Monday, June 8, 2015

Does Kathleen Kennedy fail the anti-Semitism test?

Israel’s Natan Sharansky has written a particularly interesting essay about anti-Semitism (“3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization”, Jewish Political Studies Review, 16:3-4 (Fall 2004), The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs). It’s not a new essay. But it’s worth our time because of a speech just made in Israel.

He begins this essay by reminding us that there’s two kinds of anti-Semitism these days—the ‘old’ and the ‘new’. The ‘old’ anti-Semitism is aimed at the Jewish people or the Jewish religion. The ‘new’ anti-Semitism takes aim at Israel.

Now, Mr Sharansky understands that criticism of Israel isn’t automatically ‘anti-Semitism’. Criticism can be legitimate. It can be appropriate. But it can also be anti-Semitic.

Is it possible to tell the difference between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitism? Mr Sharansky believes it is possible. He even offers a test.

His test, he suggests, helps one distinguish between appropriate criticism and anti-Semitism. He calls the test his ‘3D test’, after the three ‘D’s’ of the essay title (above).

Although there are 3 of these ‘D’s’, I’m only going to speak of one--the second ‘D’, ‘Double Standard.  I do that because of a speech given in Israel Sunday, June 7, 2015 by the daughter of the American Robert Kennedy, who had been assassinated (by an Arab) during the 1968 US Presidential campaign. Mr Kennedy, brother of the assassinated President John Kennedy, had been seeking to become President of the United States. Ms Kennedy, a former Lt Governor of the state of Maryland, is a lawyer who serves on a number of important Boards and Committees in the US.

We’ll come back to her speech in a moment.

For Mr Sharansky, a Double Standard-as-anti-Semitism occurs when criticism is applied selectively to Israel only. For example, when Israel is singled out by the United Nations for human rights abuses while the behaviour of known and major abusers, such as China, Iran, Cuba, and Syria, is ignored, that’s a double standard. That’s anti-Semitism (ibid).

When Israel's Magen David Adom, alone among the world's ambulance services, is denied admission to the International Red Cross (ibid), that’s a double standard. That’s anti-Semitism (ibid).

A ‘double standard’ suggests unfairness. It suggests that a set of principles or requirements is applied to one group but not another. That’s unfair. Unfair leads to ‘unjust’. ‘Unjust’ leads to ‘discrimination’. ‘Discrimination’ leads to prejudice. That prejudice is where you’ll find the anti-Semitism.

We may have seen an example of this behaviour in Ms Kennedy Townsend’s speech in Israel  on Sunday, June 7, 2015. In that speech, she’s reported to have called upon Israel to make concessions for a two state solution (Yoni Kempinski, “Two-State Solution 'Necessary' For Peace?”, Arutz Sheva, June 8, 2015). She is reported to have added, concessions on Israel’s part (to end ‘settlement’ building) would show ‘moral courage’ (ibid).

She wasn’t reported to have asked for concessions from the ‘Palestinians’. She didn’t ask for ‘Palestinians’ to have the moral courage to stop incitement against Israel, to stop dehumanizing Jews (as apes and pigs), to stop teaching hate to their children. Instead, she produced the phrase, ‘moral courage’ and applied it only to Jews.

In other words, she applied it selectively only to Israel. She didn’t apply it to the Arabs.

Perhaps her defense is, she was speaking only to Israelis. Why mention Arab responsibility to a Jewish audience?

Sorry, but that doesn’t wash. Whenever gentiles speak of ‘responsibility for peace’ to gentile audiences, they pay lip service to Arab responsibility and then place the main responsibility, selectively, on Israel. Whenever speakers come to Israel to discuss peace, the message is almost always the same: principles of and responsibilities for peace apply almost exclusively to Jews, hardly ever to Arabs—just as we saw with Ms Kennedy.

I think Mr Sharansky is correct. The test for anti-Semitism is a simple one. It’s a 3-D test. The middle test is Double Standard.

Has Ms Kennedy failed that test?

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