Is the State Department antisemitic?

Much has been made of the apparent double standard the State Department has applied to the Israel Defense Forces as against the U.S. military.

Last summer, the IDF reportedly shelled an UNRWA school in Rafah, an act condemned immediately by the State Dept., before any investigation had taken place, as “disgraceful” and “appalling”. The rationale was that “the suspicion that militants are operating nearby a site like this…does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of innocent civilians.”

With the U.S. bombing of a Doctors Without Borders facility in Afghanistan this week, the spokesperson was asked whether that act should be similarly described on the same grounds. The spokesperson was left dumbstruck, appealing to reporters to wait for investigations to be completed – a mercy that Foggy Bottom had not afforded Israel a year prior.

This double standard is remarkable because it is so glaring (watch the video: it’s cringeworthily).

But yet more remarkable is that it seems to fall foul of the State Department’s own definition of antisemitism. That definition provides “examples of the way in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel”, and among those examples is “applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

No doubt the U.S. government will show contrition over this bombing if, following investigations, it is deemed to have been unwarranted. But the question is whether the rationale the State Dept. used to condemn Israel – that the proximity of civilians must thwart military objectives – which is a rationale to which State presumably believes Israel should adhere, will also be adopted by all U.S. military and other agencies in future. If they do not, then it presumably qualifies as behavior demanded only of Israel and thereby falls within the definition. So will it now also guide all U.S. operations from here on out?

That seems doubtful. And that’s because it is a profoundly foolish approach. While civilian causalities should always be minimized, when your enemies deliberately fight in areas densely populated with civilians and consider as one of their chief objectives to maximize civilian casualties – including of locals – to comply with the State Department’s reasoning would mean paralysis in the face of terror. The United States likes to insist that it does not negotiate with terrorists; yet what the State Department is advocating is even worse: simply succumbing to them.

Last summer, the administration’s posture of hostility toward Israel was unprecedented in recent memory, demonstrated by, among other things, knee-jerk reactions like this. In the administration’s eagerness to condemn the Jewish State, it has put its own integrity and possibly also U.S. servicemen and women, and ultimately the American civilians they serve to protect, in jeopardy.

It was not Israel’s act that was disgraceful or appalling but the State Department’s response. As if that was not enough, it now turns out that that response may have been, by that body’s own reckoning, also antisemitic.

About the Author
Jonathan Neumann writes on religion and politics.