Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On Anti-Semitism and Israel

On Sunday, January 13, I attended an End The New Jim Crow event at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation. When asked about the Jewish perspective on The New Jim Crow, Rabbi Kligler talked about the correspondence of racism and anti-Semitism as one of the main reasons that Jews should care about racism. 

While I take issue with that rationale as being too narrowly based in self-interest and not broadly enough based on shared humanitarian values, it was his example of anti-Semitism to which I most strongly object. He related that since its inception, of the more than 700 votes in the United Nations, over 400 of them have been over Israel, and that this, in and of itself, is anti-Semitic. Now firstly, the concatenation ofIsrael and the Jewish people is troubling. Israel is a state of almost eight million, over twenty percent of whom are Arabs. Yes, the ruling elite are Jewish and the second-class citizens are Arabs and other minorities, but to blur distinctions between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is just wrong. 

Secondly, most of the votes condemning Israel concern the ongoing abuse of the Palestinian population and the illegal occupation of their lands. Generally speaking, those votes have broken down along the same lines, more or less, as the November 2012 vote on the elevation of Palestineto non-member observer state status. On that vote, 138 nations voted with the Palestinian side (including France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland), while only 8 nations (USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Panama, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau) voted with Israel, and there were 41 abstentions.

Now, while anti-Semitism certainly exists and has existed for thousands of years, and Jews certainly suffer and have historically suffered from it, to claim that most of the world is anti-Semitic because it votes against Israel's treatment of Palestinians is farfetched. To see anti-Semitism under every rock cannot possibly be correct, nor does it advance the cause of equal treatment of Jews. Those who do not blindly support Israel, those who even have the temerity to criticize Israel, those who work for Palestinian freedom, are not necessarily anti-Semitic, nor self-hating Jews, and our political and religious leaders should know and acknowledge that.

Nic Abramson

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