Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israeli Militarism

Peace and Environment News

Morgan Duchesney- Sept. 14, 2009

Anti-Semitism is popularly understood to describe comments or behaviour harmful to Jewish people but since both Arabs and Jews are Semites it is both fair and accurate to describe as anti-Semitic any comment or behaviour harmful to Arab or Jew. I offer this distinction as an introduction to an article that concerns itself with how Western perceptions of the Middle East have excused the most outrageous abuses of power and privilege by the world’s only remaining superpower and its Israeli client state.

Reasoned criticism of the Israeli government’s conduct is not anti-Semitism, although it is frequently referred to as such by those who will accept no criticism of Israel. While expansionist Zionism influences the Israeli government’s aggressive militarism, it has little to do with Judaism. Those who dare to critique Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians are often accused of anti-Semitism. This lazy and emotive accusation is a reasoning fallacy designed to shame the critic by evoking the Holocaust. How convenient it is to have your potential critics so terrified of identification with Nazism that they hesitate to expose even your most outrageous excesses. Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney has been notable for casually smearing critics of Israel with the brush of anti-Semitism. The normalization of such comments is the norm among North American and European politicians has created an effect similar to libel chill. This tactic has been extremely effective.

A excellent example of this common tactic was employed by Barbara Amiel in the May 4, 2009 issue of MacLean’s magazine where she wrote that, “ The excuse that current criticism of Israel (which is the home of the Jewish people) is not anti-Semitic fails when its supporters hold Israel to standards totally different to those they apply to every other country in the world.” I assume she is referring to the violence of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups but this not clearly stated. Ms. Amiel leaves the reader to his or her own assumptions. As a person who rejects the use of state terrorism to achieve political goals, I apply the same standard to every nation on earth, especially the wealthy industrial states with histories of brutal colonialism or, in the case of Canada and Israel, client state behaviour.

When one counts casualties, the Israeli state has suffered a significantly lower loss of life than the Palestinians. The recent Israeli invasion of Gaza resulted in 1400 Palestinian deaths versus 13 Israeli soldiers offers a typical example of this deadly imbalance. As usual, the Israeli military’s overwhelming technological advantage was the deciding factor. Israel’s military dominance in the Middle East would be impossible without massive U.S. support. With the exception of a few mild rebukes, the dominant states of the world largely approved of the Israeli invasion. The UN disapproved but is powerless in the face of U.S. veto power. What would happen if 1400 Israelis had been slaughtered? The world knows exactly what happens when thousands of Americans die violently at the hands of terrorists. The post 911 vengeance wrought by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq provides a stark example of what occurs when the powerful suffer the fate they have traditionally dealt to any who dare oppose them.

Those who might call me anti-Semitic will also likely emphasize that the majority of the Arab states have not offered much help to the Palestinians. That is beside the point – the failings of despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia and Syria do not excuse Israeli responsibility for what seems to be a system of apartheid. Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians have nothing to do with Judaism and everything to do with economics, racism and their role as a U.S. client state. The reality that they enjoy military dominance and the full support of the U.S. government power insulates Israel from any incentive powerful enough to convince them to reach a fair accommodation with the Palestinians.

The following account is a timely example of the chilling power of the anti-Semitic accusation. The United Church of Canada (UCC) has recently bowed to such accusations delivered by the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). The UCC had recently suggested that Israel be sanctioned for its harsh treatment of the Palestinians. They were considering the wisdom of a general boycott of Israeli businesses, cultural and academic institutions resembling the anti-apartheid boycott of South Africa. The CJC warned the UCC that all ties between the two religious groups would be severed if the church adopted the Israeli boycott resolution at its 40th General Council on August 12. While the UCC distanced itself from formally endorsing an anti-Israeli boycott, church spokesman Bruce Gregson in the August 13 Ottawa Citizen encouraged individuals to, “study, discern and pray, and to undertake their own initiatives, which may include an economic boycott as a means to ending the occupation [of Palestine by Israel].”

According to noted Zionist philosopher, the late Nachem Goldman, ”… it is a sacrilege to use the Holocaust as a justification for oppressing other people.” Nachem was so despised for his honesty that the World Zionist Organization refused to send a delegation to the 1982 funeral of this founding father of Israel. It could be said that accusations of anti-Zionism will soon replace the reliable tactic of anti-Semitic accusation. Either way, the purpose of such accusations is to mute and generally discourage reasoned criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Author Bio:
Morgan Duchesney is a Canadian writer and martial arts instructor with an interest in social justice and international affairs. He has published work on the war in Afghanistan, Canadian democracy, the Canadian banking system and various martial arts topics. He holds an MA in Political Economy from Carleton University in Ottawa, where he resides.