Is Criticism Of Israel Anti-Semitic ?
Is Criticism of Israel Antisemitic?
by John Kleinheksel
Remember when KWM hosted Robert Cohen, our Jewish colleague from the U.K?
It was several years ago when he presented at Third Reformed Church in Holland and at a church in Kalamazoo. He loves his fellow Jews, Judaism but disapproves of Zionism, if you recall. He wants to bring Palestinians into the conversation about what makes up the State of Israel.
Here is a report of a conversation I’ve had with him recently about an open letter he wrote to the Vice Chancellor at Lancaster University where he is now an M.A. student later in life.
In the letter, he cautions the University about adopting the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of Antisemitism. Here is the definition and examples.
Mr. Cohen affirms the need to “take into account the overall context” of references to the Israeli State. But he objects to the definition for giving “no guidance on how to evaluate any context or how to decide if a viewpoint . . . . is reasonable, proportionate or defensible.”
He takes one of the eleven illustrations to task: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (because it is a racist endeavor).” He asks, “Would it be wrong for a native American to describe the creation of America as a racist endeavor?”. . . .Understanding of Zionism and the creation of the State of Israel cannot be the exclusive right of the Jewish people. . . .You need to include Palestinian testimony [as well].” Here is his complete letter.
When I asked him to give us his more nuanced view of “antisemitism,” here is how he responded:
I think where all this gets so difficult, and the reason why it [criticism of Israel] can slip into antisemitism, is that Israel has become the global embodiment of Jews and Jewishness. It becomes very easy for age old anti-Jewish myths about Jewish global influence and power to shift to criticism of the State of Israel.
My take on this is that Israel is no different [than] other nation states and will look to further its political and economic interests in any way it can. That will include trying to influence important global corporations or supporting domestic lobby groups in other countries. Russia will do this, America, China and the UK will do this. This is all normal state actor behaviour.
But when you accuse Israel of doing these things, the discourse brings with it all of the long standing anti-Jewish tropes. So, you have to take great care in how you describe these things, and even if you do take care, pro-Israel advocates will be happy to accuse you of antisemitism.
The bottom line is that the creation of the State of Israel changed EVERYTHING for Jews and Judaism and indeed the understanding of antisemitism. Everyone, including Jews, is struggling to process this change and work through the implications. Some genuine antisemites and some advocates for Israel are, however, perfectly happy to perpetuate the ambiguity and confusion that now exists (from correspondence with the author).
Notice important aspects of his response:
- The State of Israel embodies Jewry (as a nation-state and Judaism as their religion). Thus, it is an easy target for those who supposedly want to deny Jews the right of self-determination. Genuine antisemitism is a reality in today’s world and must be combated.
- The State of Israel is no different than other nation-states in wanting to advance their economic and political interests. (But, it is not above “the law”, as defined through international consensus. Each nation wants to be a law unto itself. Let’s admit it!)
- Advocates for the State of Israel recall long-standing anti-Jewish “tropes” (Jews wanting global influence and power). When someone criticizes the State of Israel, it is best to say, “I do not disparage the right of the Jewish people to form a State. The question is, What kind of a State is it and what kind of State does it aspire to be? Like the United States, no country is above criticism.”
A Review of Richard Forer’s Book: WAKE UP!
A Review of Richard Forer’s Book: WAKE UP!
By John Kleinheksel
I have known Richard Forer for a number of years. We finally met in person at a conference in Estes Park, CO, a number of years ago, where conferees were discussing the Israeli/Palestinian stand-off.
His first book, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion, details his life-changing encounter with a new humanity-affirming Conscious Reality.
In this new book, he invites his reader also to “Wake Up and Reclaim YOUR Humanity”. It is stark and jarring to Jews (and Christians) who are sold out to the prevailing Israeli narrative. It will be stunning and revealing to persons with open minds to learn of key characters in the drama, notable events in the unfolding history, with alarming trends to be seen in the present.
I was really impressed with Rich’s meticulous research, citing impeccable sources in hundreds of footnotes. He gives names, dates, events in their context that relentlessly drive his narrative forward.
Fellow Jews might declare him a “Self-hating Jew” but that charge simply won’t stick. The love for his fellow Jews is unmistakable.
I have been a student of the Middle East for over 50 years. This book of 29 essays is one of the most thorough, compelling, and convincing exposé I have ever read. He exposes Israel’s blindness to their prejudicial, destructive treatment of the native inhabitants. As he states in the Preface:
At the mercy of blind loyalty, I rejected any consideration my beliefs might be erroneous. Loyalty is an admirable quality, but when it masks fear confusion or prejudice, it makes a rational understanding of Israel/Palestine impossible.
With my journey as a guide, this book asserts that blind loyalty, false beliefs and enemy images do not have to dictate our destiny. Through hard work and commitment to the truth, we can undo their influence and achieve a just resolution to this tragedy. Because Israel/Palestine is an archetype, a just resolution could give birth to a global transformation in consciousness and a new destiny for humankind wherein Israel can be a ‘light to the nations’”.
When I wrote back to him, suggesting his book “is a bit off-putting to the true believers in the justness of the Israeli cause”, he replied:
The reason I told my personal story at the beginning of the book was to make it more likely that readers would be open to the historical information or that if their resistance to what I had to say came up, they would at least consider my story, that I had been that way too but was willing to look at the facts and that by looking at the facts I was then no longer bound by prejudice and irrational thinking, not to mention encountering a relief that restored my humanity. Yours, Rich
I dare anyone with an “open mind” to read this book. You might transcend any and all tribal boundaries and embrace the common humanity of us all.