Irresponsible Use of anti-Semitism Label by Israel’s Right Is Dangerous

The geniuses of Israel’s extreme right might well learn Susan Rice’s recent tweet apropos the slanders hurled at Kerry by heart: Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec. Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable.’

The misuse of the anti-Semitism charge by Israel’s right-wing politicians has been criticized time and again. My colleague Bradley Burston’s hilarious, but unfortunately quite realistic questionnaire ‘Are you a closet anti-Semite’ is just one of the latest instances.

Israel’s right wingers are lately upping the ante. Let me just remind of the last two gems quoted by Bradley: Habayit Hayehud MK Moti Yogev accused United States Secretary of State John Kerry of being driven by anti-Semitism in his drive for peace, or when settlement official Adi Mintz says to Channel 2 about Kerry’s warning that a failure of the current peace initiative might lead to boycott against Israel: “In the end John Kerry’s statement is: ‘Hit the Jews in the pocket’. I am saying here that Kerry’s statement is anti-Semitic.”

Mintz’s statement borders on a parody of mindless populism: I suggest that next time a gentile doctor tells a Jewish patient that he should quit smoking, because otherwise his chances to contract cancer increase, this doctor should be disqualified as anti-Semitic for threatening a Jew with cancer! I wonder whether Mintz actually believes his own spin, or whether he just thinks that the audience of Channel 2 is stupid enough not to notice the logical blunder it involves.

Leave alone the fact that Kerry has Jewish ancestry − something he only discovered in 2004. It is clear that he genuinely cares about Israel’s future and security. He is afraid that the occupation policy will drive Israel into a depth of isolation never known before, including the economic boycott that is now gradually beginning to be implemented by European institutions − and yes, he warns Israel of the consequences of perpetuating the occupation.

I can attest to the same caring for Israel by many European politicians and diplomats who speak to me under condition of anonymity. Many of them have been friends of Israel for decades, and are both shocked and worried by the country’s growing lack of diplomatic finesse and its blatant disregard for its closest allies and friends.

The recent downward spiral in the level of right-wing discourse in Israel and its indiscriminate anti-Semitism charge against anybody who doesn’t agree with the ideology of the Greater Land of Israel could be funny if it wasn’t so phenomenally dangerous.

There is no doubt that anti-Semitism has not disappeared from the face of the earth, and the rise of new forms of anti-Semitism in the Islamic world has been documented in detail by Robert Wistrich’s book A Lethal Obsession. It is also true that Europe’s extreme left at times crosses the border to anti-Semitism in its strange coalition with radical Islam.

World Jewry and Israel will need all the friends they can get to erect bulwarks against all forms of anti-Semitism, whether from the right as in Hungary, from some quarters of the extreme European left, or from people like the French performer Dieudonné M’bala, who is lately at the center of a stormy discussion in France about the limits of what can be legitimately be said about Jews − or any other minority, for that matter.

But when Israeli politicians start arguing that anybody who dares disagreeing with the champions of a Greater Israel is an anti-Semite, we will lose these friends. Why should they fight anti-Semitism − as they currently do quite strongly − if they are accused of it without any fault? Why should they care if their Jewish friends offend them mortally? The geniuses of Israel’s extreme right might well learn National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s recent tweet apropos the slanders hurled at Kerry by heart: “Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec. Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable.”

The indiscriminate use of the anti-Semitism charge by Israel’s right wingers is not just stupid, intellectually irresponsible and morally repugnant. It is also profoundly dangerous. Under the pretext of protecting Israel’s future and that of Jews around the world, some of Israel’s right wingers are actually endangering Israel’s future and creating impossible situations for Diaspora Jews by alienating our friends with their shameless and irresponsible abuse of the anti-Semitism charge.