Yes, Some Criticism of Israel Is Antisemitism
On November 3, The Daily Californian published an op-ed by Matthew Taylor, explicitly accusing me of having “blood on his [my] hands,” and being “culpable for the perpetuation of … [Israeli] atrocities.” But when I tried to write a factual response to his false accusations, The Daily Californian categorically refused to publish it, thus demonstrating their obvious bias.
I have therefore included my response below so that it can be widely read:
A recent op-ed by Matthew Taylor in the Daily Californian condemns the cartoonist [of a recent antisemitic caricature] for portraying me as a predatory spider. He argues, however, that it was “fair criticism” to portray me with “blood on [my] hands” and “crushing a Palestinian with one foot and holding up an IDF soldier who assassinates a Palestinian civilian.”
In support of this conclusion he proclaims — without citing any evidence — that Israel is “in fact an egregious human rights abuser,” murders unarmed and innocent civilians, including “underage Palestinians,” commits “intentional … atrocities” and engages in “pinkwashing.” He calls me a “privileged professor who is culpable for the perpetuation of Israel’s atrocities,” despite my long record of advocating a peaceful two-state outcome.
I would not usually reply to such ignorance and oversimplified ad hominems. But because these false accusations have become a staple of hard left attacks singling out only the nation state of the Jewish people for such defamation, I will disprove each of them in turn.
Let me begin with “pinkwashing.” The accusation that Israel is “pinkwashing” its bad treatment of Palestinians by its good treatment of gays is a new variation on a discredited old theme.
The core characteristic of antisemitism is the assertion that everything the Jews do is wrong, and that everything that is wrong is done by the Jews. That is the bigoted thesis of the anti-Israel campaign whose supporters absurdly claim that Israel is engaging in “pinkwashing.”
Bigots such as Taylor would apparently prefer to see Israel treat gays the way Israel’s enemies do, because they hate Israel more than they care about gay rights. Well, to the unthinking antisemite, it doesn’t matter how the Jewish manipulation works. The antisemite just knows that there must be something sinister at work if Jews do anything positive. The same is now true for the unthinking anti-Israel bigot. The fact is that the very Israelis who are most supportive of gay rights are also the most supportive of Palestinian rights. Pinkwashing is an antisemitic canard.
Moreover, Taylor argues that Israel commits “intentional” atrocities against innocent Palestinians including children. The reality is that the Israeli military’s efforts to stop Hamas from indiscriminately killing Israeli citizens with rockets and through terror tunnels has been the opposite of indiscriminate, as Colonel Richard Kemp and other military experts have attested.
Colonel Kemp has argued that no other country in history has gone to such great lengths as Israel to distinguish between military and civilian targets, even in the face of an enemy that regularly uses its own population as human shields, and that hides military equipment in schools and hospitals.
Israel’s efforts to protect its citizens compare favorably to the US and NATO-led military bombing campaigns in Iraq, Syria and other areas, in which civilians have also been used as human shields. Israel goes to enormous lengths to reduce the number of civilian casualties — even to the point of foregoing legitimate targets that are too close to civilians.
Yes, Israel has defended its citizens against terrorist attacks by underage Palestinians because Palestinian terrorist leaders deliberately recruit underage Palestinians. When I engaged in a debate on BDS at the Oxford Union, I issued the following challenge to the audience and to my opponent: name a single country in the history of the world, faced with threats comparable to those faced by Israel, that has a better record of human rights, compliance with the rule of law or seeking to minimize civilian casualties. The room was completely silent.
The author also refers to the security barrier erected by the Israeli government — in response to a spate of deadly suicide attacks where the bombers had infiltrated from Palestinian villages in the West Bank — as “the apartheid” wall. In doing so, he reveals his own ignorance of the realities on the ground, and wrongly exploits the apartheid analogy and devalues the antiapartheid struggle itself.
It is well known that Israel recognizes fully the rights of Christians and Muslims, and prohibits any discrimination based on religion. Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel (of which there are more than a million) have the right to vote and have elected countless members of the Knesset, some of whom even oppose Israel’s right to exist. There is complete freedom of dissent in Israel, and Muslims, Christians and Jews alike practice it vigorously. That cannot be said of any Arab or Muslim state, nor of the Palestinian Authority.
Taylor reveals his own bigotry when he says that “Israel’s apologists intimidated the Daily Californian into retracting the entire cartoon.” But as he himself acknowledges, the most significant criticism came from the university’s Chancellor, Carol Christ, who is not an “Israel apologist.” He also mendaciously fails to mention that I adamantly opposed withdrawing or censoring the antisemitic cartoon, because I want the world to see it and hold accountable those responsible for it.
Likewise, I would oppose censoring Taylor’s antisemitic op-ed. Yes, antisemitic. Let me explain why. I agree that there is a vast difference between “actual anti-Semitism,” as he puts it, and “legitimate criticism of Israel.” But Taylor is not merely criticizing Israel. He is deliberately lying about its actions and policies in order to delegitimize its very existence. He is singling out only the nation state of the Jewish people for such defamatory delegitimization, and he is invoking the crassly antisemitic libel of “pinkwashing.” Finally, he uses code words — such as “privileged” and “Israel’s apologists” — to suggest a conspiracy of Jewish power that censors anti-Israel expression.
So yes, Taylor’s op-ed falls on the antisemitic side of the very line he proposes: “actual anti-Semitism” versus “legitimate criticism of Israel.” In that respect his op-ed is even more bigoted than the spider cartoon he condemns as “crossing the line into anti-Semitism.” The spider cartoon crossed the line with historic images. Taylor crossed the line with current lies.