Critique of Sophie Dulesh Article in Humanist Perspectives Issue 192: Spring 2015
Reflections on the State of Israel
While Sophie Dulesh article provides a compelling account of Jewish suffering through the ages; I feel obliged to challenge a number of her assertions since my article, Gaza’s Agony: An Alternative Perspective on Recent Events was juxtaposed against Dulesh’s piece. At the outset she attempts to censor the terms of discourse by boldly declaring that “The existence of Israel must be seen in the context of global anti-Semitism.” There is no reason to assume the validity of this statement, although Israel was created by European Jews fleeing both the savagery of European and North American anti-Semitism. It is a gross exaggeration to present legitimate criticism of the Israeli state as an element of global anti-semitism; as if such a sinister worldwide phenomenon actually existed.
Much like medieval witchcraft charges; the reflexive anti-Semitic accusation is impossible to refute because the notion itself is subject to infinitely flexible definitions. Even the mildest defense can somehow be twisted into a fresh offense and thus, many well-intentioned writers have been falsely branded for even daring to examine the concept. According to Stephen Harper’s definition; both Israel itself and Canada’s Jewish community are infested with anti-Semites who experience “self-loathing.”
In fact, genuine anti-Semitism is declining, at least in Canada. According to the organization, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME):
"Critique of CPCCA report reveals misrepresentations on antisemitism in Canada
Montreal, September 21, 2011 – On July 7, 2011, after a delay of more than a year, the Canadian
Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) released the report of its inquiry.
Today, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is issuing a detailed Critique
of the CPCCA report which highlights grave misrepresentations in the CPCCA Report.
The CPCCA Report concluded that the incidence of antisemitism is on the rise, both in Canadian
society generally, and particularly on our university campuses. After a thorough review of the
testimony, the CJPME Critique found in fact that most of the senior Canadian law enforcement
officials who appeared before the inquiry stated that the incidence of antisemitism in their
respective provinces and cities was either not on the rise, or had in fact dropped. Likewise all 12
university administrators who appeared before the Inquiry testified that antisemitism was not a
problem on their campuses."
Unfortunately, Dulesh fails to define this volatile concept that is increasingly used by extreme supporters of Israel to shame and silence even the most reasoned critics of Netanyahu’s Palestinian policies. By extension the reader may then assume that any examination of Israeli matters must be defined by the fallacious ad populim parameters of this limited focus. Therefore, Dulesh discredit others rationales by default and subtly suggests that to do otherwise is itself anti-Semitic.
When Dulesh states, “Of the 50 million recognized refugees, Palestinians are the only ones who demand the right of return”; she exercises what can only be intentional omission by failing to note that Israel itself was created by refugees who valorize and justify their own right of return with reasoning that includes biblical mythology, genocidal victimhood and unsubstantiated claims of existential threat. With nuclear weapons and a high-tech military superior to any of the European NATO states; Israel need not fear its neighbours.
Dulesh, in mentioning the Arab rejection of 1948’s UN Resolution 181, omits Arab reasoning; namely that Palestine’s resident Jews were awarded a percentage of the territory vastly larger than their numbers warranted when compared to the greater Arab population. On the same page she mentions the relentless attacks Israel has suffered but ignores Israeli military aggression in 1967, in 1982, 1986, and 2006 in Lebanon as well as 2008/09, 2012 and 2015 in Gaza. The violence and destruction inflicted by the IDF in Lebanon and Gaza were astronomically out of proportion to the threat level and military abilities of Hezbollah and Hamas irregular forces.
As well, she completely ignores Israel’s status as a highly-subsidized U.S. protectorate and client state that plays a key role America’s Middle East stratagems. Perhaps this fact explains why Israel, “…receives an inordinate amount of attention” in comparison to other states with marginalized indigenous populations like, say, Canada or the United States. Beyond that, since Israel lauds itself as the Middle East’s only liberal democracy; it must be held to high ethical standards and asked to explain the stratified regime of rights and laws applied unfairly to Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis and occupied Palestinians.
Perhaps the strongest reason for the negative attention devoted to Israel is well expressed by the CJPME:
"Israel maintains one of the longest military occupations in modern history
Israel militarily occupied East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 War, and
has not relinquished them since. The UN Charter – a centerpiece of international law – outlaws the
acquisition of territory by force. The signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention voted unanimously on
Dec. 5, 2001 that the Conventions applied to the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.
The Conventions are the preeminent modern instrument of international humanitarian law, and apply
specifically during times of war and occupation. In 2002, and again in 2007, the Arab League offered peace
and full normalization of relations with Israel were it to cease its occupation and withdraw to the 1967
Proponents of Israel suggest that its 1967 war was “defensive” and consequently, Israel has the right to retain
territory it “won.” This position is unsupported in international law."
In justifying European Zionist colonization of Palestine and the 1967 annexation by force of Gaza and the West Bank; Dulesh compares these actions to other forced displacements of indigenous peoples. I liken this to an accused pleading innocence on the grounds that his crime is unoriginal. Noam Chomsky calls this the “saltwater imperialism” fallacy, whereby acts of colonial and imperial oppression can only occur if oceans have been crossed before their perpetration.
Concerning BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) actions against Israel, Dulesh omits the fact the the European Union’s BDS program focuses on Israeli businesses operating in the occupied West Bank rather than in Israel itself. Incidentally, such actions were instrumental in ending South Africa’s apartheid regime and sanctions are preferable to military action against Israel; a nuclear power with the mutually-assured destruction of the “Sampson Option” in its order of battle.
The endless cry of anti-Semitism will eventually lose its impact unless it is reserved to categorize genuine acts of hate and bigotry; of which there is no shortage.