“Sometimes the left distinguishes between vulnerable European Jews who have been persecuted and latter-day “Prussians” in Israel. Yet it is often forgotten that a majority of Israelis just happen to be Jews, who fear therefore that what begins with the delegitimization of the state will end with the delegitimization of the people.” – Colin Shindler
Benjamin Pogrund, a former South African journalist, and anti-Apartheid activist, who made Aliyah in 1997 and founded Yakar’s Centre for Social Concern, published a piece at ‘Comment is Free’ on Oct. 25 titled ‘Israel has moved to the right, but is not an apartheid state.’
Pogrund refuted the recent poll on Israeli views of Arabs, and the profound distortion of the poll results, which smeared Israel with the charge of apartheid, by Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz.
Interestingly, Pogrund was forced to contend not merely with one misrepresentation, but two, as CiF editors noted the following below the essay:
“The original headline of this article, “Israel is hostile towards Arabs, but it is not an apartheid state”, was changed at 17:46 on 26 October 2012 at the request of the author.”
Anyone reading Pogrund’s piece would understand that he not only responded to the apartheid charge but, in fact, refuted those claiming that the poll demonstrated Israel’s hostility towards its Arab citizens.
One of the more thoughtful reader comments about the broader issue of the danger posed by slander against the Jewish state, below the line of Pogrund’s CiF piece, was posted by someone using the moniker Mita Khondria, who wrote the following:
Pejorative terms used freely against Jews in the last century led to people thinking that the Jews were a ripe target which could be injured with impunity, and attempted to wipe them out in an industrial murder operation the very scope of which was breath-taking.
Similar loose talk about a Jewish state in this century and blind insistence on its uniquely evil nature despite the obvious dangers (and the absurdity of applying these terms to this one state when there are plenty with far worse records) is irresponsible in the extreme. So when people ask what you can say about Israel without being antisemitic I would ask them, whatever they say, to name at least one other current state about which they can say the same thing. Comparisons with Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany are of course ruled out as indications of a desire to do damage.
For instance, there were gasps of disbelief from Westerners recently that Israel had no civil marriage laws. They were not aware that this is the rule not the exception in the Middle East. It was therefore not antisemitic when put into the correct perspective.
The Hebrew term for speaking badly of others (Slander, spreading malicious, false information, etc.) is called lashon hara, literally “evil language.”
Such evil speech, when it involves criticism of Israel at the Guardian, often involves not outright lies – though they are not uncommon – but the dynamic of selectively reporting information void of historical or political context, or any sense of moral proportion.
Such context is vital in providing the nuance and complexity necessary to avoid misleading, lazy characterizations which render Israeli Jews as mere stereotypes, caricatures, or crude political abstractions.
Interestingly, according to Jewish tradition, while the person engaging in such slander is of course morally culpable, those who listen and fail to refute false, misleading and defamatory words are considered more culpable, because the person had the power to stop the lie and didn’t, thus completing the transgression.
All that is required of a philo-Semites – indeed of anti-racists more broadly – is the determination to not allow defamations of the Jewish people to go unchallenged.
‘What begins with the delegitimization of the state will end with the delegitimization of the people.’
Our mission at CiF Watch – leveraging nothing more than the weight of our arguments and the power of our speech – is to refute false and misleading information about Israel and the Jewish people.
We also hope to inspire others to do the same.