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Sharansky View That Singling Israel Out for Criticism Is “Anti-Semitic” Is Challenged

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
May - June 2004

Nathan Sharansky, now “Minister for the Jewish Diaspora,” in the Israeli cabinet, recently toured U.S. campuses and European capitals discussing what he calls “the new anti-semitism.” He argues that even when criticism of Israel’s policies is shown to be factually correct, voicing it may still be branded as anti-Semitic unless the critics can show that they devote an equal amount of time and energy to criticizing other nations’ misdeeds.  

Asking whether such a position has merit, Adam Keller, writing in The Other Israel (April-May 2004), notes that, “...the dominant fact is that official Israeli policies do come under intensive fire in many countries around the world, and that many critics do indeed devote far more attention to Israeli acts of oppression and violations of human rights than to similar acts by other regimes around the globe. Are they all antisemites? Not necessarily. Several other plausible explanations could be found to fit the phenomenon.”  

Among these explanations, notes Keller, are the following:  

• “Not every state which resorts to oppression claims to be a Western democracy, indeed ‘the only democracy’ in its region, and asks for international support on that basis. Isn’t it natural for citizens of other Western democracies to look more closely at the behavior of a family member?”  

• “Not every state which resorts to oppression has been founded by people who were themselves the victims of very cruel oppression, who asked the world for its sympathy and support on that basis, and who often declared that the state they would found would be no ordinary state but ‘a light unto the nations.’ Isn’t it natural for outsiders to judge the actual Israel by the criteria set by Israel’s own Founding Fathers?”  

• “Not every state which resorts to oppression had been founded by people who came from Europe and settled in an already inhabited land. Isn’t it natural for people in countries which put such behavior behind them to inquire into the behavior of those who still act in such a manner?”  

• ”Not every state which resorts to oppression is the recipient of three billion dollars a year of U.S. aid, or the beneficiary of an almost automatic U.S. veto in the U.N. Security Council. ... Isn’t it natural for U.S. citizens to inquire more closely into the affairs of such a state — and for that matter, the citizens of other countries in a world so dominated by the U.S.?”  

• “Not every state which resorts to oppression is the possessor of a considerable arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles, which it refuses to submit to any international inspection. Isn’t it natural for outsiders to look more closely into the doings of such a country?”  

Mr. Keller concludes: “Still, given all these legitimate reasons, there might well be people and groups who are not motivated by any of them in singling out Israel and its policies, people whose main or only motive is that Israel is a Jewish state, and who would care nothing about its doings were most of its citizens other than Jews. Such people and groups are indeed anti-semites and deserve to be castigated as such. But you need to work at providing clear proof, Mr. Sharansky!”

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