Defenders of the Israeli government’s policies in the Middle East, especially with respect to the Palestinians, are increasingly going on the attack by pointing out that some critics of the Israeli state are also anti-Semitic. A good example is the May 24 article “Anti-Zionism Isn’t Anti-Semitism? Someone Didn’t Get the Memo” by New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. Stephens cites example after example of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
Yes, it’s true that some people who criticize Israel for its mistreatment of Palestinians are anti-Semitic. No question about that.
But what’s important to keep in mind is that critics of the Israeli state are not necessarily anti-Semitic simply because they disagree with policies of the Israeli state. Some people have nothing against Jews but, at the same time, vehemently disagree with the Israeli government’s policies toward the Palestinians. The mere fact that such people criticize the Israeli state does not convert them into anti-Semites.
The problem, which Stephens might or might not be aware of, is that for a long time defenders of the Israeli state have employed the anti-Semite card as a way to suppress criticism of the Israeli state. As soon as such criticism materializes, the Zionists go on the attack by accusing the person of being anti-Semitic. The strategy is effective because some people, fearful of being smeared as anti-Semitic, refrain from openly criticizing the Israel state.
Suppose some people criticize the Vatican for some of its policies. Some of the critics might well be anti-Catholic. But not necessarily. It’s entirely possible that some of them have nothing against Catholics but simply disagree with the Vatican’s policies. To suppress such criticism, some Vatican supporters might devise a strategy to condemn any person who criticizes the Vatican as being anti-Catholic. That would be wrong.
No regime should be above criticism, just as no religious prejudice should be above criticism. To attempt to suppress criticism of a regime by resorting to an ugly smear is shameful and unconscionable.