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Criticism of Israel's human rights record branded "anti-Semitism"

January 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

For two days at the end of May, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the “Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism” to discuss the “global challenge” of such racism. In his opening speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed “vilifications” against the state of Israel, essentially branding as an “anti-Semite” anyone who voices opposition to Israel’s flagrant and frequent violation of human rights.

“These vilifications – that Israel is guilty of war crimes, that it doesn’t want peace, that it wants to continue its expansionist policies, and that we are guilty of violating human rights – are part and parcel of the anti-Semitic campaign that is levelled against the Jewish people and their state,” claimed Netanyahu. “I encourage you to fight and win the battle of truth.”

Always under the banner of anti-Semitism, Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin spoke of “a growing sophistication” with referral to activists’ progress in legitimising the popular struggle against Israeli oppression. He said that “criticism is only legitimate as long as it does not single out Israel for different treatment and does not delegitimise our existence and right to exist.”

Criticism of Israel has gained momentum worldwide, prompting the occupying power to seek ways through which it can reinvent itself according to a narrow framework which is not even applicable. In an exercise of language manipulation, Israel is attempting to depict itself as the perpetual victim of anti-Semites.

According to Shir Hever, a research economist at the Alternative Information Centre, the conference was “a very interesting development”, noting that anti-Semitism was simply a guise under which Israel and its allies could demonise activist campaigns. At the same time, he said, they are committing a serious error by not differentiating between those campaigning for Palestinian rights and others who actually harbour anti-Semitic traits.

Hever claims that Israel has devised a threefold strategy to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement: the funding of organisations in order to provide Zionist content online; attempting to discredit the boycott campaign by lauding Israel’s scientific and technological advances; and military intimidation of activists.

Within this cacophony of state intimidation, Israel still expects its rhetoric to remain unquestioned and praised. Superficially describing itself as “the only democracy” within a region wrought with turmoil, Israeli propaganda is void of the ramifications of history and imperialism in the region. What Israel and its citizens do not experience, however, is the expense at which their protection is ensured. Despite an onslaught of violations, settlement expansion and alleged “moral authority” to infringe international law, the dynamics of power have ensured Israel’s security and continuous distortion of the facts of occupation, although the latter is strongly disputed owing to international support for Palestinian resistance.

While the conference may have wished to achieve a level of intimidation or implement a new trend as to how the anti-Semitism label should be applied, it seems unlikely that any tarnishing of the BDS movement will be accomplished. Rather, Israel has managed to embroil itself within another rigmarole in which the basic definition of rights and duties are mangled beyond recognition. Expecting activism to bow to unfounded superiority and misleading claims will only serve to strengthen the case against Israel’s lengthening track record of international law violations.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.