Anti-Semitism versus legitimate criticism of the state of Israel

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listens to President Trump’s State of the Union speech at the Capitol in Washington Feb 5, 2019 (photo: AP / J. Scott Applewhite)

Calling for fair treatment of Palestinians does not constitute anti-Semitism.

By  Mae Elise Cannon | Religion News Service | Mar 7, 2019

While we seek and advocate for justice for Palestinians, we must also acknowledge the rootedness of anti-Semitism in Christian history, and its remnants in some of today’s Christian rhetoric.

The question of what constitutes legitimate critique of Israel as opposed to anti-Semitism is front and center in the conversation about Israel in the U.S. following the outcry regarding Rep. Ilhan Omar’s tweets about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the impending anti-Semitism resolution in the House.

In light of debates on Capitol Hill about what defines anti-Semitism and recent increased incidents of hatred toward Jews, it is particularly paramount to weed out and eradicate anti-Semitism, while also distinguishing it from legitimate criticism of Israel.

How does one criticize Israel’s policies without being anti-Semitic?

We need to listen to what the Jewish community says about anti-Semitism. While there are differences of opinion and multiple perspectives, particularly across conservative and liberal divides, commonalities also exist.

Beliefs that are detrimental and could lead to physical harm against Jews constitute anti-Semitism. Not every problematic belief manifests anti-Semitism. One can be inaccurate and wrong, and not be anti-Semitic. Nonetheless, we must be informed and attentive to when anti-Semitic sentiment, rhetoric or actions exist.

In our criticism of Israeli policies, may we not compromise in also calling out violations of human rights and acts of violence by other individuals, groups and nation-states. Activists and advocates must not muddy the waters between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.

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