So far this week, the government of Libya has fired into crowds of pro-Democracy protesters and killed, according to some estimates, more than 320 people. Of course the numbers could be much higher. We don’t know because Moammar Ghadhafi has tried to impose a media blackout and shut down the internet. Actions taken by the governments of Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria have only been slightly less brutal, to say nothing of earlier government violence by Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan against their own citizens. Given everything that’s happening, shouldn’t those who purport to care about human rights in the world be demanding U.N. Security Council resolutions? Why aren’t they?
Imagine what would happen if Israel did to Palestinians what these Middle East governments did to their citizens this week. Shooting into crowds of mourners with live bullets? Media blackouts? Europe would be up in arms. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, would summon Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, into her office for reprimand, and the same Arab governments that have been brutalizing their citizens this week would be leading the charge in the United Nations for its Security Council to condemn Israel for the nth time. And the Security Council would listen. The irony, of course, is that while this violence against Arabs by Arab governments was taking place, the one resolution taken up by the Security Council was against Israel’s settlements. This resolution was urged by Palestinians who have refused to negotiate for the past two years because of the settlements, while according to the United Nation’s own resolutions, the issue of the settlements is to be resolved only through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
In his book The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz wrote,
“A good working definition of anti-Semitism is taking a trait or an action that is widespread, if not universal, and blaming only the Jews for it. That is what Hitler and Stalin did, and that is what former Harvard University President A. Lawrence Lowell did in the 1920s when he tried to limit the number of Jews admitted to Harvard because “Jews cheat.” When a distinguished alumnus objected on the grounds that non-Jews also cheat, Lowell replied, “You’re changing the subject. I’m talking about Jews.” So, too, when those who single out only the Jewish nation for criticism are asked why they don’t criticize Israel’s enemies, they respond, “You’re changing the subject. We’re talking about the Jews.”
Too often, charges of anti-Semitism stifle legitimate criticism of Israel’s actions – that is not my intent. Israel should be fairly criticized, but we should call a spade a spade. Could it be that if one were to ask the U.N. Security Council or human rights organizations this week, “why are you criticizing Israel in this moment when so much violence and oppression is being perpetrated against Arab citizens by their own governments?” that they would respond, “You’re changing the subject. We’re talking about the Jews.” Dare one call it anti-Semitism?