JCRC Update | October 24, 2014

I have been thinking a lot about anti-Semitism recently, and its relationship to criticism of Israel and its demonization, as we have seen some horrible examples of anti-Semitic speech and actions around the world recently, much of it in response to Israel’s war with Hamas this past summer.

• In Turkey, the country’s president, Tayyip Erdogan, said what Israel was doing was worse than the Nazis. Also in Turkey, a prominent journalist who is close with the president accused Turkey’s Jews of being ungrateful after Turkey took in thousands of Jews 500 years ago in response to the Inquisition. He further called on Turkey’s chief Rabbi to apologize on behalf of the Jews because of Israel’s actions in Gaza, going so far as to call for a special tax on Jews.

• In France, a group protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza broke away and headed toward the Jewish area of Paris, breaking windows, destroying Jewish owned shops, vandalizing a synagogue, and attacking visible Jews in the street. They did NOT head toward the Israeli embassy or consulate or Israeli business interests in France; rather they attacked Jewish interests.

• In the U.S., the Episcopalian bishop at Yale University stated that anti-Semitic incidents around the world are directly related to Israel’s actions during the war with Gaza, and the American Jewish community needed to pressure Israel to amend its military actions in order to put an end to violent anti-Semitic incidents throughout the world. This idea that the Jewish community somehow invites anti-Semitic incidents through its unwavering support of Israel is common around the world, not just with this one particular statement.

Criticism of Israel is more than fair, and criticism of the actions of the Israeli government is wholly legitimate. Nations make mistakes and as Zionists we would be doing our advocacy efforts a disservice by saying Israel is always perfect. But there is a big difference between criticism and demonization, and the reality is that either demonization can lead to acts of anti-Semitism or the demonization of Israel is a manifestation of inherently anti-Jewish beliefs.

Opera in New York Protested for the Glorification of Terrorists
The Metropolitan Opera House is staging a version of the opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” an opera that tells the story of the murder of Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists on the Achile Lauro cruise ship in 1985. This opera has come under a lot of criticism as it apparently tries to give a primer on the Israel-Palestine conflict and presents the terrorists as something other than the murderers they were.

Protesters (including many dignitaries) are objecting to this opera, claiming that it glorifies terrorism and the terrorists and accuse the show of being anti-Semitic. The producers of the show and the Metropolitan Opera House strongly deny the charge, and claim they are not justifying terrorism, just discussing a very difficult topic, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Not having seen the show, I cannot say one way or the other if the show is anti-Semitic or glorifies terrorism. But it is a reminder that anti-Semitism comes in many forms … it is not just the classic canards and stereotypes of the past 2000 years.

If the show does in fact present a “human side” to these terrorists, then, that too, is a form of anti-Semitism as it devalues life by saying Mr. Klinghoffer’s death was a result of the actions of the state of Israel against the Palestinians … murdered because he was Jewish.

Vote on November 4
Just a reminder that is not only a right, but a duty to vote on November 4. Senators, congressmen, judges and local politicians have direct impact on our daily lives. We have the gift of choosing who these people are.

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