Anti-Semitism

Very few people who are anti-Semitic think they’re anti-Semites, and often people who harbor anti-Semitic beliefs are unaware that they do. Think of it this way: isn’t it common for people who are racists to believe they aren’t racists, for people who benefit from the position of their group to be unaware of their privilege and to deny that they are privileged?

You want to be supportive of Jews while not supporting Israel. As Martin Luther King pointed out, when you talk about Israel you’re talking about Jews. Just how did “the Arabs” get screwed by Israel? Did the Israelis screw the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Moroccans, the Syrians, et al? The Arabs in these countries suffer from some of the lowest standards of living, the least democratic governments, the greatest oppression of women, the highest levels of illiteracy, the worst medical care (and therefore the shortest life expectancy) in the world. Is this Israel’s fault? Arab citizens of Israel are at the other end of the scale in all of these measures. And surprisingly, the Palestinians on the West Bank, despite the horrible poverty of the refugee camps, have a higher standard of living than most others in the Arab world. And yet you want to focus on Israel’s faults.

When was the last time any western group protested the practice of female circumcision in many Arab countries? Where are the movements to boycott the Saudis, who bankroll terrorist activities throughout the world? Where are the professors calling for the exclusion of Arab academics from professional conferences who openly call for the eradication of Israel? The double standard as applied to Israel is harmful, unjust and real.

And let’s be clear: this anti-Semitic attitude, masked by selective outrage regarding Israeli policies, is belied by more obvious forms of anti-Semitism which emanate from the same sources: efforts in Europe to ban kosher meat or ritual circumcision, the rise of “nationalist” political parties, the increased physical violence directed at Jews in the street and at Jewish institutions, banishment of Jewish student groups at a number of universities including Oxford and disqualification of Jewish students standing for student government elections at universities such as UC Berkeley, etc., etc.

I don’t say that criticism of some Israeli policies is unwarranted, but sometimes the policies that come in for the most criticism are also the most poorly understood. The security fence? No one likes walls, and limiting border crossing is sad; but it’s also true that where the security fence has been erected, terrorist activities have been reduced 80%. Check points? No doubt this causes great inconvenience to many Palestinians who want to enter Israel for benign reasons; but what is the unfairness of checkpoints compared to the death or wounding Israeli citizens? But seriously, if you were an Israeli what would you choose?

Are you interested in the history of the Middle East? It didn’t start in 1948 (70 or 80 years ago). Let’s recall the ethnic cleansing of the Jews of Hebron and the West Bank in the 1920s, which made the “occupied territories” judenrein. Perhaps you’ve heard about Deir Yassin, but do you know anything about the siege of Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc? Where’s the outrage, the criticism, the balance?

All the above leads me to conclude that much of the negative attitude expressed toward Israel is due to bias. As it happens, this particular form of bias has its own name: it’s called anti-Semitism.

—Rabbi Kerry Baker

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