Fair Criticism of Israel? What About the Palestinians?
Supporters of a close relationship between the US and Israel work hard to differentiate between anti-Zionism and legitimate criticism of Israel. Doing so is an intellectual and moral necessity, but it should not become a distraction.
That’s because to anti-Israel fanatics of a growing radical Islamist/leftist alliance, all criticisms of the Jewish state are legitimate — because Israel itself is illegitimate.
After Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, some on the left turned Israel from the Middle East’s plucky David facing reactionary Arab kings and dictators into a colonial Goliath, oppressing “third-world” Palestinian Arabs. The Soviet-inspired 1975 UN General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism certified “anti-Jewish statism.”
The UN resolution was repealed in 1991, but for some on the far-left (and now, some on the not-so-far left), accusations of a “racist” Israel are commonplace. For them, Israel has become the villain — despite the endless record of Palestinian hate, terrorism, and incitement.
To many in Arab-Islamic countries, Israel’s illegal and temporary nature is obvious. Former Israeli Knesset member Einat Wilf notes that most of the region’s 460 million Arabs look at nearly seven million Jewish Israelis, and presume that their tiny state can’t be any more permanent than the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
And, says Wilf, many of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims see the planet’s 14 million Jews, and insist the latter are only members of a religion, not a people. Therefore Zionism — the Jewish people’s national liberation movement — cannot claim a state, no matter how small.
Similarly, the progressive left hosts countless secular fundamentalists for whom neo-Marxist ideology replaces pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic theology, never mind Koranic supersessionism. The Bolsheviks and their heirs despised small European nationalities, as well as religion. So Jews as a people are a double target.
In the latter half of the 20th century, much of Christianity made space for Judaism as an “elder brother” in faith, and for Israel as the Jewish homeland. Assuming this acceptance would be an expanding trend, supporters of Israel have been stunned by the antisemitism on the liberal side today. This intellectual-political group asserts that Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) were attempting fair critiques of Israeli policy toward Palestinian Arabs when they stumbled into traditionally anti-Jewish rhetoric.
Criticism of a specific Israeli policy or action crosses into antisemitism, according to Natan Sharansky, when it meets the “3-D test” by invoking double standards, demonization, and/or delegitimization. The US State Department’s antisemitism definition parallels Sharansky’s.
By these guidelines, Omar and Tlaib, with their dual loyalty and corrupt Jewish money canards, were beyond guilty of antisemitism. But media magnet Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tried to provide them with “intersectional” cover as minority women of color.
Palestinian leaders rejected US-Israeli and Israeli-only offers of peace in 2000, 2001, and 2008 that would have established a West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinian state, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, in exchange for peace with the Jewish state. But as third-worlders oppressed by racist, imperialist Israel, they too benefit from the intersectionality ideology that insists all approved minorities are blameless.
Such double standards allow Omar, Tlaib, et al to complain about Israel’s “occupation.” And their support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is commonly misreported as an effort to improve Israeli treatment of Palestinian Arabs. But Israel treats its large Arab minority, which enjoys full civil rights, better than any Arab state treats its people. And few — if any — Palestinian Arabs flee Israel’s supposed “occupation” for refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, or other Arab countries.
As for BDS, its founders include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a US-designated terrorist group. BDS leaders like Omar Barghouti don’t hide their desire to replace Israel with an Arab majority state. This movement doesn’t seek a “two-state solution” or improvement in Palestinian lives; it seeks the end of Israel.
The Palestinians are not a peace partner, because peace will require a generation of Palestinian Arabs not indoctrinated with hatred of Israel as a temporary usurper. To help promote the emergence of such a generation, fair and ceaseless criticism of Palestinian words and deeds, and those of their enablers, is required. Yet often, all that’s on the table is criticism of Israel.
Eric Rozenman is author of Jews Make the Best Demons: ‘Palestine’ and the Jewish Question, recently published by New English Review Press. Any opinions expressed above are solely his own.