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Anti-Semitism and the Israel-Palestine Conflict


[This is a revised version of a talk given at Yale University on Nov. 11, 2010, at a forum sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine]

     As it becomes increasingly difficult to justify Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people, Israel's apologists — whether based in Israel or at pseudo-academic centers such as the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism — resort to another line of defense: namely, they accuse Israel's critics of being anti-Semitic. Not the sort of classic anti-Semitism found for example in Hamas's Charter, but instead the anti-Semitism of an anti-Israel double standard.

     What I'd like to do is examine some of these claims of anti-Semitism and double standards and see what merit they may have.

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     One argument supporting the charge of anti-Semitism goes like this: It is anti-Semitic to hold Israel to a higher standard than other countries. Why, for example, are critics more concerned about civilian casualties caused by Israel in its attack on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 than by the United States in its assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004? This is the argument made for example, by Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher.[1]

     Alpher, I think, overstates the number of casualties in Fallujah, but let's agree that both attacks killed large numbers of innocent civilians. So, yes, anyone who cheered the U.S. military in Fallujah and condemned Israel in Gaza would be a hypocrite. But this certainly wasn't the view taken by leading progressive critics of Israel, whose position was quite consistent and principled: they denounced both attacks for showing an immoral disreg

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