Saturday, July 12, 2014

When "criticism" is a cover for hate

Like the United States, Western European countries and any other democratic nation, Israel does not do everything perfectly. There are plenty of issues within the country that are divisive: tensions between “secular” citizens and the Ultra-Orthodox, a public education system in need of reform. People with good intent may point to ways they disagree with Israeli foreign policy or to flaws they perceive in the peace process or with how Israel interacts with the Palestinians. There are a whole range of legitimate criticisms to be made – but then there are many more which are not legitimate at all, many more which are simply a cover for hatred, lies and outright anti-Semitism.

Heard during times of relative stability, such comments, overt or subtle, are bad enough. Today, though, when Israel is facing real danger from Hamas and other terrorist groups every minute of every hour, I find them much more worrying; all the more so when they take the form of outright anti-Semitism. As journalist Jeffrey Goldberg noted tonight, the hashtags “killjews” and “HitlerwasRight” are now popular on Twitter. The internet has a certain amount of anonymity woven into its digital fabric, but I have no doubt that there are those who hate both Israel and Jews who are more than happy to make use of these disgusting hashtag phrases. I understand there are people who feel strongly about the need for a Palestinian state – I myself think that a two-state solution is ultimately the only viable solution – but to employ violent anti-Semitic rhetoric in support of the Palestinian people reveals these “advocates” for what they are: hate-filled and ignorant.

And this use of Anti-Semitic hate speech has not been limited to the internet. Just this evening the Times of Israel reported that a protest outside the Israeli Consulate in Boston this past week became particularly heated, as students showing solidarity with Israel were reportedly called “Jesus killer” among other epithets. The fact that people who were supposedly protesting against Israel decided to employ this kind of rhetoric tells me that they probably care a lot more about expressing hatred for Jews than any love for Palestinians.

Sadly, this seems often to be the case among those who advocate the loudest for a Palestinian state. Not only do they seem woefully ignorant of the internal political realities within the Palestinian population and the degree to which Hamas has done seemingly everything it can to prevent positive steps forward, but their enthusiasm for Palestinian nationalism is often blind to the suffering that Israel has had to endure from bombings, rockets and other forms of attack for many years.

The quickness with which so many of these outspoken critics slip easily into language that is deeply anti-Semitic not only reveals their true colors, but shows the degree to which such people are actually an impediment to peace. Perhaps this is the greatest tragedy of all – that once again hatred for Jews, whether from the fringes of the left in America, the far-right in Europe or among Muslim extremists has become the central rallying cry for anti-Semites as they seek to exploit the pain and suffering of everyone involved in the conflict for their own destructive purposes. The more we recognize this, and call it out for what it is, the sooner we can push aside those who call out “Jesus killer” in the streets of Boston and tweet the hashtag “HitlerwasRight,” and begin to make space for real dialogue among people of good conscience, among people of all nationalities, ethnicities and religions who care about peace.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.

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