Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Legitimate criticism of Israel

Sar Shalom

Invariably, the BDS-holes, and less fanatical anti-Zionist anti-Semites, deflect accusations of Jew-baiting by complaining that defenders of Israel label any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Israel-supporters retort that criticism of Israel is legitimate, but what these self-proclaimed critics engage in crosses the line into anti-Semitism. However, other than to say that Israelis criticize their country every day, no examples of legitimate criticism are provided. Without such examples, our enemies could ask if it would be legitimate to point out that Israel is indiscriminately killing Palestinians if Israel was in fact doing so? Would it be legitimate to point out that Israel is arbitrarily restricting Palestinian movement if Israel was in fact doing so? This should be subject to the shoe on the other foot test, is it legitimate or Islamophobic to point out that Muslims do those things when Muslims actually do them?

While I don't have recent examples of Israel-criticism that qualify as legitimate, it would be helpful to look at the work of Bassem Eid who worked for B'Tselem before they ceased to care about the bona fides of the abuses they reported.

In one incident that Eid covered, a group of soldiers punished a group of Arabs for throwing stones by burying them up to their chests. However, Eid did not simply report that this had happened. He asked the alleged victims if they could corroborate. One of the Arabs added that he had lost a shoe in the sand as he was being pulled out. An excavation of where the incident supposedly happened revealed the lost shoe, supporting the allegation.

In another incident, Eid advocated on behalf of an Arab whose donkey was confiscated by the IDF. When he went public about that case, he did so by releasing the exchange of communications between himself and the IDF's legal adviser, including the humorless bureaucratese.

The common element in these criticisms that legitimizes them is a commitment to truth and accuracy. As Eid was described,
Although he was a thorn in its side, the army came grudgingly to respect Eid. It recognized that his reports were free from the fancy and exaggeration that is all too common in Palestinian discourse. “Why exaggerate?” asks Eid. “For example, if 2,000 houses have been demolished, why make it 10,000? If the Israelis killed four, why say it was 40?” He did not take complaints from fellow Palestinians at face value. On the contrary, he made it a practice to probe the accuracy of the testimony he received before telling his colleagues in the B’Tselem headquarters to send a formal letter to the army asking for its version of the events described to him. It was not uncommon for him to discover distortion.
Needless to say, most of the western media considers fact-checking to be optional when it comes to reporting on Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. Pointing out facts that are omitted from such reports that contradict the narrative of wanton Israeli commission of atrocities would expose how such reporting is not good faith criticism.

This is not to suggest that this is the only test that criticism of Israel must pass in order to be legitimate. In particular, the three D test (demonization, delegitimization, double-standards) provides further grounds on which to assess that criticism is due to bigotry. However, I have examples demonstrating accuracy of criticism in those specific cases.


  1. On his Twitter account, Yaacov Lozowick made the same poinnt, citing this article in the Times of Israel https://www.timesofisrael.com/is-netanyahu-a-crook-allegedly-a-threat-to-democracy-that-verdict-is-sadly-in/

    1. Do you have a link to the relevant tweet?

    2. And here I am trying to watch the murder of the day on IDTV with my wife, but anyway https://mobile.twitter.com/yaacovlozowick/status/1102447628460191745

  2. From yesterday's links at EoZ ( http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2019/03/0305-links-pt2-growing-anti-jewsh.html ), there is an anti-example of my point. There is a video of the usually supportive of Israel Bari Weiss (after the second linked article) talking on ABC about legitimacy of criticizing Israel. During the interview, the host asked about the UNHRC report the Gaza march. If the facts in the report were accurate, then it would be valid. But Weiss did not say that, she just said that of course the issues raised in the report are valid reasons to criticize Israel.

    As I wrote in the post, the case must be made that when making yourself feel all virtuous for standing up for the poor, innocent victim against the neighborhood bully, fact checking is not optional.

  3. Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz said:

    “Every current criticism of Israel – whether made by Israelis, American Jews, or others – is used by its enemies as part of an explicit international campaign to delegitimize Israel.”

    SOURCE: Chutzpah by Alan M. Dershowitz
    (chapter 7, page 213) published in year 1991
    by Little Brown & Co ISBN: 9780316181372 ISBN: 0316181374


    Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz said:

    “There is yet a third strain of the current virus of anti-Semitism, this one even more difficult to diagnose.

    Its danger lies in its subtlety, its pervasiveness, and its acceptability at all levels of our society.

    This is a phenomenon familiar to all of us, yet difficult to articulate and expose: the singling out of Jewish institutions and especially Israel for special scrutiny, and the application of a double-standard to Jewish things and persons.

    This phenomenon, which currently has no accepted name, assumes a variety of forms, but its most obvious manifestation is the special and often gloating attention paid by the media, [and] by intellectuals, and by the government to any deviation by Israel, no matter how trivial, from the highest norms of humans rights, civility, and sacrifice.

    Though Israel may be deserving of criticism, what is missing is the comparable criticism of equal or greater violations by other countries and other groups.

    This constant, often legitimate criticism of Israel for every one of it deviations, when coupled with the absence of legitimate criticism of others, creates the impression currently prevalent on university campuses and in the press that Israel is among the worst rights violators in the world.

    We have all heard that phrase repeated many times.
    It is not true, but if it is repeated often enough,
    it takes on a reality of its own.”

    SOURCE: Chutzpah by Alan M. Dershowitz
    (chapter 4, page 119) published year 1991
    by Little Brown & Co ISBN: 9780316181372 * ISBN: 0316181374