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Distinguishing Between Valid and Anti-semitic Criticism of Israel: How and Why

Op-Ed by Joshua Anthony

Whether by media pundits, student activist groups, prominent artists, or international governments, there is no shortage of criticism of Israel in the news. Of course, healthy criticism of the state of Israel can be true and justified. This kind of criticism is made in good faith by those who wish to see Israel improve and be as close to a perfect nation as possible. However, when it comes to the Jewish State, there is sometimes a dark rationale hidden within the criticisms. Rather than being constructive with the goal of a peaceful existence for all peoples, much of today’s anti-Israel criticism is actually a thin facade covering arguments for the eradication of Israel or otherwise anti-semitic purposes.

It’s very important to distinguish between well-meant criticism and ill-intentioned criticism for reasons of anti-racism and transparency. If criticism is deemed anti-semitic in nature, treating it as valid criticism can help elevate anti-semitic talking points and further legitimize anti-semitism. On the other side of that coint, valid criticism of Israel must be identified, taken seriously, and used to positively impact the shaping of the future of dialogue concerning Israel and the Middle East . Failure to condemn anti-semitism and failure to address valid complaints has and will continue to lead to a toxic atmosphere surrounding the Israel-Palestine conversation that won’t lead toward mutual respect and peace.

Israel, like every nation, has erred in its ways. Israel must be held accountable for policies that have lead to suffering. Anyone who wishes to preserve the legitimacy of Israel must hold it to a high standard. It’s also important that we all recognize when criticism of Israel is valid because there are those that would paint any and all criticism of Israel as anti-semitism. This helps nobody and waters down real allegations of anti-semitism, making it harder to identify and stop real threats.

In light of the dire need for sifting through the myriad of anti-Israel criticism, I want to offer a helpful rubric for understanding what’s valid and what’s hate: the ‘3D’ test developed by Israeli politician Natan Sharansky in 2004 which helps identify anti-semitic sentiment.

The Three D’s stand for Demonization, Double-Standards, and Delegitimization.

Demonization is when claims about Israel are exaggerated or altered to make Israel seem evil, as in the common comparison of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi regime’s treatment of Jews in the twentieth century. The irony of this untrue and misleading comparison seems to be lost on the accusers. Israel has documentably tried its best to avoid any civilian casualties when conducting operations, especially against terror groups like Hamas that hide amongst civilian populations and even disgustingly hide their rockets inside of UN schools. The Nazis tried to systematically rid Europe of Jews by shooting and gassing them to death.

Double-standards are when Israel is criticized for something that other nations are not criticized for when they do it. A good example of Double-Standards in use is when the UN condemns Israel for human rights abuses when the far more serious crimes of other UN member states such as China, Iran, and Syria, are virtually ignored. According to UN Watch, In 2018 the UN General Assembly introduced 21 resolutions singling out Israel for condemnation, as compared to just six resolutions pertaining to all other countries combined. It should be noted that no resolution was proposed to condemn China’s imprisonment of over one million Muslim Uyghurs in its Northwest Xinjiang region.

Delegitimization occurs when Israel’s right to exist as a nation is denied. This form of anti-semitism is particularly ubiquitous. Examples can be found in such innocuous places as international soccer competitions, where Israel is not allowed to play in Asian competitions because the Arab nations refuse to compete against it. Oftentimes prominent musicians, under significant pressure by groups such as BDS, will cancel performances in Israel or refuse to schedule visits there outright. These actions are fundamentally rooted not in a critique of Israel––as stated above, these nations, activists, and performers have no qualms with relations with much more offensive countries––but in a denial and rejection of the Jewish State’s right to exist as a normal member of the international community.

The Demonization, Double Standards and Delegitimization of Israel are not one-off events. They occur often and globally. Recognizing them and immediately calling them out for the anti-semitism they are is critical because anti-semitic attacks on Israel are a threat to the safety of all Jews worldwide. It must be stopped wherever it is found. Conversely, good-faith criticism of Israel’s policies must be elevated and taken seriously. Burying one’s head in the sand and pretending that Israel can do no wrong hurts the Jewish people and invites further anti-semitic attacks. It is our responsibility as supporters of peace and democracy to do this for the safety of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jews worldwide.


Joshua Anthony

Joshua Anthony is a freshman studying international relations here at AU. He is an active member in the AU Jewish community, often attending and participating in events planned by Hillel, HRW, and AUSFI. Josh loves to play soccer and plays intramural at AU. Some of his other interests include running, writing, vegetarian cooking, and learning Hebrew slowly via Duolingo. Josh is excited to raise awareness of Israel and its many facets with Student Israelity.

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