"Anti-Israel criticism often masks anti-Semitism"

10/05/2012 08:50


This article, originally published in New Jersey Jewish News, is by Joseph Hollander, who is the president of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County

Having just celebrated Israel’s 64th Independence Day, those who care about Israel are confronted by some very troubling statistics just released about anti-Semitism in Europe. A recent study undertaken by the German-based Friedrich Ebert Foundation found that anti-Semitic criticism of Israel comes close to majority support in most European countries. I fear that these concerns could ultimately be valid in America as well.

What counts as anti-Semitic criticism of Israel? According to Jewish Agency for Israel chair Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet political prisoner who knows a thing or two about persecution: when Israel is demonized, when Israel is delegitimized, and when a double standard is used to assess Israeli behavior.

We hear these attacks on Israel more and more, from protesters on college campuses to reactions to conflicts around flotillas and flytillas. Somehow, labeling something as criticism of Israel often whitewashes what is really anti-Semitic and legitimizes views that would otherwise be blatantly unacceptable. While such criticism leveled against Israel is often couched in terms of justice and universal rights, this is often just a bait and switch. Many of the “peace activists” making the accusations are not advocating for social change in Israel or a peaceful solution for Israel and its neighbors to coexist; rather, they want to see the end of Israel as we know it, regardless of the consequences.

Those who truly do care about justice and rights need to make clear that calling for the end of Israel is anti-Semitism plain and simple and should not be tolerated by the civilized world in any guise.

After 64 years, while grappling with significant challenges, Israel is a remarkable country with a vibrant high-tech economy, world-class universities and medical centers, and full individual freedoms for all its citizens — all on a parcel of land about the size of New Jersey in a not-so-friendly neighborhood.

The country has provided a home for Jews who suffered and lost home and family in the Holocaust and a haven for Jewish refugees from around the world ever since.

Israel is also a true friend of the United States, a partner in the war on terrorism, and a beacon for our country’s ideals because both nations share the same core values.

At a time when we hear calls for Israel’s destruction from terrorist groups and from an Iran on the verge of obtaining nuclear capability, it is important to remember that anti-Semitism is still alive today — and the next target after Israel is “The Great Satan,” the United States. We must remain vigilant against those who call for Israel’s destruction, for a strong Israel is in the interest of America and Americans.

At this time, we all should celebrate Israel’s independence and achievements and look forward to more success and an even brighter future.