Anti-Semitic Liberal Jews??

Is Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic?

A hot controversy within the Jewish community has developed over whether criticism of Israel's policies toward Palestine constitutes anti-Semitism. Respected figures in the academic community are involved in the controversy over where legitimate criticism of Israel's policies toward Palestine end and anti-Semitism begins. President Jimmy Carter's recent book on Palestine has added fuel to the fire because of his criticisms of Israel role in the peace process.

The American Jewish Committee, a conservative advocacy group has recently targeted liberal jews who have criticized Israel's settlements in Palestine and other policies.

Professor Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University recently published an essay castigating a number of "liberal Jews" including playwright Tony Kushner, Tony Judt, and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen for speaking out or writing critically about Israel's policies in Palestine. Here's a link to an article from today's NY Times. Read it and make up your own mind.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/arts/31jews.html



Tony Kushner
Tony Kushner
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld

Wiesenfeld v. Kushner

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld's effort to prevent CUNY from awarding prize winning playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) an honorary degree because he has criticized Israel's Palestine policies is the most recent example of a conservative Jew accusing another Jew of anti-Semitism.There have been other examples of attempts by AIPAC and other Jewish organizations and individuals to veto academic appointments of critics of Israel.

This interference with academia smacks of McCarthyism. Wiesenfeld is shooting himself and Israel in the foot. His ill-considered action won't advance Israel's cause in the United States because a majority of Americans resent interference in academic affairs by zealots of any stripe. I suspect that many if not most American Jews, especially those under 40 years old do not support Wiesenfeld's action. Kushner should get his honorary degree and Wiesenfeld should be forced to resign his position as a trustee of CUNY.

Wiesenfeld's action is but the most recent in a series of attacks on fellow Jews who have spoken out against Israel's settlements and brutal, disproportionate retaliation against Palestine for rockets targeted at Israel.

Eli Yishai, Shas Party Leader
Eli Yishai, Shas Party Leader
Thomas Friedman:  "Israel is driving drunk."
Thomas Friedman: "Israel is driving drunk."

Ha'retz Editorial on Israel's Announcement of More Settlements in East Jerusalem

This editorial in Ha'aretz gets it about right:

There is one reason for the crisis: Netanyahu's persistence in continuing construction in East Jerusalem, in placing Jews in Arab neighborhoods and evicting Palestinians from their homes in the city. This is not a matter of timing but substance. Despite repeated warnings and bitter experiences, he stokes the flames over the conflict's most sensitive issue and is bound to get himself in trouble. Netanyahu has made it clear by his actions that American support for Israel, especially essential now in light of the Iranian threat, is less important to him than the chance to put another few Jews in the Sheikh Jarrah or Ramat Shlomo neighborhoods. Even if Netanyahu's adversaries in the U.S. administration have exploited his misstep to push him into a corner, as his "associates" will certainly argue, a statesman as experienced as he should have been especially careful.

Clinton made clear to Netanyahu that it was impossible to expand Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and also enjoy America's friendship. Netanyahu's flip-flopping games have come to an end. Even at the price of risks involving domestic party politics, he should opt for what is in the national interest and act to strengthen American support for Israel.

(from Huffington Post)

Alvin H. Rosenfeld is the author of an essay critical of liberal Jews that has generated heated debate.

Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School

Alan Dershowitz,  Vocal, Angry Self-righteous Carter Critic
Alan Dershowitz, Vocal, Angry Self-righteous Carter Critic

Tony Judt, anti-Semite? No way!

Tony Kushner, anti-Semite? I don't think so.

Noam Chomsky--Nope!

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky

Adrienne Rich anti-Semitic? I doubt it very seriously.

Noble Laureate Carter an anti-Semite? Not a chance!

Richard Goldstone
Richard Goldstone

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36 comments

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago Author

People like Professor Rosenfeld or Alan Dershowitz don't help their cause, in my opinion, by indulging in name calling over positions taken by Jews or Christians or Muslims on issues over which reasonable people disagree.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago Author

Rosenfeld, Dershowitz, et al, would be better advised to lay off the accusations of anti-Semitism and stick to explaining why they disagree with their fellow Jewish (and others) compatriots' criticisms of Israel's policies toward Palestine and Lebanon.


Iðunn 9 years ago

there is no "palestinian nation", and never has been historically.  my sympathies would lie with the offspring of the tiny collection of Holocaust survivors that bought land in good faith there, made the land productive, established a productive democracy and since then have been attacked continuously by fascist arab countries who established a tiny "palestinian" poor to use as pawns in a media war with Israel.  Even the most well-known "palestinian" leader, Arafat, was Egyptian (born in Cairo) if that gives people a clue.

However, I'll cede to you that having a different opinion regarding Israel's policies doesn't necessarily make one an anti-semite. 


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago Author

I'm not especially knowledgeable on the history of Palestine and Israel. However, my recollection is that Israel was created by the major powers after WWII out of land occupied by Arabs for centuries. I'm not aware that Israel purchased any land from the occupants. Since then Israel has promoted additional settlements outside its designated territory in the West Bank and Gaza. Last year Ariel Sharon finally recognized the obvious that Israel could not appropriate this additional land and still claim to be a democracy because the Jews would be vastly outnumbered by the Palestinian Arabs. He therefore announced that the settlements would be vacated and began the process. Unfortunately Sharon had an incapacitating stroke before many settlements were removed. Israel's policies for dealing with Palestine have been very harsh. And of course there has been plenty of terrorism against Israel by the Palestinians.

There is plenty of blame for both sides for the failure to achieve peace in Palestine. The U.S. gives $4 billion or thereabouts a year to Israel and could therefore exercise a bit of leverage over Israel if it chose to do so. Bush has neglected Palestine.

I was speaking a few days ago with a highly educated and intelligent Syrian-American. He said that if the U.S. were able to use its influence over Israel and Palestine to achieve peace, many of our problems in the Middle East would be greatly ameliorated. He was critical of Bush's policies which have stirred up a lot of trouble in the region. (Policies such as invading Iraq which was heartily supported by Israel.)

IMHO Palestine is not an issue where it is useful to "take sides." At some point the Palestinians and other Arabs must accept Israel and Israel must abide by the applicable UN resolutions. The U.S. should try to be an honest peace broker as every president until Bush has done.


Iðunn 9 years ago

it was made a nation after a great deal of the land was already bought in earlier years by russian jews from different periods of waves of pogroms in russia and then a whole new rush after the Holocaust.

what if you bought a house from a realtor that I used to rent and some additional land from me and I then waged a seige outside, starved myself, bombed innocent civilians in the name of getting "my" house and land back, and attached bombs to my children as well as other peoples', used children as human shields (blaming you for "forcing me to do it") and promoted you in the media as a monster every time you tried to defend yourself?  would that mean you should give it "back" to me?   how right would I be?


Iðunn 9 years ago

from your comment: " At some point the Palestinians and other Arabs must accept Israel"

that's the key. when that happens, there will be peace. period.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago Author

As in most situations like this, there's a bit of a chicken and egg problem--Israel has to get out of the West Bank and Gaza and Syria in accordance with UN resolutions and the "roadmap."


Iðunn 9 years ago

CNN clip on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SRUVXOe6ho&mode=re... 

"Born in Bethlehem of Judea, Walid's grandfather was the Muslim Mukhtar (chieftain) of Beit Sahour-Bethlehem (The Shepherd's Fields) and a friend of Haj-Ameen Al-Husseni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and notorious friend of Adolf Hitler.

Aa young man, he became a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and participated in acts of terror and violence against Israel, and was later imprisoned in the Russian Compound, Jerusalem's central prison for incitement and violence against Israel.

After his release, he continued his life of violence and rioting in Bethlehem and the Temple Mount.

Walid has written several online books including "Dear Muslim, Let Me Tell You Why I Believed" and "Israel, And The World's Mock Trial", where he exposes anti-Semitism and the hatred of Jews in both the Islamic Christian and secular worlds."


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 9 years ago Author

There is plenty of anti-Semitism around the world, and Israel adds to it by it's brutal actions toward the Palestinians. Ditto for the Palestinians. A plague on both their houses!


thecounterpunch profile image

thecounterpunch 9 years ago

anti-Semitism is about RACIAL and RELIGIOUS hate. It should not be confused with ANTI-SIONISM which is about fighting the extreme NATIONALISM of Israel (of course there are moderate sionists who just want to live in Israel but they're not heard).

If one was to criticize Lepen Front National in France and being called ANTI-FRENCH for doing that would be ridiculous. So why do people so stupid to confuse ANTI-SIONISM with ANTI-SEMITISM ?

It's amazing that people really don't know what Semantics means:

http://hubpages.com/literature/semantics

It's scandalous that Zionists threaten the lifeof anti-zionist authors for denouncing Extreme Nationalism. It was like Arab Terrorists threatening Salman Rujdi.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Hi Ralph - Following the recent VP debate where neither candidate mentioned Palestine by name and both swore their loyalty to their greatest ally in the Middle East - Israel, I am concerned that regardless of who wins the election it would appear to be 'no change' in Israel/Palestine. Yet here in the Middle East it is widely accepted that a sensibly supported bi-partisan peace process is the only way forward. There are fanatics on both sides, but the fact remains only one side is a nuclear power and only one side is subject to occupation and blockade.

Unfortunately, even to raise this matter is to risk being called anti-semitic, by those who would rather call names than engage the brain.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago Author

I agree. However, I believe that Obama would be more inclined to support a bi-partisan peace process in Palestine than would McCain. At least the record of Democratic presidents has been better on Palestine. George W. Bush was urged by Karl Rove to try to lure more Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party. As a result, in his first term Bush practically made Ariel Shaoron an ex-offico member of his cabinet. And Palestine remained at the bottom of his priority list. In contrast, both Clinton and Carter put a much higher priority on finding a fair solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Thanks for you comment. It's good to get serious, well-informed, thoughtful comments.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

I agree that on balance Obama would more likely make an effort. However, it is sad that in the run up to the election neither party would risk offending the lobbyists.

I've raised this topic in the Politics Forum too. Please join in if it takes off.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago Author

It's an important topic because Palestine is one of the keys to improving stability in the region and to dealing with terrorism. Not to mention improving U.S. relationships with Arab and other Muslim countries.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Jewish critics of Israeli policies accused of anti-semitism.


linda 7 years ago

attached is a link that states that 60% agree with Israel...of the 40% that don't agree I believe at least 20% are anti-semitics...there is no question that these terrorist groups must be stopped. The people of Gaza voted in Hamas and it was their choice and they must unfortunately suffer the consequences of a leadership that uses their own people as shields. They should oust them or pack up and move to another place and not pay lip service to their integrity.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Hamas has done some very bad things. Israel has done worse. A plague on both of them! You should not equate criticism of Israel with siding with Hamas. Subtlety escapes you.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

J STREET is a new Israel lobby which poses a challenge to AIPAC's "Israel, right or wrong" position wrt Palestine.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Matthew Iglesias says:

Jewish Groups Stay Mum While Right-Wing Fling Spurious Hitler Analogies

A very interesting item on the Daily Intel blog notes that conservatives have been falling all over each other to compare various Democratic leaders’ policy proposals to Hitler and/or Nazism. This is the sort of thing that, historically, used to get a public figure slapped down by major Jewish groups like the ADL. But they’ve basically been saying nothing. Nothing, that is, except to smack Rep Alan Grayson around when he accused the insurance status quo of leading to a “holocaust in America.”

It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on, but roughly speaking this seems like part of a larger trend in which the Jewish establishment in America has increasingly downplayed its traditional interests in favor of advocating for hardline policies on Iran and policing the boundaries of acceptable commentary on Israel.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

American Jews Re-think Israel

This year has seen a dramatic shift in American Jews' attitudes toward Israel. In January many liberal Jews were shocked by the Gaza war, in which Israel used overwhelming force against a mostly defenseless civilian population unable to flee.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091102/horowitz_wei...


Johann M 7 years ago

Das Judentum ist organisiertes verbrechertum

WASHINGTON — A scientist credited with helping discover evidence of water on the moon was arrested Monday on charges of attempting to pass along classified information to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer.

Stewart David Nozette, 52, of Chevy Chase, Md., was charged in a criminal complaint with attempting to communicate, deliver and transmit classified information, the Justice Department said.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/19/stewart-n...


jiberish profile image

jiberish 7 years ago from florida

Another truly pro-Israel organization lays out its concerns about J Street:

StandWithUs has concerns about “J Street,” a new organization and lobby whose goal is to change U.S. policies on Israel. Though J Street claims to be “pro- Israel” and “pro-peace” and to represent mainstream Jewish opinion, we are troubled because their positions seem to undermine Israel and its search for peace with security. Their views may also contribute to anti-Israel biases and misinformation.

StandWithUs was founded in 2001 in response to the misinformation that often surrounds the Middle East conflict, and the inappropriate often anti-Semitic language used about Israel and/or the Jewish people worldwide.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren publicly criticizes J Street and declines J Street's invitation to attend its conference next week. Tzipi Livni, head of opposition party Kadima disassociates herself from Likud's position on J Street.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

Israeli Commander in Gaza--"We re-wrote the rules."

A high-ranking officer has acknowledged for the first time that the Israeli army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives in order to minimise military casualties during last year's Gaza war, The Independent can reveal.

[An Israeli soldier directs a tank outside the Gaza Strip in December 2008. (REUTERS)]An Israeli soldier directs a tank outside the Gaza Strip in December 2008. (REUTERS)

The officer, who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, made it clear that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as "means and intentions" - whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon - as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter. A more junior officer who served at a brigade headquarters during the operation described the new policy - devised in part to avoid the heavy military casualties of the 2006 Lebanon war - as one of "literally zero risk to the soldiers".


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

Andrew Sullivan Attacked by The New Republic for "Anti-Semitism" becaus he has questioned Israel's harsh policies.

"Sullivan left TNR and its whacked out publisher, Marty Peretz, on good terms although Sullivan must have known that there was one condition for remaining on those good terms: he must never attack Israel's policies." M.J. Rosenberg in TPM Cafe.

http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/02/09/in...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

Controversy at the New Republic Over Allegations by Marty Peretz of Anti-Semitism

As I've noted in this space before, the racist anti-Arab rants by New Republic editor in chief/owner Martin Peretz have undermined not only his magazine's reputation for liberalism but also the term "pro-Israel" itself. What I have not addressed, however, is the manner in which the magazine, no less cynically and purposefully, confuses the issue of anti-Semitism by deploying it for political purposes to try to silence those with opposing views about Israel and the Palestinians. Recent targets have included Jimmy Carter, Wes Clark, Juan Cole and the political scientists Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. This tendency has finally spilled into polite discussion now that the magazine has turned on one of its own: former editor, and now Atlantic Monthly blogger, Andrew Sullivan.

Eric Alterman in The Nation March 15, 2010

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100315/alterman


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

Thomas Friedman in the NY Times 3-11-10--

I am a big Joe Biden fan. The vice president is an indefatigable defender of U.S. interests abroad. So it pains me to say that on his recent trip to Israel, when Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s government rubbed his nose in some new housing plans for contested East Jerusalem, the vice president missed a chance to send a powerful public signal: He should have snapped his notebook shut, gotten right back on Air Force Two, flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: “Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious. We need to focus on building our country.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/opinion/14friedm...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

The "Biden Effect" by Roger Cohen in the NYTimes 10-13-10

"Something shifted when Biden (“You need not be a Jew to be a Zionist”) was thanked for his unstinting support of Israel with a snub: The announcement that another 1,600 apartments for Jews will be built in east Jerusalem, a pure provocation when restarting peace talks is the core U.S. aim.

President Barack Obama was furious. In a top-down administration like this one, you don’t get Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lambasting Netanyahu for 43 minutes and David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser, speaking of “an affront” and “an insult” and a “very, very destructive” step if America’s measured leader is not immeasurably incensed. That truth is also worth knowing.

"Obama has reason to be angry."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/opinion/16iht-ed...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

JERUSALEM — The discord between the United States and Israel over Jewish building in East Jerusalem deepened Tuesday with Israeli officials rejecting demands by Washington and expressing anger over the public upbraiding of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the Obama administration.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/world/middleeast...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

JERUSALEM — A fierce debate broke out in Israel on Monday amid finger pointing and hand wringing over the country’s refusal to permit the linguist Noam Chomsky, an icon of the American left, to enter the occupied West Bank from Jordan.

Noam Chomsky went back to Amman, Jordan, after he was denied entry into the occupied West Bank.

Front-page coverage and heated morning radio discussions asked how Professor Chomsky, an 81-year-old professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, could pose a risk to Israel and how a country that frequently asserts its status as a robust democracy could keep out people whose views it found offensive.

Professor Chomsky, who is Jewish and spent time living on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1950s, is an outspoken critic both of American and Israeli policy. He has objected to Israel’s foundation as a Jewish state, but he has supported a two-state solution and has not condemned Israel’s existence in the terms of the country’s sharpest critics.

NYTimes 5-18-10


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

"When it comes to responding to William Faulkner’s request of support for Ezra Pound (who had been committed to a hospital for the insane after making anti-American and anti-Semitic broadcasts during World War II), Bellow is succinct in his moral outrage: 'If sane he should be tried again as a traitor; if insane he ought not to be released merely because he is a poet. Pound advocated in his poems and in his broadcasts enmity to the Jews and preached hatred and murder. Do you mean to ask me to join you in honoring a man who called for the destruction of my kinsmen?'”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/09/books/09book.htm...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

The view that American Jews supportive of Israel but critical of its policies are not “real Jews” is, however, widespread. Israel-right-or-wrong continues to be the core approach of major U.S. Jewish organizations, from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

To oppose the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank (“Zionists are not settlers”), or question growing anti-Arab bigotry as personified by Israel’s rightist foreign minister and illustrated by the “loyalty oath” debate, or ask whether the “de-legitimization” of Israel might not have something to do with its own actions is to incur these organizations’ steady ire.

Debate remains stifled, despite Peter Beinart’s important piece this year in the New York Review of Books describing growing alienation among young American Jews asked to “check their liberalism at Zionism’s door.” Oh, sure, you can find all sorts of opinions about Israel all over the place; America remains an open society. But Aipac has systematically shunned a debate with J Street, the upstart Jewish organization that supports Israel, opposes the settlements and attempts to reclaim the progressive ideals of Zionism by saying that the systematic oppression of the Palestinians undermines Israel.

“These organizations’ view remains essentially that any time you engage in an activity critical of Israel you are trying to destroy the state of Israel,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, told me. “Here are all these Jewish kids being raised on great liberal values at Hebrew schools — walks for the homeless, Darfur, AIDS — but God forbid we talk about what’s happening in Israel! It’s a dynamic that cuts off discourse.” More here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/10/opinion/10iht-ed...


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Hi Ralph - Till today, I hadn't realised you were updating this page regularly. Great work! The only hopeful approach to the Middle East has to be intelligent dialogue. Mindless partisanship has failed at every turn.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

We're in agreement. Thanks for your comment.


ERICKVALLELY 3 years ago

Ralph Deeds, you really sound like a shill


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

Erick, I appreciate getting your opinion. However, I'm curious why you think I "sound like a shill." And for whom do you think I'm shilling? Feel free to express your opinion on the topic. For example, do you think the liberal Jewish criticism of Netanyahu is anti-Semitic? Or not?

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