THE BLOG
02/06/2007 10:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

There Is No New Anti-Semitism

The New York Times reported on January 31 about the most recent
attempt by the American Jewish community to conflate intense criticism
of Israel with anti-Semitism. In a neat little example of slippery
slope, the report on "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New
Anti-Semitism," written by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, moves from exposing the
actual anti-Semitism of those who deny Israel's right to exist--and
hence deny to the Jewish people the same right to national
self-determination that they grant to every other people on the
planet--to those who powerfully and consistently attack Israel's
policies toward Palestinians, see Israel as racist the way that it
treats Israeli-Arabs (or even Sephardic Jews), or who analogize
Israel's policies to those of apartheid as instituted by South Africa.

The Anti-Defamation League sponsored a conference on this same topic
in San Francisco on January 28, conspicuously failing to invite
Tikkun, Jewish Voices for Peace and Brit Tzedeck ve Shalom, the three
major Jewish voices critiquing Israeli policy, yet also strong
supporters of Israel's security.

Meanwhile, the media has been abuzz with stories of Jews denouncing
former President Jimmy Carter for his book Palestine: Peace or
Apartheid. The same charges of anti-Semitism that have consistently
been launched against anyone who criticizes Israeli policy is now
being launched against the one American leader who managed to create a
lasting (albeit cold) peace between Israel and a major Arab state
(Egypt). Instead of seriously engaging with the issues raised (e.g. to
what extent are Israel's current policies similar to those of
apartehid and to what extent are they not?), the Jewish establishment
and media responds by attacking the people who raise these or any
other critiques--shifting the discourse to the legitimacy of the
messenger and thus avoiding the substance of the criticisms. Knowing
this, many people become fearful that they too will be labeled
"anti-Semitic" if they question the wisdom of Israeli policies or if
they seek to organize politically to challenge those policies.

Yet there is nothing "new" about this or about this alleged
anti-Semitism that these mainstream Jewish voices seek to reveal. From
the moment I started Tikkun Magazine twenty years ago as "the liberal
alternative to Commentary and the voices of Jewish conservatism and
spiritual deadness in the organized Jewish community," our magazine
has been attacked in much of the organized Jewish community as
"self-hating Jews" (though our editorial advisory board contains some
of the most creative Jewish theologians, rabbis, Israeli peace
activist and committed fighters for social justice). The reason? We
believe that Israeli policy toward Palestinians, manifested most
dramatically in the Occupation of the West Bank for what will soon be
forty years and in the refusal of Israel to take any moral
responsibility for its part in the creation of the Arab refugee
problem, is immoral, irrational, self-destructive, a violation of the
highest values of the Jewish people, and a serious impediment to world
peace.

What the Jewish establishment organizations have done is to make
invisible the strong roots in Judaism for a different kind of policy.
The most frequently repeated injunction in Torah are variations of the
following command: "Do not oppress the stranger (the 'other').
Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Instead, the
Jewish establishment has turned Judaism into a cheer-leading religion
for a particular national state that has a lot of Jews, but has
seriously lost sight of the Jewish values which early Zionists hoped
would find realization there.

The impact of the silencing of debate about Israeli policy on Jewish
life has been devastating. We at Tikkun are constantly encountering
young Jews who say that they can no longer identify with their
Jewishness, because they have been told that their own intuitive
revulsion at watching the Israeli settlers, with IDF support, violate
the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, or their
own questioning of Israel's right to occupy the West Bank, are proof
that they are "self-hating Jews." The Jewish world is driving away its
own young.

But the most destructive impact of this new Jewish Political
Correctness is on American foreign policy debates. We at Tikkun have
been involved in trying to create a liberal alternative to AIPAC and
the other Israel-can-do-no-wrong voices in American politics. When we
talk to Congressional representatives who are liberal or even
extremely progressive on every other issue, they tell us privately
that they are afraid to speak out about the way Israeli policies are
destructive to the best interests of the United States or the best
interests of world peace--lest they too be labeled anti-Semitic and
anti-Israel. If it can happen to Jimmy Carter, some of them told me
recently, a man with impeccable moral credentials, then no one is
really politically safe.

When this bubble of repression of dialogue explodes into open
resentment at the way Jewish Political correctness has been imposed,
it may really yield a "new" anti-Semitism. To prevent that, the voices
of dissent on Israeli policy must be given the same national exposure
in the media and American politics that the voices of the Jewish
establishment have been given.

We hope that the creation of our interfaith Network of Spiritual
Progressives
can provide a safe
context for this kind of discussion among the many Christians,
Muslims, Unitarians, Hindus, Buddhists and secular-but-not-religious
people who share some of the criticisms of Israel and who will
eventually try to challenge the kind of anti-Semitism that might be
released against Jews once the resentment about Jewish Political
Correctness on Israel does explode.

Even better if we could succeed in creating a powerful alternative to
AIPAC. Unfortunately, that path is not so easy. When we approached
some of the Israel peace groups to form an alliance with us to build
the alternative to AIPAC we found that the hold of the Jewish
Establishment was so powerful that it had managed to seep into the
brains of people in organizations like Americans for Peace Now (not
the Israeli group Peace Now which has been very courageous), Brit
Tzedeck ve'Shalom and the Israel Policy Forum or the Religious Action
Center of the Reform movement. As a result ,these peace voices are
continually fearful that they will be "discredited" if they align with
each other and with us to create this alternative to AIPAC. Meanwhile,
while they look over their right shoulders fearfully, the very people
that they fear will "discredit" them for aligning with each other and
with us are already discrediting them as much as they possibly can.