Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Ten ways to differentiate anti-Semitic from legitimate criticism of Israel

A lecture for the Left and the UK Labour Party in particular

1. Jews are challenged to be a Light unto the Nations, but should not pretend we are already. Thankfully, often, individual Jews, groups of Jews and their writings have been exemplary but there is no room for complacency – or arrogance, because there is no worse teacher than a haughty one. Therefore, disapproval of actions of Jews (and their State of Israel) is fine. (Except by fellow Jews. Jews are held to a higher standard and should not drop a fellow Jew to give air to their animosity. What is OK for Jews is to dispute issues, say how one wants things (instead of what one disapproves of) and to focus on the positive, giving a fellow the benefit of the doubt without infighting.) It becomes problematic when such criticism of Jews gets connected to the legitimacy of a Jewish State. Every People in the world is entitled to national sovereignty. To make a sole exception for the Jews must come from bigotry.

2. Comparing what Israel does to Nazism, fascism or Hitler (Germany) is equally un-kosher. This not only cheapens the unique Holocaust, it is also an attempt to neutralize guilt, because if Jews themselves now do the same, what claims can they have against their mass murderers and bystanders? Besides that, frankly, every comparison like that is an exaggeration and therefore false. But most importantly, there are perfectly fine ways to disagree with something without comparing it to Hitler.

3. A similar thing we see from people who declare themselves to be staunch allies to Arab Palestinians far away but can’t stand their Jewish neighbor. They are no real friends of Arabs. They just hate Jews. Arab Palestinians deserve better allies! And declaring that Zionists stole Palestinian ground is just done to justify not granting Jews any ancestral homeland. (The British left most colonies while giving them over to two Peoples to make sure that they won’t have a powerful future.) The main contradictions between the interests of Jews and Muslims in the Middle East are created by powers from outside. Without foreign interference, Jews and Muslims possibly could have made peace between ourselves many decades ago. Please, stop this neo-colonialist behavior.

4. Also, a hyper-focus on the success or failure of the Jewish Nation State or the Middle East is a sign of this old animosity towards the Jews. Also, there should be no double standards, criticizing Israel (intensely) while accepting the same (or worse) from other countries. The situation in Israel is complex, often quite different from what you know and there are a lot of media bias and plain propaganda going on so that you should not trust anything you didn’t see first-hand – and not even that. You can’t even assume that the truth must be somewhere in the middle as some parties lie consistently to degrees you have never experienced. But in any case, if anything in or of Israel needs critique, the country has a more than vibrant democracy with record numbers of groups fighting any kind of injustice. Your intrusion is quite unnecessary. Instead, spend some time learning about your own country’s history with the Jews (especially if you have Jewish (legendary self-hatred) or Christian roots) and trying to end autochthon dislike of Jews (and Muslims and Blacks) within your borders.

5. Jews are not a race. Though Nazi Germany treated Jews as a (despicable) race, Jews consist of every ethnicity and language under the sun and most Israeli Jews have Arab roots, are Jewish Arabs/Arab Jews. Jews are a People with not only a (partly) shared culture and history but also a powerful religion. One may sign up to the Jewish People – but not easily – though never unsubscribe. One may be a non-religious or even anti-religious Jew but will be a Jew nonetheless. In Israel, Western (White) and non-Western Jews have now been intermarrying to such a degree that social scientist cannot trace them separately anymore. To see Israel as a racist endeavor is therefore fundamentally false. Understand this well; this is not merely semantics. Arab animosity towards Jewish Israelis may looks like racism, but the reverse is nationalism, never racism, or more likely a reaction to oppressive attitudes in non-Jewish Arabs – much like women cannot be sexist to men but can loath them for being oppressive. (A White Jew can be racist towards a non-Western Muslim (or Jew), but that is bigotry from a White person, not from a Jew.)

6. You might have no problem with Jews but only with Zionism. Just know that that is the same as saying: I have no problem with women but I hate this feminist chatter (sic). That means that you only like self-oppressed un-proud Jews/women. Or: I like homosexuals but they should all behave normally and decently. Or: I respect the Working Class unless they steal. Such preconditions have prejudices built-in.

7. It is not OK (kosher, if you will) to call any Jew or Israeli you meet to account about Israel’s politics. Do you attack random citizens of your country for your country’s laws and politics? They may very well be more critical about Israel than you (but unable to say so if you attack them, and then for becoming defensive) and they have the right to say so – not you, as you are bound to be misinformed, paternalistic and plain hateful.

8. It is oppressive to Jews in the Diaspora to presume that they are not loyal to the country they live in or have double loyalty, to that country and Israel. If you want to assume anything, assume that they’re most critical of Israel. Yet, since the creation of the modern Jewish State, almost all Jews feel safer since now they have a safe-heaven. If you don’t want Jews to be obsessed with Israel, create more safety around them so that they don’t need to worry about their future. You worry so that they don’t. That’s what caring means. It’s a natural right of women, homosexuals and Jews to walk the streets in total safety and serenity.

9. It is not enough to be cool or uninterested about Israel. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. You need to actively stand with Israel. You need to talk about that and interrupt attacks on Israel. You need to demand honest reporting about the Middle East. The only reason why Israel (and Jews) seek shelter from wrong parties is that all the “proper” parties have abandoned them. When you stop being disloyal to Jews and Israel, you liberate them from reactionary strangle-holders. When you don’t, don’t blame them for being held hostage.

10. Using the right terms is not the most important but it may help. Don’t say “Jewish people” – speak of Jews. There is nothing filthy about Jews. Don’t say Palestinians but rather use Arab Palestinians, as to say: I know that there are also Jewish Palestinians and I won’t throw either under the bus. Don’t use the word anti-Semitism lightly. It makes animosity towards Jews sound like the Holocaust and who wants to admit to be such a monster? Prejudices against Jews exist for millennia. They culminated in the Holocaust but their components are worthy of exposing and fighting too. Don’t try to win over hard-core Jew-haters. Know that there are no truthful haters of Jews. Find their lies. Do learn to argue them to teach the truth to bystanders. Don’t try to stand out as a good ally to Jews. Rather, welcome all people to join you.

I have at home an excellent booklet on how to make a good marriage even better. It has a chapter for couples on how to fight. Things like: don’t exaggerate (don’t say always, never), don’t raise your voice, take turns and don’t interrupt each other, etc. – dozens of points. It even says: Strange as it may seem, your partner may be right. If you follow all these rules, would you ever really fight? Same with criticism of Israel. If you follow all the above 10 suggestions, would you even ever criticize Israel? Not because you then believe that all Israel does is perfect. Rather, you feel that you want to help and that doesn’t happen by making things worse. So, you’ll find something constructive to do instead.

I like most of what the UK Labour leader says here below in a video, but he avoids talking about Israel, which shows that he’s got a problem there. To remedy that, I wrote the above.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Holocaust survivors in The Netherlands, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Dutch Holocaust survivors. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. His fields of attention are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality), Medicine, Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (of young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQI, foreigners, and anyone else who's dehumanized and exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation) and Veganism. Many of his posts will relate to current affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or to new insights that suddenly befell him. He always tries to bring something original and to avoid boring you or wasting your time with the obvious. To send a personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click on Contact Me.
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