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Anti-Semitism Charge Is Increasingly Being Leveled Against Israel's Mainstream Critics

Naftali Bennett at an Israel Project event in Jerusalem. (The Israel Project/Flickr)
Naftali Bennett at an Israel Project event in Jerusalem. (The Israel Project/Flickr)

By Philip Weiss
Maybe you saw that a top minister in Israel's government accused John Kerry, the US secretary of state, of anti-Semitism?‘ John Kerry made the mistake of saying that if only Israel made peace with the Palestinians, that would out down on extremism in the region. From Haaretz:

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett attacked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over his comments Friday connecting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and extremism in the Middle East.

“It turns out that even when a British Muslim decapitates a British Christian, there will always be someone to blame the Jew," he said.

Here are Kerry's original remarks, on Thursday:

As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL coalition, the truth is we — there wasn't a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt — and I see a lot of heads nodding — they had to respond to. And people need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity

Bennett's accusation is not singular. As Israel grows more isolated in world opinion in the Wake of the Gaza slaughter, the anti-Semitism charge is being thrown around in a new way, at a new crowd. It’s now slung whenever westerners are too critical of Israel.

Ari Shavit, the writer who's a darling of liberal Zionists, accused westerners of anti-Semitism at the end of the Gaza onslaught:

“In the final week of the war in Gaza this summer that took the lives of 72 Israelis and more than 2100 Palestinians, Shavit wrote that strong objection to Israeli conduct was illegitimate and amounted to anti-Semitic bigotry: ‘We're a tiny minority nation under attack, and sweeping criticism of this nation is like sweeping criticism of the black, gay or Yazidi minority.”Nathan Thrall in the London Review of Books.

A very similar charge was made by Matti Friedman, a former AP reporter in Jerusalem,
who accused international media, including American outlets, of anti-Semitism for the way they told the story of the Gaza onslaught, as being Israel’s fault, when the real story was that Israel was taking on Hamas just as the US is taking on ISIS. At On the Media [minute 5):

What were seeing is extremely critical coverage of the actions of the Israeli government, and I would argue that this [alleged media] interest in the holy land — I think that there’s a very thin line between that and development of a hostile obsession with the moral failings off Jews, which as we know is a very deep thought pattern in the west.

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Israel Weighs New Measures to Quell Arab Unrest in Jerusalem: One New Measure Not Under Consideration — Not Stealing Land and Killing Palestinians

By Calev Ben-David
Israel’s prime minister ordered officials to speed up legislation designed to quash months of violence in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, including punishing the parents of minors who take part in disturbances.

Jerusalem has become a flashpoint for tensions between Israelis and Palestinians since the collapse of U.S.-backed peace talks in April, and the conflict in July and August between Israel and militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The city lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Palestinians claiming its eastern sector, captured by Israel in 1967, as capital of a future state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened top security and justice officials today to discuss how to quell the unrest, according to a text message from his office. Possible steps include tougher penalties for stone-throwing and financial penalties for the parents of minors involved, it said.

Arab residents have clashed with police on a near-daily basis in recent months, and have hurled stones and firebombs at vehicles driven by Jewish residents. They’ve also vandalized the city’s light-rail system repeatedly, causing passenger numbers to plummet. Additional security forces have been deployed to quell the unrest, which Netanyahu blames on Islamic extremists.


About 300,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordan along with the West Bank in 1967. Netanyahu has said that Israel, which annexed east Jerusalem in a move that isn’t internationally recognized, won’t share sovereignty over the city with the Palestinians.

Israel’s construction of housing for Jews in those areas is a major source of friction between the sides. An Israeli official said today the government has decided to advance plans to build about 1,000 new homes in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem.

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