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Letter to the Editor: Debate should not spiral into hate

Published: February 9, 2007
Section: Opinions


People often fail to differentiate between legitimate criticism of Israel and the criticism that is actually anti-Semitism in disguise. Dan Halpern and John Chodacki (An Open Letter to Professor Dershowitz) do an excellent job of mistaking the two and of misinterpreting statements in their favor. Natan Sharanskys 3-Ds, which the authors claim equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, actually do the opposite. There is a distinct difference between legitimate criticism, which is not anti-Semitic and is designed to foster debate, and anti-Semitic criticism, which fosters hate and is not meant to be constructive. As Americans, we all have something to criticize about our country: criticism of the Administrations budget policies or the decision to go to war is legitimate. Characterizing America as an evil imperialistic state whose leaders drink the blood of their enemies or saying that America has no right to exist on stolen tribal land, however, is not. The first is criticism out of concern, the second is demonization. Incidentally, the second two have both been used against Israel countless times and have entered the academic debate as supposedly legitimate criticism.

This is the point of Sharanskys 3-Ds, namely that Demonization of Israel by comparing it to Nazi Germany, De-legitimization of Israels right to exist, and using a Double Standard to criticize Israel versus other countries are the illegitimate criticisms of Israel that are actually anti-Semitism. Denying the right of Israela country that has been internationally recognized for almost 59 yearsto exist is anti-Semitic since it denies the Jewish people the right its own land, a right which is granted to other peoples. If one were to say that South Africa had no right to exist, though it gained independence thirteen years after Israel did, one would be considered a lunaticbut if said about Israel it is considered fair. Similarly, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is a ghastly reversal of history and an outright distortion of the facts. This charge is leveled only at Israel, a country with a functioning democracy, civil rights and freedoms of religion, speech, and sexual expression, while vicious dictatorships of the world are spared this charge. This is a double standard driven by animosity toward Israel simply because of its Jewish character. Thus, the 3-Ds separate legitimate criticism from hate-driven accusations and do not liken criticism in general with anti-Semitism, as Halpern and Chodacki would have us believe;

the difference between them is certainly not subjective. Surely, no one would say that criticizing Bushs defense spending is demonizationthese categories are very separate.

The authors label Sharanskys 3-Ds as a redefinition of anti-Semitism. In fact, this redefinition is only in response to a shift by haters of Israel to anti-Semitism under the guise of criticism of Israel, since blatant anti-Semitism is no longer publicly polite;

Sharansky and others like him are only exposing these hateful accusations for what they really are. Dershowitzs challenge to the audience to present evidence of a prominent Jewish leader equating these two forms of criticism still stands, as no example can be found as long as the accusers get their quotations right. As it seems that interest in debate over these issues has bloomed, I ask people to recognize the firm line between legitimate criticism for debates, and outright demonization for hate. True debate cannot occur if one does not recognize Israels right to exist as a state, in the same way that interracial discussion is impossible if one does not consider the members of another race as human beings. Debate must begin with acknowledgement of both sides basic rights, which unfortunately often does not hap pen. I sincerely hope we do not let this chance for debate spiral into groundless hate on both sides.

-Sam Ackerman '08