Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Language Of Anti-Semitism

I am once again wading into the debate about Israel in the letters column of Woodstock Times. Fred Nagel may or may not be aware of his choice of phraseology when he writes about Israel, but I feel compelled to point out his classic anti-Semitic rhetoric to your readers. On November 24 he wrote:

And there is nothing our elected leaders won’t do to please their foreign masters. The spectacle of our representatives pledging allegiance to Israel at meetings of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee is enough to turn one’s stomach.

Then on January 3, the following:

Then there is Israel, our perpetual leech.

So which is it, Mr. Nagel? Is Israel our “foreign master” or our “perpetual leech”? These labels have been the standard jargon of anti-Semitism for a very long time. I find it humorous in that it has never been clear to me how someone can both be a master and a parasite at the same time. The stereotypes of oppression are always bizarre. But I cannot let it pass, because the strategy of painting the Jews, and now Israel, as both a bloodsucking parasite and as a force of global domination led to unspeakable dehumanization and then destruction in the past, and I feel the obligation to point out this kind of public rhetoric when I encounter it.

I must be clear that I am not addressing Mr. Nagel’s political positions, nor am I expressing my own. That is not my purpose in writing this letter. I fully support the free expression of political positions. And Mr. Nagel might be surprised by the number of political arenas in which he and I might find ourselves in agreement. But Mr. Nagel should be aware that when I read the type of rhetoric in which he engages, I lose any interest in seriously considering his analyses or his policy proposals. I cannot support what amounts in my eyes to hate speech, and I am publicly refuting it with my comments today.

Rabbi Jonathan Kligler
Woodstock Jewish Congregation

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