The term “anti-Semitism” is not one to be taken lightly or used loosely. Indeed, HonestReporting and its UK site are extremely careful before deploying this serious accusation against anyone in the media. We, of course, recognise that there are undoubtedly those for whom anti-Zionism and disproportionate criticism of Israel is merely a cloak for their deeper negativity towards the Jewish people.
A trend is emerging, however, where the accusation is being made against defenders of Israel that they are employing the “anti-Semitism” charge to stifle free speech. Such is the claim of Ivan Clark, chairman of the Edinburgh Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who writes in the Edinburgh Evening News of 25 March that “Anyone who criticises Israel is likely, sooner or later, to be accused of being anti-Semitic.”
“So how does challenging the JNF lead to an allegation of racism? It seems to me that this is a tactic used to defend Israel from all criticism. Anti-Semitism is a real and growing problem across Europe and is being exacerbated by some of Israel’s actions and attitudes.Racism against other groups is even more common so a united front is essential to combat these problems, involving members of all minority communities who have an interest in fighting discrimination. Spreading false accusations of anti-Semitism against anti-racist activists only undermines this effort.”
Thus, Clark, while wrapping himself in the guise of an anti-racism campaigner, inverts concerns about anti-Semitism as a means of delegitimising such potential criticism. Clark also acts as an apologist for anti-Semitism by blaming Israel for exacerbating the problem – the classic case of shifting responsibility to the victim from the perpetrator. After all, whatever happens in the Middle East, there can be no excuse for attacks on Jews or Jewish property in London, Paris, New York or anywhere else in the world. According to Clark however, “Dismissing all criticism as anti-Semitic helps to explain how Israel can get away with what it does.”
Clark’s one-sided missive accuses the JNF of discriminatory practices, throwing the vague and unsubstantiated charge that the charity is “now funding a new Jewish settlement on land that has been proposed to form part of a future Palestinian state.”
In addition, Clark dismisses the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority for the situation of its people, even claiming that “the PA has little or no power to improve the lives of the people there, which are dominated by Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks.” This, despite the fact that there would be no need for Israeli security measures if the continuing threat of terrorism ceased to exist.
Clark also chooses to criticise Israel while ignoring the context of the recent Hamas election victory, simply describing Israel’s recent operation to arrest the murderers of an Israeli cabinet minister as “invading a Palestinian prison, killing a security guard and one inmate and kidnapping several more.”
No country, including Israel, is immune from criticism. Unfortunately Israel is singled out disproportionately to other nations and this has resulted in increasing levels of anti-Semitism throughout the world. Sadly, some like Ivan Clark, whose organisation campaigns for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, wish to turn this to their advantage.
Comments to the Edinburgh Evening News: http://members.scotsman.com/contact.cfm#Letterstoeditors