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Is It Anti-Semitic to Defend Palestinian Human Rights?

By       Message Edward C. Corrigan       (Page 3 of 4 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink    (# of views)   8 comments

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There are many critics of Zionism and Israeli policies in Israel itself. These include Avraham Burg, former head of the World Jewish Agency and former Speaker of the Knesset; Shulamit Aloni, a former Minister of Education; Yossi Sarid, a former Knesset member and past leader of Meretz; Uri Avnery, former Knesset member and leader of Gush Shalom; the late Israel Shahak, former Chair of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights; former General and Knesset Member Mattityahu Peled; Meron Benvenisti, former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem; Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Felicia Langer, a well-known human rights lawyer; Michael Warschawski, co-founder of the Alternative Information Center; University of Oxford historian Avi Shlaim; Eitan Bronstein, Chair of Zochrot (Hebrew, "Remember"), which works to remind Israelis of the Nakba or Palestinian catastrophe; the late linguist and journalist Tanya Reinhart; "New Historian" Ilan Pappe; Uri Davis, author of Israel: An Apartheid State (London: Zed Books, 1987); Tikva Honig-Parnass, co-editor (with Toufic Haddad) of Between the Lines; journalists Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, Akiva Eldar, Meron Rapoport, B. Michael and Gideon Spiro; writers A.B. Yehoshua and Yitzhak Laor. These are only a few of the many Israelis who are anti-Zionist, non-Zionist, or critical of Zionism and Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

It is ironic that issues relating to the Palestinians and Zionism that are virtually taboo in North America are openly discussed in Israel. These same subjects are much more openly discussed in Europe and in the rest of the World. (See, for example, "New Israeli Scholars Face up to Israel's Origins," by Eric Rouleau, Le Monde diplomatique, 10 May, 2008; and "A Crisis in Judaism," by Brian Klug, The Guardian, 15 January, 2009; "Israel's War Crimes," by Richard Falk, Le Monde Diplomatique, English edition, March 2009; "Israel's Lies," By Henry Siegman, London Review of Books, 29 January, 2009).

One example of the discussion that goes on in Israel is this statement by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: "For sixty years there has been discrimination against Arabs in Israel. This discrimination is deepseated and intolerable." Olmert made this statement while addressing a meeting of the Knesset committee that was investigating the lack of integration of Arab citizens in public service. (See "PM slams 'discrimination' against Arabs," Elie Leshem and Staff, Jerusalem Post, Nov 12, 2008.)

Another example is the current Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (from the right-wing Likud Party), who called for a fundamental change in relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel. He urged the founding of a "true partnership" between the two sectors, based on mutual respect, equality and the addressing of "the special needs and unique character of each of the sides." The Speaker was reported to say this in an address to be delivered at the president's residence in Jerusalem on August 3rd, 2009. Quoting from Rivlin's prepared speech, which was released to the media: "The establishment of Israel was accompanied by much pain and suffering and a real trauma for the Palestinians ". Many of Israel's Arabs " feel the pain of their brothers across the green line ". Many encounter racism and arrogance from Israel's Jews; the inequality in the allocation of state funds also does not contribute to any extra love." (See "Knesset Speaker: Establishment of Israel caused Arabs real trauma," Haaretz Service, Haaretz, 3rd August, 2009.)

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Can one imagine a top American or Canadian politician making statements like these, or a leading Canadian or American newspaper publishing an article like this one, and the reaction if they did?

Another important book is Reframing Anti-Semitism: Alternative Jewish Perspectives, published by the Jewish Voice for Peace. It contains articles by eight Jewish American writers. One of the articles is by Judith Butler, the Maxine Elliot Professor in Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkley. Her article is on the question of whether criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Her answer and article is titled: "No, It's Not Anti-Semitic."

Another book examining Jewish criticism of Israel's policies is Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon (Grove Press: New York, 2003). Kushner is an award-winning playwright and Solomon a staff writer at The Village Voice, and a professor at Baruch College-City of New York. This book contains essays by 53 prominent American Jewish writers, including such distinguished writers as Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, Marc Ellis, Naomi Klein (actually a Canadian) , and Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

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Another important book is A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity (Verso: London, 2008). It is edited by four prominent British academics, Anne Karpf, Brian Klug, Jacqueline Rose and Barbara Rosenbaum. This book contains the highly critical writings of 27 Jewish academics and thinkers on the issues of the Occupation, Israel and Zionism.

There are a number of other anthologies and collections of writings of anti-Zionist Jews. These include Zionism Reconsidered, edited by Michael Selzer (MacMillian Company: London, 1970); Zionism: The dream and the reality: A Jewish Critique Gary V. Smith ed. (Barnes...amp; Noble Books: New York, 1974); Jewish Critics of Zionism and The Stifling and Smearing of a Dissenter, by Moshe Menuhin, (Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1976); Judaism or Zionism EAFORD...amp; AJAZ (American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism) eds. (Zed Books: London, 1986); The End of Zionism and the Liberation of the Jewish People, Eibie Weizfeld ed. (Clarity Press: Atlanta, 1989); Radicals, Rabbis, and Peacemakers: Conversations with Jews against the occupation, edited by Seth Farber (Common Courage Press, Monroe ME, 2005).

Farber's book contains interviews with leading American dissident Jews--Noam Chomsky, Steve Quester, Joel Kovel, Norton Mezvinsky, Ora Wise, Norman Finkelstein, Phyllis Bennis, Adam Shapiro, Daniel Boyarin, Rabbi David Weiss, and includes a speech and essay by Marc Ellis.

Mordecai Richler, the late esteemed Canadian novelist, wrote an article, "Israel marks 50th anniversary out of favor with many Jews," Toronto Star, February 15, 1998. Many other Canadian Jews are opposed to Zionism or are critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, including the war on Gaza. These dissenters include academics and writers Judy Rebick, Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis, Rick Salutin, Bernard Avishai, Howard Skutel, Yakov Rabkin, Klaus Herrmann, Janet Weinroth, Judith Weisman, Michael Neumann, Alan Sears, Gabor Mate, Judy and Larry Haiven, Michael Mandel, Ursula Franklin, Abbie Bakan, Mordecai Briemberg, Eibie Weizfeld, Zalman Amit, Rabbi Reuben Slonim, pianist Anton Kuerti, broadcaster and producer Ralph Benmergui, and Judy Deutsch, head of Science for Peace, to name but a few.

The Canadian Jewish Outlook Society, headquartered in Vancouver, BC, publishes Outlook Magazine. They describe their magazine as "an independent, secular Jewish publication with a socialist-humanist perspective." Carl Rosenberg is Editor and Sylvia Friedman is Managing Editor. They have over 40 Jewish individuals, mainly in Canada, who serve in various capacities with the publication. Outlook takes a critical view of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians and publishes a range of Jewish perspectives, from moderate Zionist to anti-Zionist.

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) (Canada) is a memberled organization, with chapters in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax. It has three national coordinators, Larry Haiven, Sid Shniad, and Scott Weinstein; and a Steering Committee composed of several Canadian Jewish activists.

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Here is what IJV said in their February 19, 2009 Press Release, about Stephen Harper's Conservative government's position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. "As Jews, we affirm that criticizing Israeli policies is NOT antiSemitic. AntiSemitism refers to hostility and/or prejudice against Jews. Like any other government, Israel has obligations under international law. To responsibly raise critical concerns about the discriminatory, illegal, and brutal policies of another government is an ethical imperative, which our government should support. However, the Conservative government has gone further than any previous Canadian administration in endorsing illegal and brutal Israeli assaults on Palestinian and Lebanese people. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged complete allegiance with Israel and labels as "antiSemitic' any criticism of Israeli actions (including the Gaza massacre, house demolitions, use of illegal phosphorous and DIME weapons against civilians, etc.). As Jews, we believe this is a dishonest smokescreen, a ploy to discredit principled calls for humanity, justice, and compliance with international law. "

There are hundreds, and probably thousands, of Jewish critics of Zionism and of Israeli policies who have published articles or books on the subject. Yet many Zionists, and their supporters, claim that there is a monolithic Jewish position in support of Zionism, Israel and the occupation of Palestinian land. This claim of near- universal Jewish support for the Zionist state and its actions is so far from the truth that it is laughable. One has only to review the written record to see that there is no Jewish consensus on these issues, and a great deal of criticism and outright opposition to Zionism in Jewish intellectual and religious circles, both in the past and today.

To quote Jewish financier George Soros: "Any politician who dares to expose AIPAC's influence would incur its wrath; so very few can be expected to do so. It is up to the American Jewish community itself to rein in the organization that claims to represent it. But this is not possible without first disposing of the most insidious argument put forward by the defenders of the current policies: that the critics of Israel's policies of occupation, control, and repression on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem and Gaza engender antiSemitism ". A debate within the Jewish community, instead of fomenting antiSemitism, would only help diminish it."

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EDWARD C. CORRIGAN SHORT BIO Edward C. Corrigan holds a B.A. in History and a Master's Degree in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario. Ed also has a Law Degree from the University of Windsor and was called to the Bar of the (more...)

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