May 3, 2006

Anti-Israel and/or anti-Semitic

One of my favorite Volokh conspirators David Bernstein has gotten caught up in the anti-Israel or anti-Semitic discussion. Those who criticize Israel or Israel's policies often claim they are unjustly assigned the tag of anti-Semite as well (see the recent Mearsheimer-Walt "Israel Lobby" paper debate as evidence of this claim).As someone sitting firmly in the pro-Israel camp, this is an issue of great importance and interest to me. As a Jew, I worry greatly that the accusation of anti-Semitism is thrown around all too often when it is not warranted. Such casual name calling detracts from the power in the term, and weakens its effect when truly needed. That said, if it is anti-Semitism it needs to be called such.The quickest way that I can separate justified criticism of Israel from inherintly anti-Semitic criticism is to say that criticism of Israel is always justified, just as is criticism of any other state. Holding Israel to a higher standard is what's anti-Semitic. Citing human rights violations perpetrated by Israel is justified; the fact that there are more U.N. human rights sanctions against Israel than against China and North Korea is anti-Semitism.The Mearsheimer-Walt paper is more in the gray area. Worrying about the alledged out-of-proportion influence of a special interest group is justified; alledging that the so-called Israel Lobby--in truth, no different than a normal special interest group--is against America's interests when other special interest groups are excempt from the charge is anti-Semitism.