(Cross-Posted at Geoffff's Joint, Bar and Grill and Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers.)
There is an article in this morning's Jerusalem Post by Benjamin Kerstein entitled, "Yes, all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic!" When I first noticed it I rolled my eyes and moved on because the premise is so obviously nonsensical. Of course not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. If all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic then Israel, itself, is the most anti-Semitic country on the entire planet.
Nonetheless the idea seemed so outrageous and so patently false on its very face that I decided to see what the writer was saying. Perhaps his title, like mine above, was meant as snark. But, nope. Kerstein means precisely what he says. All criticism of Israel is inherently anti-Semitic for historical reasons. This is what he writes:
All criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic because of the specific historical circumstances under which we currently live. That is to say, the historical circumstances under which Israel and the Jews exist in the world today render any non-anti-Semitic criticism of Israel impossible. And, ironically, these are circumstances that Israel’s opponents have themselves created.
To hold that this is not the case requires acting – and demanding that others act – as if these circumstances do not exist, even as they sit as patiently as a pachyderm in the parlor waiting for us to notice them and, sometimes, when our self-willed ignorance grows too infuriating, murder our children and set off bombs in our streets.
Nonetheless, these circumstances are not complex, nor are they numerous. They are simply these: A large portion of the world, West and East, has come to believe that Arabs and Muslims have earned the right to murder Jews.
This last bit, I have to say, is unquestionably true. Those of us who follow the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic party on the question of the Long Arab War against the Jews see this constantly. That is, we are constantly told that the reason that so many Arabs and Muslims seek to murder the Jews in the Middle East is because those Jews are mean. In places like Daily Kos or the Huffington Post or the UK Guardian (not to mention TIME magazine, Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania) we are constantly told that the reason Palestinians sometimes strap suicide belts onto children and send them off into areas crowded with Jews is because Israel is a racist, colonialist, imperialist, apartheid state and that if Israel would simply end the Occupation (with a capital "O") then the local Arabs would become as gentle as narcofied lambs.
In this way, the Jews of the Middle East, who, as a tiny minority in that part of the world, have been subject to 14 centuries of persecution, are at fault for that persecution. Just as so many Germans in the early-middle part of the twentieth century told one another that the Jews have it coming, so today many, many western progressives tell themselves precisely the same thing. What it amounts to is the notion that if for 2,000 years we Jews have been unjustly persecuted and oppressed, thus artificially holding down our numbers, in this generation we really DO deserve whatever beating the Arab or Muslim world wishes to give out.
Every generation of Jews prior to 1948 was perfectly innocent, but NOW we just happen to actually be guilty.
Derived from this right, they have also come to believe that the destruction dismantling, and erasure of the State of Israel, and the slaughter, expulsion, and/or perpetual subjugation of its Jewish population are entirely legitimate and indeed desirable.
That is, ultimately, what anti-Semitic anti-Zionism of the kind found so commonly on the left is about. That's what anti-Zionism means. It means that after 2,000 years of getting our collective ass kicked it is immoral and wrong for Jewish people to come together in their own self-defense because it means effectively fighting back against Arab Muslim persecution and, as everyone seems to know, Jewish self-defense is immoral and unacceptable.
Derived from the preceding is the belief that the Jewish people in general, in Israel or the Diaspora, either do not exist as a people deserving the same rights as other peoples, or are an evil and debased people who must be slaughtered, expelled, and/or perpetually subjugated in order to prevent them from committing further debased evils.
The western left never puts it in these kinds of terms. They never would because they see themselves as enlightened anti-racists. Instead, they often talk to one another about the Occupation (with a capital "O") and what a shame it is that the Jews are behaving something like Nazis. What usually, but not always, goes unspoken is the idea that if Israel is something akin to Nazi Germany or Apartheid South Africa then it must be dismantled as a Jewish state and any such effort can only lead to war, if not a second Holocaust.
So, is all criticism of Israel anti-Semitic?
I'm sorry, but despite the above the very notion is still ridiculous on its face. Nonetheless, it's not really that difficult to understand where Kerstein is coming from. Israel represents about half the world's Jewish population and it is surrounded by people numbering 60 to 70 for every Jew and a very great proportion of those people hold murderous hostility toward those Jews. People in the west do not really understand, or care to understand, what a precarious position those Jews live under. People in the west do not really understand, or care to understand, that the Jews in the Middle East have been living under siege since they were freed from dhimmitude in the early part of the twentieth century.
In the comments of Kerstein's op-ed we read this:
Bizarre and counter-intuitive proposals like all criticism is anti-semitic are a mark of either Power or Desperation.
The western progressive-left thinks that Israel is powerful, but the truth is that the Jews of the Middle East are desperate. They desperately wish to be left alone to raise their children in peace, to worship G-d, to work on computer and medical technology, and to send Natalie Portmans out into the world. That's what they want, but instead they live with constant hatred coming at them from all quarters and bloodthirsty violence directed at them from many in the local Palestinian population.
When malicious progressives direct their hatred toward the Jews of the Middle East they are confusing victims with victimizers and seeing their own hatred in noble terms.
There is a reason why young Jewish kids in Israel must go into the IDF and it is not because the Jews of the Middle East are essentially militaristic and mean. It is because so many of the 400 million Arabs surrounding those Jews are hell-bent for fury and hundreds of millions of westerners seem to favor the Arabs over those Jews.
One thing that I know for certain is that if the shit ever really hits the fan over there and we end up with a whole mess of dead Jews (and dead Arabs), the tendency on the western left will be to blame the Jews for the hostility against us.
That's the way it has been every generation for 2,000 years.
This one is no different.