“Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic!”
This tired refrain is a classic “straw man” argument.
It “sounds good” because it feels easy to agree with. The recipient of the statement is supposed to feel instinctively, “Of course criticism of Israel is not inherently antisemitic!”
But the fallacy in the pronouncement is that no one of any standing or credibility, anywhere, is saying that any and all criticism of Israel is automatically antisemitic.
That’s what makes “Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic!” a straw man argument — it presents a supposed position that is easy to “knock down”, like a straw man, but there is not actually anyone taking this supposed position.
This argument is analogous to saying, “Imprisoning innocent people is wrong!”
It’s obviously true, but it’s a statement of no value, because there is no one advocating for imprisonment of innocent people.
A recent example of the “criticism of Israel is not antisemitic” straw man argument comes from Professor Gregory Mann at Columbia University.
Professor Mann writes, “As in the past, we—students, faculty, and staff alike—have been asked to embrace the absurd notion that any criticism of Israel’s policies is antisemitic.”
By using the passive voice — “we have been asked” — Professor Mann avoids having to identify the source of this supposed call at Columbia University to embrace the idea that any and all criticism of Israel is antisemitic.
Professor Mann has not responded to my request for identification of a source for his claim.
For transparency and clarity, I have written to Professor Mann to ask for clarification of the sources of his claim.
Specifically, I wrote to Professor Mann:
Gregory, you’ve written:
I provided Professor Mann with my contact information.
I’ve not heard back.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of antisemitic criticism of Israel continues to bombard us daily, with:
- Jew-hating tropes (control of the global media; control of US foreign policy; greed and use of money for power);
- inflammatory words applied unilaterally against Israel without thoughtful and rigorous application of definitions to facts or inclusion of relevant history and comparable situations (“genocide”, “apartheid”, “colonial settlers”); and
- egregious double standards that hold the only Jewish state in the world to “rules” and “principles” somehow never mentioned in the context of any other nation-states, even those whose history and conduct fits the cited rules and principles far better than those of the Jewish state.
And that kind of criticism of Israel is, by definition, Jew-hatred.
If any reader can cite a credible person, institution, or authority declaring that any and all criticism of Israel is automatically and always antisemitic, please share the information.
If no one can do so, let’s put away the divisive and inflammatory straw man argument and engage in serious conversation about how to end the ongoing, tragic conflict that has cost thousands of innocent lives and threatens to cost thousands more.