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Misuse of Charge of “Anti-Semitism” to Silence Critics of Israel Is Decried

Allan C. Brownfeld
Special Interest Report
April 2012

Increasingly, those who express criticism of Israel are being subject to the charge of “anti-Semitism.” This is true in the case of both Jewish and non-Jewish critics.  
Columnist Caroline Glick, writing in The International Jerusalem Post (Dec. 23-29, 2011) declared that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was guilty of employing “traditional anti-Semitic slurs” and of “channeling long-standing anti-Semitic charges.” He was referred to as a “dyed-in-the wool Israel hater” for writing that, “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister ... understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. The ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”  
In an article entitled “The Big Lie Returns,” Ben Cohen writes in Commentary (Feb. 2012) that, “The list of flagrant Jew-baiters is growing: those with Jewish names provide an additional frisson.” Among those he names are M.J. Rosenberg, a former employee of AIPAC, blogger Philip Weiss, and New Yorker correspondent Seymour Hersh. Also cited is Time columnist Joe Klein.  
Cohen states that, “Adherents of anti-Zionism have traditionally avoided speaking about Jews qua Jews to dodge the anti-Semitism bullet.” In Cohen’s view, criticizing Israel is “anti-Semitism” because Israel is “the extreme embodiment of Jewish-ness.”  
Recently, in response to demands from some supporters of Israel, the provisions of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were extended to include Jewish students. One advocate of this extension is Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, a lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The examples she provides of the need to “protect” Jewish students from “anti-Semitism” include a conference titled “Alternative Histories Within and Beyond Zionism” which took place at her school. She cites speakers who challenged Israeli policies as “apartheid” and “racism.”  
These various criticisms of Israeli policies, Rossman-Benjamin argues in The Forward (Feb. 17, 2012) “contain language that clearly meets the working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. Department of State. As a result of their experience with such university-sponsored anti-Semitic expression, Jewish students at my university have expressed feeling emotionally and intellectually harassed and intimidated.”  
Mark Yudof, president of the University of California, claims that the federal complaints against the university alleging a hostile environment for Jewish students are without merit. Yudof, who is Jewish, declared: “I think it is about people engaged in abhorrent speech on our campuses. But I am skeptical at the end of the day that with those two instances we will be found to be in violation of Title VI.”  
In an article titled “The Misuse of ‘Anti-Semitic,’” Sara Wildman, columnist for The International Herald Tribune and a contributing editor of The Forward, writes: “We were raised to be vigilant. We were taught to fight oppression ... We have cried, we have wailed, we have lit thousands of candles. And we have sworn, again and again, that we would never forget. That is why when anti-Semitism is falsely applied we must also stand up and decry it as defamation, as character assault, as unjust. That is why when we debase the term by using it as a rhetorical conceit against those with whom we disagree on policy matters, we have sullied our own promises to our grandparents.”  
Wildman writes: “I am speaking of the recent rise of the bogeyman of anti-Semitism wielded to criticize everyone from the American ambassador to Belgium (himself the Jewish son of a Holocaust survivor) ... to foreign policy bloggers at Media Matters for America and ThinkProgress ... Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, responding to a story about divisions on Israel policy in the Democratic Party, freely called these blogs anti-Semitic.”  
Wildman argues that, “Jewish identity is not always under attack when a government of Israel faces criticism ... There comes a time when we must insist on common sense ... We must reject the absurd. There comes a time when we must say, ‘Enough.’ Real anti-Semitism exists ... When we take apart a speech about anti-Semitism by one of our ambassadors who has, through observation and analysis, come to the reasoned conclusion that the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and the failure of the peace process, has an impact on Jewish communities abroad, we should not call for his resignation. Instead, we must acknowledge that when Israel takes an action against the Palestinians — whether we agree with that action or not — the action may, and often does, reverberate elsewhere. But we cannot call those who acknowledge these things anti-Semitic. We can call that an uncomfortable truth ... We can weep that we have lost all perspective. Enough.” (The Forward, Jan. 12, 2012) •

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