When civil rights attorney Gil McGuire took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times to respond to actor Michael Douglas’ widely distributed article about his son’s own vile encounter with anti-Semitism, McGuire disparaged Douglas for conflating anti-Israel criticism with anti-Semitism. In so doing, McGuire inadvertently betrayed the myopia of the progressive view of both anti-Semitism and anti-Israel criticism. This limited vision comes from focusing on the Israeli occupation devoid of any historical context.
Israel is not above criticism, and as McGuire and most progressives undoubtedly know, Israelis themselves roundly and freely criticize their government. Arab members of the Knesset stand in the legislative body to launch vitriolic attacks that would be found abhorrent in most Western democracies. In Middle East tyrannies, any legislator who engaged in such attacks would find himself facing a quick appointment with the executioner.
So, at the risk of stating both the obvious and the unnecessary, criticism of Israel’s policies is not anti-Semitism. Certain types of criticism are, as both the Department of State and the European Union have stated. Among these are references to Israelis as Nazis, talk of a Palestinian Holocaust, denying the right of Israel to defend itself in the face of aggression, actively discussing whether Israel has a right to exist, or holding Israel to a standard to which no other nation is held.