[The following article is extracted from the AprilˆMay 2004 issue of The
Sharansky and 'the New Antisemitism'
by Adam Keller
Nathan Sharansky ˜ former Soviet dissident and "Minister for The Jewish
Diaspora" in the Sharon cabinet, has been touring U.S. campuses and European
capitals, busily waging the "Campaign Against The New Antisemitism."
One of his arguments deserves special attention. Sharansky claims that even
when criticism of Israel's policies is shown to be factually correct,
voicing it may still be branded as antisemitic unless the critics can show
that they devote an equal amount of time and energy to criticizing and
condemning each and everyone else in the world who also deserves to be
criticized. In short, "singling Israel out is antisemitism."
Neat and simple. But is it so?
It is unquestionably true that Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians
and the Arab World are getting a disproportionate global attention. In fact,
it quite often works in Israel's favor: the killing of twenty Israelis would
definitely get far more international attention, a far bigger volume of
worldwide sympathy for the victims and condemnation of the perpetrators,
than the killing of twenty Africans ˜ often, far more than the killing of
200 or 2000 or even 20,000 Africans. A positive move on the side of Israel
would get far more international attention than a similar move by another
country, an Israeli leader signing a peace agreement would be more likely to
get the Nobel Peace Prize than a leader from a less well-known war-torn
country, and so on.
Still, in times like the present, the dominant fact is that official Israeli
policies do come under intensive fire in many countries around the world,
and that many critics do indeed devote far more attention to Israeli acts of
oppression and violations of human rights than to similar acts by other
regimes around the globe. Are they all antisemites?
Not necessarily. Several other, plausible explanations could be found to fit
? Not every state that resorts to oppression claims to be a Western
democracy, indeed "the only democracy" in its region, and asks for
international support on that basis. Isn't it natural for citizens of other
Western democracies to look more closely at the behavior of a family member?
? Not every state that resorts to oppression has been founded by
people who were themselves the victims of very cruel oppression, who asked
the world for its sympathy and support on that basis, and who often declared
that the state they would found would be no ordinary state but "a light unto
the nations". Isn't it natural for outsiders to judge the actual Israel by
the criteria set by Israel's own Founding Fathers?
? Not every state that resorts to oppression has been founded by an
ethnic group which claimed the unique privilege of taking back a land where
its ancestors lived 2000 years before and got this enterprise recognized and
approved by the League of Nations and later by the United Nations ˜ but with
the specific reservation that this enterprise not be at the expense of the
people then living in the land. Isn't it natural for outsiders to scrutinize
closely whether this stipulation had been adhered to?
? Not every state that resorts to oppression had been founded by
people who came from Europe and settled in an already inhabited land. Isn't
it natural for people in countries that put such behavior behind them to
inquire into the behavior of those who still act in such a manner?
? Not every state that resorts to oppression is the recipient of three
billion dollar a year in US aid, or the beneficiary of an almost automatic
US veto in the Un Security Council. Nor do other states resorting to
oppression enjoy the kind of influence in internal US politics that Israel
has. Isn't it natural for US citizens to inquire more closely into the
affairs of such a state ˜ and for that matter, the citizens of other
countries in a world so dominated by the US?
? Not every state that resorts to oppression is the possessor of a
considerable arsenal of nuclear warheads and missiles, which it refuses to
submit to any international inspection. Isn't it natural for outsiders to
look more closely into the doings of such a country?
Still, given all these legitimate reasons, there might well be people and
groups who are not motivated by any of them in singling out Israel and its
policies, people whose main or only motive is that Israel is a Jewish state,
and who would care nothing about its doings were most of its citizens other
than Jews. Such people and groups are indeed Antisemites and deserve to be
castigated as such. But you need to work at providing a clear proof, Mr.
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