Friday, April 15, 2016

Criticism of Israeli policy ≠ anti-Semitism


In April 2016 I was accused of having anti-Semitic views after posting a clip of the Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders talking about Israel.

The sheer irony of getting accused of anti-Semitism by an Israel apologist for daring to share a clip of a Jewish man (Bernie Sanders) criticising Israel's deadly bombardment of Gaza in 2014 is quite staggering. 


If I really was an anti-Semite would I really be so impressed with Bernie Sanders' mediating language that I'd share it on my Facebook page? Would a bigoted Jew-hater really approve of Bernie Sanders so much that they'd like to see him become the first ever Jewish President of the United States (as I would)?

Here's what Bernie Sanders said in the clip I shared:

"If we are ever going to bring peace we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity ... I believe it [Israel's bombardment of Gaza in 2014] was [disproportionate] ... We had in the Gaza area some ten thousand civilians who were wounded, and some 1,500 who were killed."
If I'm apparently an "anti-Semite" simply for expressing agreement with Bernie Sanders' views, does that mean Bernie Sanders is an anti-Semite by extension? Will partisan Israel apologists call him a "self-hating Jew" because he dares to express an opinion that not everything the Israeli state has ever done is perfect?

In my view the only way the Israel-Palestine conflict will ever be resolved is if the US government stops supporting the worst excesses of the Israelis, and accepts the proposition that Palestinians are people too. Bernie Sanders apparently shares this view, and I applaud him for it. As a Jewish man his sympathies are obviously going to be drawn towards the people of the Jewish state, so it obviously takes a great deal of humanity for him to be able to see things from both sides of the conflict, and to want to mediate in an even-handed manner.

If that kind of approach makes Bernie Sanders a "self-hating Jew"  
in the eyes of some, and me an "anti-Semite" for agreeing with him, then so be it. I'm not going to shut up and say silent simply because some highly partisan Israel apologists are going to smear me for daring to express an opinion they don't like. 

It doesn't seem to matter how often it is pointed out to "anti-Semitism" wielding Israel apologists that


Criticism of Israeli policy ≠ anti-Semitism

they keep on using this outrageous "anti-Semite" smear to try to shut down legitimate criticism of atrocities committed by the Israeli state.

It doesn't matter how legitimate or even handed the criticism of Israeli policy, time and again these people - who know no better debating tactics than slinging ugly smears in order to try to silence dissent - turn up to spew their ugly partisan bile.

The really awful thing is that this disgusting bad faith debating tactic is very effective. Fear of being hit with this kind of toxic smear is enough to scare off a lot of people from expressing their opinions on the Israel-Palestine situation, because nobody ever likes to be called a disgusting bigot on a public forum (even if the accusation is completely unfounded).

This tactic of using "anti-Semite" smears to scare moderate people away from contributing to the Israel-Palestine debate is very effective in polarising the debate so that in many cases the vast majority of people left contributing are people expressing extremely partisan views in favour of one side or another, which is absolutely no recipe for a mediated settlement to be achieved.

I'm not sure if keeping the debate as polarised as possible in order to diminish the chances of a fair negotiated settlement is the objective of people who use these "anti-Semite" smears. I guess probably not, most of them probably just see it as a convenient way of shutting down legitimate criticism that they don't want to hear. However, whatever the intention of this kind of appalling smear tactic, it's clear that by hounding anyone who expresses anything other than undiluted praise for Israel, extreme polarisation of the debate is a logical consequence.




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