Anti-Semitism goes mainstream

Ira Lacher explains the difference between opposing the Netanyahu government’s policies and opposing Israel’s right to exist. -promoted by Laura Belin

There will be controversy.

There will be arguments.

There will be accusations.

There will be widening of rifts.

What there won’t be will be honest dialogue.

In Sunday’s New York Times, op-ed columnist Michelle Alexander wrote what some will see as a scathing critique of Israel, America’s attitude toward its policies regarding Palestinians living within its control, and, some will say, by inference, of America’s Jews, many of whom overwhelmingly support the ultra-right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Read the piece for yourself, and judge whether it is possible to be anti-Netanyahu and not anti-Semitic (I believe it is possible), or to be anti-Israel as a whole, as this column appears to be, and not anti-Semitic. (I believe that is less possible.)

I am a member of J Street, an American lobbying group that opposes the policies of the Netanyahu government while being staunchly pro-Israel. I believe you can separate the two, just as you can be pro-American and anti-Trump.

Let me be clear: History has proved the necessity of a haven for the Jewish people; especially within the last 150 years of Russian pogroms, the Dreyfuss affair, which galvanized Zionism’s founder, Theodor Herzl; and the horror of the Holocaust. And given the rising tide of worldwide Jew hatred, in Europe as well as America, it is just as necessary today.

So, yes, to oppose Israel on principle is to be anti-Semitic.

What’s the difference between being anti-Netanyahu and anti-Israel?

When you speak out or protest increased Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Israeli military’s use of excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators, and odious segregation, you are being anti-Netanyahu. But when you evoke terms such as “McCarthyite” and “blacklist,” as Alexander does … when you mention injustices against Palestinians but fail to note how organizations, such as Hamas, and nations, such as Iran, publicly call for eliminating the Jewish presence from the Middle East, you are being anti-Israel.

Israel and its Jewish population have been under siege since the Arab nations rejected the United Nations’ 1948 vote to divide British Palestine into Jewish and Arab states and instead vowed to crush the Jews by military force. Israelis have been targeted for attacks by state-sponsored suicide bombers and other terrorists. By state-sponsored rockets from Gaza. By Scud attacks from Iraq.

Israeli governments preceding Netanyahu’s have determined that to survive, Israel must be constantly on domestic and military alert. More than once, government and military leaders have turned this vigilance into paranoia. But anyone who has not lived in such a society cannot know where the line between them is or the necessity to cross it when the nation’s survival is at stake.

And make no mistake: The survival of Israel is tantamount to the survival of the Jewish people. “Never again” is not just a slogan.

So, read Ms. Alexander’s op-ed. Demand that the Israeli government treat all its peoples with dignity and respect. Demand equality. Demand justice.

But demand that Am Yisrael Chai — that the nation of Israel live. Because the alternative is annihilation.

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