It has been brought to my attention that the Goldstone Report has near god-like (Satan-like?) power. Behold: It made a man shoot people in a synagogue, just yesterday!
The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday expressed “deep concern” over a shooting at a Los Angeles synagogue earlier in the day in which two people were wounded…. Likud [Member of Knesset] Danny Danon, meanwhile, said the attack was the result of a damning United Nations report on Israel’s winter offensive against Hamas in Gaza, compiled by South African jurist Richard Goldstone. “The criminal attack in Los Angeles is a clear result of the Goldstone report,”he said. “Countries across the world need to reject the report, which brings with it hatred and anti-Semitism, and harms the peace process.” – HaAretz
Because, you know, no one ever picked up a gun and decided to give violent expression to an unhinged mind, before Goldstone. Certainly no one ever targeted Jews!
About seven years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a University of Chicago panel discussion with the late, great Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf (z”l); Peter Novick, author of the excellent The Holocaust in American Life; and Ali Abunimah, of The Electronic Intifada. Before us was, essentially, one question: Is criticism of Israel anti-Semitic, by definition?
My short answer: Don’t be daft.
My longer answer, as adapted from the talk I gave at the panel, appeared a week or so later in the Chicago Tribune, and you’ll find it, below. Because, bottom line, my thoughts on the matter haven’t changed in seven years — and clearly, neither have Israel’s, given its response to Goldstone. (In my head, just now, I ended that sentence with the words “poor man” — and I mean: Really! That poor man! Sigh.)
BUT, before I go on to the Tribune op/ed, I want also to mention that the US House of Representatives has apparently lost its damn mind — or, 114 of the Representatives have, at any rate — and is passing around House Resolution 867, which calls on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to
oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the “Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” [the Goldstone Report]in multilateral fora.
So, a) to follow up on yesterday, Hamas now looks more reasonable than these 114 US Representatives. And b) if your Congressmember appears on this list, please let them know how much you disagree with the resolution! If his or her name does not appear, please let them know how much you hope it never will! And please spread the word to other people who might be interested in having their voices heard. For a very good take on why the resolution is so wrong-headed, please read this statement by Americans for Peace Now.
And now, to our main attraction:
By Emily L. Hauser. Emily L. Hauser lives in Oak Park
December 9, 2002
Does anti-Semitism exist? Of course. There have always been people who object to the peculiar religion of the Jews. People who believe that we are by nature power-hungry, evil.
Sadly, in the face of this, the fear of anti-Semitism has become one of the Jewish people’s few unifiers. We long ago stopped agreeing on how to worship God, educate our children, or treat women. About the only positions over which most Jews are near agreement are: 1) the Holocaust proved that Jews are never entirely safe, and 2) Israel is Good. For those who might waver in the latter, the former is referenced as corroborating evidence. Ethnic anxiety (to paraphrase Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic) has become virtually our only proof of authenticity.
Yet, does this mean, can it possibly mean, that any criticism of any Jew is, by definition, anti-Semitic? The term assumes baseless hatred, and allows us to summarily reject anything it touches. But if I do wrong, and someone points it out, isn’t the wrong still mine, even (and this is very important) if that someone hates me?
We take the easy way out when we conflate criticism of Israel’s government with anti-Semitism. If all criticism of Israel comes from a place of baseless hatred (or, in the case of Jews who express it themselves, typical self-loathing) then we needn’t consider it, hold it to the light and examine its contents. The accusation of anti-Semitism thus consistently serves to paralyze thought within the Jewish community, as McCarthyism once did within American society.
Much as I can’t believe that as a loyal American, I’m not allowed to criticize the American government, I also can’t believe that as a loyal Israeli, I mustn’t criticize, or brook criticism of, the Israeli government. Being in a state of war doesn’t make governments incapable of error, nor does war itself justify every action a government takes. When we elevate Israeli politicians and generals to the kind of infallibility that assumes that criticism can only be made with evil intent, we remove them from history, reality, the very normalcy to which Israeli founding father David Ben-Gurion is said to have aspired.
To say that Israel is held to a higher standard than most is equally ahistorical. Humanity has never been anything but inconsistent in judging friends and foes — Israel has been held to standards higher than some, and lower than others. The question should not be: Are we being treated fairly? Are we allowed to be as bad as the next guy? But: How do we do good? How do we behave with fairness?
Having said that, I will agree that some of Israel’s critics are flat-out, flaming anti-Semites. But the bigger truth is that some of the people who criticize us from a place of hatred aren’t anti-Semitic — they just plain hate us.
It’s very popular, in Israel and the diaspora, to discuss anti-Semitism in Palestinian schools. The enduring appeal of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is frequently cited. Following the suicide bombing at Hebrew University, many Jews pointed out that most of the Jews killed there weren’t Israeli — the target was Jews, qua Jews, they said.
And yet. Isn’t there a difference between, say, an American blaming “the Jews” for the world’s ills, and a Palestinian — told over and over that Israel is a Jewish state, for all Jews, everywhere, eternally — who blames “the Jews” for the ills his countrymen suffer? Is it baseless hatred — or hatred based in 35 years of my boot on his neck? Why do we want to believe that the Palestinians wouldn’t notice how badly we’ve treated them if no one were to point it out? Do we honestly believe they hate us so much for our peculiar religion that they would rather die, than see us live?
It’s true that this hatred, the kind found in every conflict ever launched between peoples, often takes on classically anti-Semitic expression among Arabs generally. It’s further true that if any Arabs hope to achieve reconciliation with Israel, they will have to learn to respect our sensitivities, recognize them as legitimate (2,000 years of persecution don’t just go away) and find a new vocabulary. To draw any comparison, for instance, between Israel and Nazi Germany is ghastly and repellent — and it frees us to reject anything else the speaker may say.
In all honesty, though, personally, I don’t care if the critics of Israeli policies are anti-Semitic. I don’t care if the Europeans, Americans, or Palestinians like me — at this point, I’d be surprised if the Palestinians did. As an Israeli, what must matter to me is the morality of my country’s actions, regardless of personal feelings of pique. We need to examine our history fearlessly, and find a way to right the many wrongs we have committed. Rather than hide behind our fears, I want to have the strength to do the right thing.
Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune