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Let’s Be More Careful with Charges of Anti-Semitism

In response to Rabbi Stern’s post on whether liberal Jews fuel anti-Semitism by criticizing Israel, Rabbi Grossman writes:

When Jewish intellectuals confuse their right to criticize specific policies of current or past Israeli governments with questioning the legitimacy of having a Jewish State, that is when they cross the line of legitimate debate and cross over into anti-Semitism, and thereby serve the purposes of the enemies of the Jewish people.

This position strikes me as over the top, perhaps even dangerous to the ‘legitimate debate’ Rabbi Grossman wants to encourage. Anti-Semitism is too often used as a cudgel (and, in its overuse, becomes an increasingly ineffective one) to silence anyone whose ideas and positions we don’t like. Rabbi Grossman’s guideline seems like a loyalty test for what sorts of positions Jews may take–to say nothing of what might be legitimate criticism by non-Jews.

Criticizing Israel isn’t anti-Semitic in and of itself. Neither, for that matter, is questioning the legitimacy of Israel to exist as a Jewish state–although, personally, I strenuously disagree with this position and believe such views can justly be termed anti-Zionist or anti-Israeli. Anti-Semitism comes into play when people criticize Israel for sins that they cheerfully overlook or for which they offer apologetics when committed by other countries in analogous situations–when they use their criticisms of Israel as a shield for their hatred of Jews. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an anti-Semite, and a dangerous one at that. So are those who disparage Judaism or Jews’ ability to practice their religion freely. Let’s save the label for those who truly deserve it.



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Marian Neudel

posted February 8, 2007 at 5:34 pm


Criticizing the behavior and policies of the State of Israel certainly isn’t anti-semitic, whether or not the critics are Jewish. But questioning the right of Israel to exist is a whole different ballgame. Do Native American activists question the right of the USA and all the other nations in the Western Hemisphere to exist? Do Aborigine and Maori activists question the right of Australia and New Zealand to exist? Did the citizens of the various Soviet Socialist Republics question the right of the USSR to exist (before it dissolved)? You get the idea. One doesn’t have to be paranoid to suspect that there is some connection between this unique attack on the world’s only Jewish state, and the fact that it is, davka, Jewish.



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Howard Katz

posted February 8, 2007 at 7:09 pm


The problem, however, is that in practice, those who criticize Israeli policies are subjected to the same slander and venom as those who reject the state tout court – while all of the moderate sounding reasonable types make themselves scarce, and allow the right wing types to do the alloted hatched job. The perfect example of the abov



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Howard Katz

posted February 8, 2007 at 7:18 pm


The problem, however, is that in practice, those who criticize Israeli policies are subjected to the same slander and venom as those who reject the state tout court – while all of the moderate sounding reasonable types make themselves scarce, and allow the right wing types to do the alloted hatched job. The perfect example of the above was the unjustied and immoral war against Lebanon(probably instigated by Cheney/Rumsfeld, and the neo-cons). This war ended precisely as all of the critics(such as myself) predicted – as both a humanitarian and a political disaster. During the war, the “leaders” of American Jewry were virtually unanimous in slandering all critics of the war as “self-hating Jews”, Anti-semites, etc. And the “moderates” now urging “dialouge” during this fiasco were – where, exactly? And now that virtually all of Israel recognizes the fact that the war was a disaster, the apologies from American Jewish leadership for slandering war critics is – where?? The point is that counseling dialouge and moderation – mostly in order to provide “cover” for the right wing nuts – is fairly empty unless and until “moderates” such as Rabbi Waxman defend dialouge WHEN IT COUNTS i.e. during wars/violent clashes etc. I’m not waiting with baited breath, however.



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jethro

posted February 8, 2007 at 9:00 pm


Howard The majority of Israelis do not believe that the war was a disaster because of the principles behind it; they were disappointed in the management of the war and the fact that Hezbollah wasn’t hit harder. While many Jewish groups pledged support for Israel during the war, I did not see many examples of prominent Jewish leaders calling other Jews antisemites for their misgivings of the war. Can you give some examples? The Jews who tend to get labelled and attacked are Jews who often question the very foundation of the State’s existence. David Grossman and Amos Oz, two prominent israeli intellectuals who frequently call for dialogue and moderation, are called naive or idealistic but I have never heard anyone question their commitment to Israel nor Judaism. The reality of the situation, imho, is that Jews are actually fairly tolerant of different opinions within the Jewish world but draw the line at attacks not on policy or strategy but on the very existential facts of the State’s existence. Dialogue is nice, but who would you have the Israelis speak with? Nasrallah? Hamas? Iran?



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 8, 2007 at 9:56 pm


But, what about the Ultra-Orthodox groups which also say that the state of Israel shouldn’t exist?



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Al

posted February 8, 2007 at 10:13 pm


President Ahmadinejad’s real views are summarized on this website: ahmadinejadquotes.blogspot.com



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Bill H.

posted February 12, 2007 at 3:53 am


B”H We need to take a lesson from African Americans. They almost NEVER criticize another Black person in public, and usually justify any negative behavior as a result of past injustices done to them by whites. Whether you agree that whites have caused some or even most of the issues facing African-Americans today, you can CERTAINLY blame non-Jews for the lion’s share of problems affecting Jews and the Middle East today. If non-Jews had allowed Israel to live in peace, if the Arabs would have allowed Jews to live in peace in Palestine, if there weren’t any progroms or holocausts, our problems would definitely have been fewer. Please think about this the next time you’re tempted to criticize anything Jewish, whether your fellow Jews, or Israel. THere’s plenty of criticism coming from non-Jews, we don’t need more from ourselves, especially in public.



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Tom

posted February 14, 2007 at 6:43 pm


“Anti-Semitism is too often used as a cudgel (and, in its overuse, becomes an increasingly ineffective one) to silence anyone whose ideas and positions we don t like. Rabbi Grossman s guideline seems like a loyalty test for what sorts of positions Jews may take–to say nothing of what might be legitimate criticism by non-Jews. . . Anti-Semitism comes into play when people criticize Israel for sins that they cheerfully overlook or for which they offer apologetics when committed by other countries in analogous situations–when they use their criticisms of Israel as a shield for their hatred of Jews.” Excellent post! Honest debate focused on issues, and without name calling, garners more respect than type of spin control (wrongly) attributed by Bill to African Americans ever will.



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