Is Anti-Semitism a Problem in International Affairs?

March 5, 2018

As Jews around the world celebrate Purim, the feast commemorating Queen Esther saving the Jewish people from massacre by the ancient Persian empire, we are reminded that religious intolerance can still be an influential factor in modern-day international relations. The potential for these dynamics can be readily observed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Throughout the past few decades, observers have raised the issue of whether criticism of Israel’s policies, or more broadly criticism of the state of Israel as a whole, is synonymous with or leads to anti-Semitism. For instance, the United Nations Human Rights Council has repeatedly focused on criticizing or condemning Israel. Additionally, some observers have denounced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as an attempt to delegitimize Israel that contributes to a worldwide increase in anti-Semitism. However, some who object to this characterization argue that it serves to invalidate their criticisms of particular Israeli policies, especially in regard to Palestine.

This week the Berkley Forum asks: Given the complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what responsibilities do people have in examining Israel’s policies, both from within and from outside the Jewish and Israeli communities? How should critics of Israel, such as the BDS movement, raise their concerns in a way that recognizes Israel’s right to exist while still asserting their criticisms of government policy? Does the international community hold Israel to a higher ethical/moral standard than other nations?

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Is Anti-Semitism a Problem in International Affairs?