Critics of Israel Must Reject Anti-Semitism
Responding to: Is Anti-Semitism a Problem in International Affairs?
By: Chloé Valdary
March 5, 2018
The question of what responsibilities analysts have in examining Israel’s policies as they pertain to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no different from the responsibility people have in examining the policies of any other nation which has been embroiled in prolonged sectarian conflict. Not only should the actions of all parties be examined but the spirit of those parties as well. The actions of the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority (PA) not only differ in type but in kind: in Israel, successive governments have called for negotiations with the PA, maintained a position of a two-state solution as its final objective, and condemned extremism even when it occurs in its own community. In contrast, the PA has not only celebrated extremism but has subsidized it: last year alone, President Mahmoud Abbas paid terrorists and their families to the tune of $350 million, effectively ensuring that the murder of their would-be partners will continue, and the conflict will be sustained.
In my mind, these geopolitical factors are the manifestations of the sociological underpinnings of the conflict, which brings me to the crux of this prompt. It is a historical fact that anti-Semitism, defined as hostility or prejudice against Jews, has been central to the perpetuation of the conflict. Arab attacks against Jews occurred as early as 1929 in Hebron before Israel was an actual state; the Jerusalem mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini worked closely with Nazi Germany and helped orchestrate riots in both 1929 and 1936 against the Jewish population in pre-state Israel; and from its inception in 1964 until today the PA has produced television shows that depict Jews as monsters and less than human. Because bigotry is a learned behavior, any community immersed in brainwashing of this nature will grow to hate Jews.
It is clear, then, that anyone interested in ending the conflict should direct their efforts toward ensuring that dehumanization of Jews and all communities involved come to an end. The “otherizing” of Jews, the perception of Jews not as human beings but as demonic political abstractions, and the subsequent justification of the murder of Jews must be combatted. That groups like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement have not done this but have contributed to the stigmatization of Jews by calling for a boycott of Jewish businesses and organizations ensures that its activity will prolong the conflict. To commit oneself to ending dehumanization requires a commitment to fostering reconciliation and mutual healing between Jews and Arabs, as that is what peace would actually look like. This process requires putting a premium on the cultivation of empathy, compassion, and healing between communities that have experienced trauma, anguish, and distrust due to prolonged war.
This is the ultimate responsibility of any party that claims a desire to advance peace. There are plenty of relevant NGOs and initiatives in Israel that serve as viable alternatives to BDS, including the Roots Project and the Muslim Leadership Initiative, and history also shows us that reconciliation is possible. Even during the 1929 Hebron massacre, over 400 Jews were saved by local Arab families. As for legitimate criticisms of the Israeli government, they should a) take care not to stigmatize Jews; b) be held to a reasonable standard that all democratic countries embroiled in sectarian war are held to; and c) ultimately be made in service of reconciliation.