Why Criticizing Israel Has Nothing To Do With Anti-Semitism by Dana Williams


Human rights advocates have fought for decades to counter the misconception that pro-Palestinian criticism of Israel’s actions in the Middle East are anti-Semitism. It’s important to realize that this is a fallacious argument and that it distracts from the real issues of importance in the Middle East.

First of all, despite religion playing as a backdrop to the Arab-Israeli conflict, it has nothing to do with creed, but everything to do with what all conflicts stem from: desire for power and land. The dynamics of this specific conflict can be divorced categorically from religion, whereas religion only serves as a moral justifier for the political and military actions in the region.

Secondly, it has to be recognized that ordinary people are not the State. Yes, people can influence a state and certain people control the actions of a certain state, but Israel’s official actions in the Middle East no more represent the will of all its citizens (let alone Jews) than Bush or Clinton’s actions represent the will of all Americans.

It is a huge leap of logic to assume that criticizing Israel means criticizing Judaism. To create some analogies… does criticism of Saudi Arabia translate into a condemnation of Islam? If Italy receives criticism, does that constitute a condemnation of Roman Catholicism? No, of course not.

Saudi Arabia and Italy are completely dominated by Islam and Catholicism and the political leaders and most of their citizens are predominantly and openly members of those two religions. But, it’s easy to understand that the people (with their religion) are completely separate from the actions of the state itself.

When certain groups of people (such as national militaries) carry out atrocities, we should hold them accountable for those acts, regardless of their religion (or race, gender, sexuality, political persuasion, etc.). When people criticize Israel for their aggression against the Palestinians that’s all that’s occurring—condemnation of its attacks on civilian populations, massacres, forced relocations, and the like.

There’s a horrible, horrible legacy of persecution of Jews that pinnacled in WWII during The Holocaust. Anti-Semitism still exists and should be condemned. But, past atrocities does not justify aggression on the part of Jews in Israel, no more than Blacks in the US massacring Whites, regardless of their own historical lineage to slavery or present involvement in racist practices. Yes, Blacks faced staggering racism in the past and present, but does that justify large-scale violence against others now? (And Whites have been far more brutal to Blacks than Palestinians have been to Jews.)

Unfortunately, the US political climate has been highly sensitized to actions involving Jewish people (and specifically Israel) that Jews are viewed as victims in every instance, which is obviously inaccurate. Many Jews are critical of Israel’s violence and know that their resistance to violence is not a manifestation of self-hatred.

As anti-racist activists, we must recognize racism, work to prevent it, and seek to redress the results of past racism. Yet, we must be sure to separate identity from action in our analysis of political issues in the world. Thus, we must also whole-heartedly condemn acts of aggression, violence, and domination when it occurs, no matter who commits these acts.


Student Coalition Against Racism