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The PJ Tatler

by
Benjamin Kerstein

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March 29, 2012 - 10:40 am

“But surely you believe,” they always ask you, “that you can criticize Israel without being antisemitic?” It is an obnoxious and patronizing question in and of itself, of course, in that it is obviously an admonition that all civilized, thinking people must answer “yes” or “of course” or “naturally.” It is important, however, because of its true answer, which is unequivocally, unquestionably, and objectively “no.”

Before the remonstrations on the “silencing of dissenting voices” and “attack on free speech” begin, it seems necessary to point out the reason for this: All criticism of Israel is antisemitic because of the specific historical moment in which we live. The circumstances in regard to Israel and the Jews in the world today render any non-antisemitic criticism of Israel impossible. And most ironically of all, it is entirely the fault of the antisemites.

Whether one wants to admit it or not, we are living in an age in which a global campaign exists for the sole and specific reason of legitimizing the destruction of Israel and the expulsion or annihilation of its Jewish population. Iran’s own president is straightforward about wiping Israel off the map. Islamists call for it every five minutes somewhere in the world. Western academics and activists regularly hint at it with such euphemisms as the “one-state solution” (an Arab state, in case you were wondering), and their constant apologetics on behalf of anti-Jewish terrorism.  And as the recent atrocities in Toulouse have shown us, the Jews of the Diaspora are not and will not be spared the bloody consequences.

As a result of this campaign – which is antisemitic by any definition – any and all criticism of Israel not only can be but must be antisemitic. It is either subjectively antisemitic, in that it consciously and intentionally furthers the goals of the campaign; or it is objectively antisemitic, in that it unconsciously and unintentionally does the same thing. The distinction, if there ever was one, between the two, is now meaningless. Either way, the result is the same: Those who seek to slaughter the Jews en masse are brought a step closer to their goal.

It may be, of course, that some criticism of Israel will be deemed necessary in spite of the consequences, and the need for a public hearing will overwhelm the need to prevent a victory of sorts for antisemitism. If so, however, those doing the criticism ought to be honest enough to acknowledge the objective consequences of doing so.

The Middle East conflict, David Ben-Gurion said a long time ago, and he was right, is not about the Jews and the Arabs, it is about the Jews and the world, a world that is overwhelmingly not Jewish, and thus bears certain responsibilities toward its Jewish minority. If and when the world finally accepts these responsibilities, criticism of Israel will be possible “without being antisemitic.” Until then, the moral imperative incumbent upon us all should be “work toward less antisemitism,” whatever is left said or unsaid along the way.

Benjamin Kerstein is a writer and editor who lives in Tel Aviv.
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