Everyone’s a Critic

In 1892, Ahad Ha’am wrote an essay entitle Hazi Nehamah (Some Consolation). In it he examines the psychological mechanism that leads Jews to question the value of their own people, given the overwhelming criticism of their host societies. He then draws a surprising comfort from — of all things — the infamous Blood Libel. Since “Every Jew who has been brought up among Jews knows as an indisputable fact that throughout the length and breadth of Jewry there is not a single individual who drinks human blood for religious purposes,” we can “Let the world say what it will about our moral inferiority: we know that its ideas rest on popular logic, and have no real scientific basis.”

In that spirit, it’s worth drawing people’s attention to the recent – and apparently ongoing – scandalous revelations of antisemitism at all levels of England’s Labour Party.  One obvious question that arises from these revelations is:  Where do these ludicrous conspiracy theories end and the much-ballyhooed “legitimate criticism of Israel” begin?  Because Ahad Ha’am’s conclusion wasn’t that the Blood Libel was a fantasy; that was his premise.  His conclusion was that the rest of the complaints about Jews were equally fantastic (I doubt his point would be undermined if here-and-there a truth were discovered).

People regularly misunderstand the legitimacy of “legitimate criticism”.  They present it as an issue of whether foreigners, and especially foreign Jews, have the right to criticize Israel.  That of course is absurd.  One could debate the manner of the criticism, the forum in which one expresses it or the operational conclusions one draws, but what would deprive someone of the right to criticize?  No, the legitimacy of criticism is simply a function of its accuracy.  The debates about manner, forum and reaction remain relevant, but the basis, the rock, is Truth.

And since very, very few “progressives” who condemn Israel have made any personal effort to learn the facts or to reason from them, let’s assume that their opinions come from those in their camp who have taken a personal interest in the matter.  They should now be considering whether the people who claim that the Mossad is behind 9/11, Hitler was a Zionist and Israel is harvesting organs from murdered Palestinians are the same ones who have encouraged them to blame Netanyahu for the lack of a Middle-Eastern Renaissance or claim that Settlers all live on stolen Arab land.

As far back as 1997, Ari Shavit famously (well, by Israeli standards of fame) pointed out that the Left’s passionate hatred of Netanyahu had nothing to do with the man and everything to do with its own pathologies.  More recently, I’ve often challenged people who blame the Prime Minister for everything (and I mean everything) to provide details; mostly I receive no response at all and never anything remotely satisfactory.

So I recommend that liberals in England (and the US, because what are the odds that the phenomenon is not shared?) ask themselves whether their criticism of Israel is not of a piece with the ridiculous rantings that come from their camp.

Note that I present no defense of Israel here.  I believe that even in the court of public opinion guilt needs to be proven beyond reasonable doubt.  At this point you should all be doubters.

About the Author
Michael and family moved from NYC to Alon Shvut in 1986. He works in Software; blogs sporadically on education, public policy and whatever else comes to mind; chairs the boards of two educational institutions and practices philosophy in the ancient tradition of corrupting the minds of youth.