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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 07, 2003

Reader Jennifer asks in a comment to this post:
What to you constitutes antisemitism?? I'm really not being silly... I guess let me sort of try to explain. To me there are degrees of antisemitism, or any other form of bigotry or prejudice... for instance, to me obvious antisemitism would be painting swastikas on the Israeli flag... or defacing or destroying a Synagogue... Then you have other things that aren't so obvious.... maybe even things that could go either way... For instance, there are some who insist that even criticizing policies of the Israeli government and/or military constitutes antisemitism/antijewish sentiment... Me, I don't agree... but as a Jew do you see it that way?

There are degrees of antisemitism, and there are degrees to which it manifests itself in people’s actions. Jennifer is talking about its manifestations, and that is what counts in real life. In the Western world there is no thought police, (not yet, anyway), so no one can tell a person that they are not allowed to dislike Jews, or Blacks, or anyone else. But they are not allowed to discriminate against them. What counts is the actions, not the thoughts or the feelings. But often it is also important to understand the real motives behind people’s actions, especially when their actions can be interpreted either way.

If we leave out the obvious manifestations of antisemitism, like painting swastikas on Jewish graves, or burning synagogues, we are left with actions that can be interpreted either way. In those cases the logical and fair thing to do is to give a person all the benefit of a doubt. Just as someone might not hire a black person for reasons other than their race, someone may criticize Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians, for example, and it does not automatically mean that they are antisemitic.

However, if an employer chooses a white candidate who is obviously less qualified than a black one, and the white candidate is not his relative or friend, one has to wonder. If a representative of a European country, in fact most representatives of most European countries, (not to mention those of most European media and academia, and the Vatican) are constantly citing Israel for human rights violations, while constantly ignoring far more severe human rights violations by Israel’s neighbors (not to mention those committed by their own countries), one has to wonder as well.

Furthermore, if something like that happens once, or twice, one might still wonder whether it might be a coincidence.
When it happens over and over and over again, even while not taking into account the long history of antisemitism in Europe, isn’t it time to stop wondering?