have—unless, of course, you are foursquare behind Israel. Criticism of Israel very quickly lands the critic into trouble; accusations of anti-Semitism are fired back as if from an Uzi. What is more, these accusations can sometimes come accompanied by raised voices, red faces, bared teeth, waved fists, and even rude expletives. Sometimes, not even Jews can avoid them. So it is understandable that non-Jews desiring to avoid drama think it best to keep mum.

Noticing the problem, and apparently in the interest of free and open debate, a concerned Jewish blogger has recently made waves posting a 19-point guide on how to criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic. The Tumblr blog post has, at the time of writing, attracted 8485 notes. And the BBC deemed it so useful that they even reported it on their news website.

As TOO was created for purposes of free and open debate, including Jews and Israel, it seems pertinent that we examine the 19 points. Perhaps we will find in them the Philosopher’s Stone in our efforts to discuss important matters involving Jews without being accused of ignorance and moral turpitude. The points are meant to be considered in no particular order.

1. Don’t use the terms “bloodthirsty,” “lust for Palestinian blood,” or similar. Historically, Jews have been massacred in the belief that we use the blood of non-Jews (particularly of children) in our religious rituals. This belief still persists in large portions of the Arab world (largely because White Europeans deliberately spread the belief among Arabs) and even in parts of the Western world. Murderous, inhumane, cruel, vicious—fine. But blood…just don’t go there. Depicting Israel/Israelis/Israeli leaders eating children is also a no-no, for the same reason.

While one can understand the desire to avoid rehashings of the ancient blood libel, this seems a little paranoid in the case of “bloodthirsty”. Read more

Peter Beinart on American Jews and Israel

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. Peter Beinart, who has become a leading voice of the liberal critique of Israel, had this to say in describing Jews who support AIPAC:

There is nothing wrong with the people themselves. Most AIPAC people are not ideological. They don’t see themselves as right wing. They’re mostly moderate Democrats. They just want to do something for Israel. They want to feel connected to Israel. They go to their synagogue dinner, they go to the Federation dinner, and they go to the AIPAC dinner. (Haaretz, Is archliberal Peter Beinart good for the Jews?“)

A recurrent theme at TOO is that Diaspora Jews are engaged in hypocrisy—supporting apartheid Israel bent on ethnic cleansing and oppression of Palestinians, with a Jews-only immigration policy, while supporting America as  a proposition nation with no ethnic identity, massive non-White immigration, and vilifying any manifestations of ethnic/racial identity by Whites. My image of AIPAC supporters was that they are conscious gung-ho supporters of settlers, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid—the technical term is ‘neocon’. But Beinart seems  to be saying that American Jews simply have a blind spot. The hypocrisy fails to register with them. They are good liberals who will vote for Obama and just want to support Israel; they don’t pay much attention to what Israel does, or their attitudes are shaped by the AIPAC propaganda machine. In a rather gentle way, Beinart is trying to get them to see their hypocrisy, probably to no avail. Read more

Günter Grass and Israel: Passing it over at the Passover


That the power of ideas in the propaganda war is more decisive than the power of bombs has again proved to be true. The academic way of putting it is:  “whoever exerts cultural hegemony will eventually exert political hegemony.” Historically, this has been the case with European politicians who seldom read books, but who love to dine, wine and parade in the company of famous novelists. When push comes to shove the legitimacy of their decision making will be enhanced with the obligatory photo-op session with their country’s famous writer.

Günter Grass, a German left-leaning novelist, a Nobel prize winner, and serving for decades as a moral pillar not just of  the “ antifa Germany,” but of the entire construct named today the European Union, published on April 2 in the influential liberal German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, a poem with the title “What must be said” (Was gesagt werden muss). In the poem Grass criticizes Germany’s delivery of submarines to Israel and depicts Israel as a threat to world peace.  Read more

Armageddon Approaches

“An Israeli attack on Iran would create a disaster.” — Zbigniew Brzezinski

“The entire lake will become a killing field…the Gulf will run red with American blood.” — Military specialist Mark Gaffney.

Bombing Iran could be the final nail in the coffin of America—a decaying and morally bankrupt superpower where torture has been normalized and where the President is now free to kill anyone he chooses, anywhere in the world, who he happens to suspect is a terrorist.

Right now, Iran appears to be the object of universal detestation, at least among those who control the mainstream media and who are anxious to persuade the easily duped masses that Iran is a major threat to civilization. Read more

A Deal with the Devil: The Strange Case of Israel and South Africa

Review of The Unspoken Alliance by Sasha Polakow-Suransky

Israeli checkpoints, concrete walls, and the ongoing blockade of the Gaza strip continue to reinforce the growing opinion of Israel as an apartheid state. Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s The Unspoken Alliance details Israel’s ties to the original apartheid state—South Africa. The book describes how “material interests gave birth to an alliance that greatly benefited the Israeli economy and enhanced the security of South Africa’s white minority regime.” (p11)

The background to this cooperation is complex. South Africa’s governing political party, the National Party, primarily represented the Afrikaner people. These were the descendants of Dutch, French, and German Protestants. They were marked by their staunch Calvinism as well as their unique ethnic identity. Despite early opposition to Jewish immigration and some pro-German sympathies during the Second World War, the Afrikaners were not inherently anti-Jewish. The strong Protestant religious feeling that shaped much of Afrikaner identity played a role in their perception of Israel as the ‘Holy Land.’ As Polakow-Suransky notes, “Afrikaner nationalists drew heavily on Jewish history and symbolism.” (p14) In 1953 South African Prime Minister D.F. Malan would become the first head of government to visit Israel while in office. During the 1967 Six-Day War the South Africans cheered the Israeli success as a David-and-Goliath victory against Soviet-backed regimes. Read more

Israel’s Malaise: Prepare for the Next Diaspora?

In the discussion about the status and the future of Israel most people tend to overlook its social and economic structure because of  its political and military prowess. But the greatest threat to the Jewish state does not seem to come from abroad, despite the lobbying against Iran. The Arab Spring is coming to Tel Aviv, but not in the way it was foreseen.

When Zionism was launched in the 19th century by Theodor Herzl it was not very appealing to Jews, not in the least because Palestine was part of the economically backward and politically unstable Ottoman Empire. If European Jews chose to migrate, they preferred North America where industry was rapidly developing and the economy was booming. Zionism was not only unappealing but it was also widely regarded as unrealistic—could rural Palestine economically sustain the livelihood of the millions of urban Jews living in diaspora?

Today the question of economically sustaining Israel is more urgent than ever. Israel has enjoyed generous U.S. economic and military support and German reparations for decades, but the pumping of billions of dollars into the Israeli economy has not been enough to counterbalance Israeli expendures. Israel’s economy is burdened by its defense budget which is close to 25% of GNP and its huge state-apparatus accounting for one third of the workforce. Also its elaborate social welfare is a big burden on the state budget which is plagued by the low level of labor participation among the growing number of Orthodox Jews. These Jews are also exempt from military service. Read more

Jewish Pressure Resulted in Goldstone’s Partial Recantation

Richard Goldstone’s statement that there was no evidence that Israel intentionally targeted civilians has been a Godsend to Israel apologists–whose default position is to claim that this entirely compromises the entire report. This is definitely not the case:

As many others have pointed out, Goldstone’s op-ed does not stand as a recantation of the Goldstone Report. Even if one accepts Judge Goldstone’s claim that Israel did not intentionally target civilians during Operation Cast Lead – a position that the U.N. Committee of Experts, the official body charged with monitoring Israeli and Palestinian investigations into Cast Lead, does not support – the vast majority of the report stands as written. As Judge Goldstone has said himself in an interview with the Associated Press, “I have no reason to believe any part of the report needs to be reconsidered at this time.”

This means that Judge Goldstone still believes that Israel and the Palestinian authorities committed war crimes during the conflict, that Israel intentionally targeted Gaza’s civilian infrastructure and used “deliberately disproportionate force designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize the civilian population.” These are the damning charges that remain unchallenged and that demand international action. (‘The Goldstone Report’ now belongs to the world by Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner and Phil Weiss, Mondoweiss, April 7, 2011) Read more