Natan Sharansky is one of my heroes. One of the founders of the Refusenik movement, he was arrested on charges of spying for the United States and treason, and sentenced to 13 years of forced labor in the infamous Soviet Gulag. Intense international pressure resulted in his release in 1986, following which he immediately made aliyah. Despite the tremendous rigors of his life and incarceration in the former Soviet Union, he subsequently became a prolific author and a major participant in Israeli politics. He has been honored with both the Congressional Gold Medal (1986) and the Presidential Medal of Honor (2006), and currently serves as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
One of Sharansky’s best-known writings may be one of his briefest. In a 2004 article published in the Jewish Political Studies Review, he proposed a “3D Test” to determine whether criticism of Israel is legitimate or simply antisemitism in disguise.
The 3D Test is a very useful tool for advocates of Israel, since those who hate Israel are capable of fiendish cleverness. I guess that when you have such animosity toward something, you will find any way to attack it, whether directly or indirectly. We see this all the time from such things as the BDS movement, the absurd pronouncements and rulings that frequently emanate from the United Nations and its bodies and agencies, and the annual fantasy week that makes the most specious allegations against Israel.
One of the newest tactics of those who hate Israel is to assert that while Israel has an enviable record (though they would never use that term) in a certain area (such as gay rights), it is all just a cover to “pinkwash” the underlying crimes of Israel against the Palestinians. Hence you get the utterly ridiculous notion of Queers Against Israel Apartheid.Think about that for a second and try not to shake your head so violently as to give yourself a neck injury.
Taking this extremely dubious method of “thinking” to new extreme frontiers, a few fringe anti-Israel activists in Atlantic Canada have criticized renowned Nova Scotia artist Tom Forrestall. The reason? Forrestall painted a series of watercolors while accompanying a 2010 mission to Israel organized by the Atlantic Jewish Council. The local anti-Israel crowd (really, just a handful of people) claimed that Mr. Forrestall’s works consist not only of watercolors but “whitewash,” and that the mission was simply an attempt by Israel to “change the channel” regarding Israel’s human rights abuses. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio station in Halifax was even somehow convinced that this was a story worthy of airtime.
Let’s look at this more closely. As clearly pointed out by Jon Goldberg, the executive director of the AJC and the organizer of the 2010 AJC mission to Israel, when belatedly interviewed in response on CBC Radio, Mr. Forrestall is an acclaimed Nova Scotia artist. It is outrageous that he would be attacked for simply traveling to Israel and painting some landscapes. This is Canada. We don’t blacklist artists in this country. Those who are attacking Mr. Forrestall cannot claim to be motivated by human rights given that they single out Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, at a time when more than 60,000 have been murdered next door in Syria, to cite only one example.
The real story here is that anti-Israel activists can be deeply obsessive, even to the point of attacking a renowned (and apolitical) Canadian artist simply for painting Israeli landscapes. That’s shameful and totally un-Canadian. And I must say – it doesn’t seem particularly conducive to artistic freedom.
So to bring things back to where I started, and with the utmost and sincere respect to Mr. Sharansky, I would like to propose a variation of the 3D Test to describe the people who propose such ridiculous rubbish.
The first “D” is disingenuous. They are neither candid nor sincere. So, for example, there is no ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem (where Mr. Forrestall painted one “controversial” watercolor) and they know it.
The second “D” is deceitful. Not only are they disingenuous, they are deliberately so. They know full well that there is no ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem (where, by the way, the Arab population has only grown since 1967 — when the city was reunited under Israel sovereignty). But they assert so anyway.
The last “D” is devious. They are so desperate to attack Israel, that they will seize any opportunity to promote their warped agenda. As one of my non-Jewish friends said in reaction, “This is the stupidest thing ever! Should every Canadian landscape painting have to show a sign saying ‘land disputed’ by First Nations?”
I have no idea why these people hate Israel so much. My personal opinion is simply that they are jealous of the success of a state that in 65 years has risen to be a world leader in such areas as the arts, medicine, and technology — all while under a constant existential threat that fluctuates but never, ever, goes away.
As for me, I’ll stick to the facts and the incredible true and positive story that is embodied in the modern state of Israel.