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« Rosh Hashana | Main | 5766 The Year That Was »

September 21, 2006



It is true that when the Jewish community and all balanced people speak with one voice, the impact of that sentiment is immense. Red Ronnie, despite his shortcomings should theoretically at least be celebrating New Year at this time. With all the Israel critics out there - I decided to test the waters with an article I had published on

Is criticism of Israel anti-Semitic?

This is an issue which has surfaced numerous times, both on and throughout the world’s media channels. There are two factions in this saga; those who publicly or privately express anti-Israel sentiment and those in the pro-Israel lobby who label such criticism of Israel as thinly veiled expressions of anti-Semitism.

The question to be asked is which side is true, if at all? The answer is not as cut and dried as the question due to many mitigating factors. Firstly if the truth be known, only the personal opinions of those who are openly critical of Israel and its policies will have the answer as to whether they are anti-Semitic or not. It is however a very real probability that those people who continually attack everything which Israel does are in fact anti-Semitic to a greater or lesser degree. While the Palestinian issue and their concomitant inalienable right to self determination is paramount, it is however secondary to this particular issue.

The justification for this argument lies in the fact that Israel is otherwise known as the Jewish state. There are many who are and have been vehemently opposed to Israel’s creation in 1948 and as such they will continually seek to undermine its government and its people. There are others yet who are more balanced in their opinions and choose to condemn or applaud the country on its failures and merits respectively. The latter category is the one which will ultimately see peace in the Middle East prevail. If however Israel is seen only as being synonymous with Zionism (through its internal policies and the law of return for Jews); subjugation of Palestinians and occupation of their land, then a strong anti-Israel view will dominate. This is not to say that that is anti-Semitism, it simply means that the perception of Israel is one of being an overbearing force in the region.

The Judaic identity of Israel cannot be denied. Unlike South Africa - where no singular religious denomination would be offended if criticism were leveled against the nation, Israel is 80% Jewish. The very essence of Israel is its Judaic culture, heritage and history. The real problems encountered in the region, between Israel and Palestine, are neither innately Jewish nor Islamic in nature. The problems are based on historical, geographical and social jockeying between the conflicting parties. If Israel were to become Palestine and the Israelis were disenfranchised or their land was expropriated, would there be an uproar?

In this particular situation only diplomacy can broker a peace accord. Judaism and Zionism are not necessarily joined at the hip. While many Jews feel that it is their right to return to Israel, this is not necessarily shared by all. The view predominates in the world that all Jews are Zionists and are therefore oppressors of Palestinians. Hence, criticism of Israel does have elements of anti-Semitic bias. Let’s not forget that the State of Israel was officially created by the United Nations. Whatever led to its creation is now a part of the living history of the region.

So how does one go about criticizing Israel without being labeled anti-Semitic? To answer this question we have to pose another question. Imagine you are faced with a dilemma in your work group. The boss poses a question: “Do you like this as a solution to the problem? If your answer was simply No, then you haven’t positively contributed to resolving the issue. A more feasible answer may have been: “The problem with this design is that its outflow components would need to be recalibrated by employing these measures” The issue is one of proposing a potential solution to an extremely tenuous situation. There are actions and reactions in every symbiotic relationship; Israel is not always the aggressor nor is it always the victim – the same applies to its neighbours.

Israeli occupation is met with very real security concerns from the other side. Both are integral components of a Middle East solution. Peace without security is not a peace worth brokering. Unlike in the Second World War, where security meant an arms race, perhaps in this instance bridging the divide would go a long way towards a workable solution. We need to be sympathetic to the rights of both factions. We must be dogged in our determination to see coexistence of Israel and Palestine. There is no point calling for the destruction of one nation, because then we have truly become what we despise most.

Keith Dawid


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