One of the greatest anti-Israel myths, often accepted without question because it is endlessly repeated, is that Jews are always trying to silence criticism of Israel by calling it anti-Semitism.
The Jewish community speaks with many voices. There is much criticism of Israel today even within the Jewish community. I have rarely heard Jews dismiss criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic - except when it is.
Ironically, the charge that Jews use anti-Semitism to avoid criticism is now often used to justify real anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitic remarks are made, Jews protest, and the protests are dismissed on the grounds that Jews are always crying anti-Semitism. In this way genuine anti-Semitism often gets a free pass.
Worldwide anti-Semitism is real and is growing at an alarming rate. It is also fueling much criticism of Israel. This is particularly evident on some college campuses. On many campuses today, criticism of Israel is often strident, hysterical, and out of all proportion to criticism of any other country. Israel's carefully targeted, self-defensive measures are judged unfavorably in comparison to the Palestinians' deliberate campaign to murder Israeli civilians. Even beyond these inequities, criticism of Israel now often borrows heavily from classical anti-Semitic themes. Some campuses have become like test tubes in which one can see the barrier between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism slowly dissolving.
The progression from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism often goes like this: Israel is accused of an ascending sequence of crimes, ranging from brutality, imperialism, racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and Nazism. The terrorist campaign against Israeli civilians and the fight to cleanse the entire Holy Land of Jews are never mentioned. Then the alleged crimes are charged not only to Israel but to the Jewish people. Jews are attacked verbally and sometimes physically. Supporters of Israel often feel intimidation when trying to express their views.
Of course the degree of this intimidation will vary from one campus to another, and it does not happen everywhere all the time. But it happens enough now to be disturbing. And its manifestations are not always obvious. One may not see literature openly proclaiming "dirty Jew," but it is not uncommon to find publicly displayed leaflets accusing Israel of war crimes and featuring photographs of wounded Palestinian children, of Palestinian terrorists raising clenched fists, or of Israeli tanks appearing to menace innocent Palestinians. The language of "Israeli apartheid," "brutality," and "ethnic cleansing" often permeates campus discourse, through lectures, films, seminars, and classroom discussions.
To cite just one example of how campus anti-Zionism spills over into anti-Semitism, one witness reports the following: At Columbia University on Yom haShoah (Holocaust Commemoration Day), Jewish students took turns standing in a designated spot and reading the names of Holocaust victims. They also had a display table with literature. Without any hesitation, campus radicals would approach the Jewish students and with angrily raised voices tell them they had no right to remember the victims of the Holocaust at a time when Israel was brutally murdering Palestinians.
The purpose of this feature is to tell the story of campus anti-Semitism in words and pictures. Far more eloquently than words can ever express, the pictures will tell us whether or not campus criticism of Israel is largely motivated by anti-Semitism.
One of the most common and destructive anti-Semitic themes in history is the age-old "blood libel," or "ritual murder" accusation. This libel of the Jews was popular during the Middle Ages. Jews were accused by Christians of killing Christian children and using their blood in baking the Passover matzah. Synagogues were burned, Jews were tortured, and entire villages wiped out, all because of this baseless charge.
But that was the Middle Ages, and we are more enlightened today. Or are we? The blood libel is circulating widely through the Arab world - see for example the article from the Saudi Government Daily Al-Riyadh, quoted at length elsewhere on this web site, which describes in graphic detail how "Jewish vampires" use the blood of Christian and Muslim children in baked goods for Purim and Passover. Many people are now hearing and believing such stories.
The blood libel has assumed new forms and has emerged in new places. One of these is the college campus.
Peace with Realism