This opinion piece by HR Managing Editor Simon Plosker was originally published on The Times of Israel.
In recent months we’ve seen cartoons that caused considerable offense. An image published in The Sunday Times of London portrayed Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall on top of Palestinians using blood as the mortar. The cartoon prompted comparisons with the “blood libel” and caused particular offense coming as it did on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Then, German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung caused outrage when it published an anti-Semitic cartoon that portrayed Israel as a ravenous monster.
While in both cases, apologies were eventually issued, the immediate responses of the media outlets were to state that the cartoons were not anti-Semitic.
But under whose definition?
Many Jews can recognize anti-Semitism when they see it. But emotional responses aren’t always good enough as a means to convince a skeptic.
So what are the red lines? It might be surprising to learn that both the U.S. State Department and European Union have adopted thoroughly considered definitions of anti-Semitism. The EU’s Working Definition includes the following:
Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.
The U.S. State Department’s definition is very similar:
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis
- Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions
DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ISRAEL:
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
- Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist
All too often we’ve seen these “3 D’s” – Demonization, Double Standards and Delegitimization – appearing in media articles, opinion pieces and cartoons.
We believe in the right of freedom of speech and we also believe that Israel is not above legitimate criticism. We do not seek to shut down all criticism of Israel nor is it our intention to abuse the charge of anti-Semitism to neuter Israel’s critics.
We do, however, believe that the media should adopt the above definitions so that they are aware of the red lines that should not be crossed.
How can you help?
HonestReporting is circulating a petition calling on American and European media to endorse and adopt the relevant definitions of anti-Semitism so that the sometimes fraught discussion and debate over Israel’s policies can take place in a civil discourse free from the demonization that has poisoned the issue.
Sign the petition, which we will deliver to mainstream media outlets in America and Europe, and help us to get the media to draw a red line and to say no to anti-Semitism and demonization of Israel.