Now, let me start by being absolutely clear what I mean by Israeli propaganda. By this I mean exclusively efforts by the Israeli government, and the NGO’s and nonprofits which are supported by it to reduce the spectrum of debate, silence criticism of policies and practices, obfuscate or ommit facts, and distort evidence in service of those interests. So the anti-Semites and conspiratorially minded folks who got all excited by the title, sorry but this article won’t be what you were hoping it would be. As such, I will be giving a short commentary and criticism of the practice of falsely claiming someone is anti-Semitic for criticizing Israel as a country, its practices, policies, and actions.
The first thing that bothers me the most about it is the fact is that that is not what anti-semetism is, or what the word even means. I know that I should be more bothered by my second point, but honestly the second point only came about after a first level of analysis, which came about by being bothered by the incorrect usage. It is about equivalent to calling your friend ‘lazy’ because they don’t want to go on a roller coaster because they don’t like roller coasters. It simply isn’t what the word means and is not supported even by common or slang usage. Unless you are making a really obscure joke, it just doesn’t make any sense at even the most basic level of what the word means in denotation or connotation.
The second issue I take, is that it is a transparent effort to silence criticisms of the practices or policies of a country, specifically Israel. Using the term ‘anti-semite’ as an ad hominem attack to shout down and shame criticism of a government is offensive to anyone who cares that words have meanings; or that twisting the meaning of a word to support an ulterior motive is patently unacceptable. This is most true when considering the spectrum of public debate and the already dangerous level of censorship, silencing of dissenting voices, and the large scale of world-wide surveillance further contributing to self-censorship. The rammifications are innumerable, and the eventual outcome is so terrifying that I cannot bare even a thought experiment of where it will lead. It is a chillingly Orwellian development in public discourse, the twisting of words and their meanings, the increasing use of doublethink, and the unabashed use of fallacies to attack critics and suppress thought or debate. Who would have known, 1984 was right, but it should have been written for the 2000’s.
The third problem is that it muddys the water surrounding the meaning of the word itself. It seems counter-productive to claim anyone who criticizes Israel is anti-semetic, because it waters down the word and the historical examples of anti-semetism. Take a moment to think on what you can recall from WWII-style anti-semetism. Do you remember what the posters looked like, the phrases used in speeches, the words of defendants at the Nuremburg and other trials? I do, because I spent two years working with Dr. David Wingeate Pike on his 2014-2015 Spanish edition of “Españoles en el Holocausto.” I am an American, and as such I got a basic, but relatively satisfactory education on World War II and the Nazi concentration and work camps, and the campaign of anti-semetism. However, after spending two years learning who worked where, their family life, their religion, their actions and words at Mauthausen, never could I have imagined how ingrained, dangerous, and hateful anti-semetism had been. It demonstrated just how lacking my American education had been on what anti-semetism was or what it looked like. I knew everything that exists in the public domain about each guard, each kapo, each prisoner mentioned (note I do not claim all prisoners at Mauthausen, only the ones mentioned in the records by name, or whose stories were told later). None of this however, can be used as an excuse for doing the same thing to another people.
The Holocaust was absolutely horrible, it was a crime against humanity without a doubt. That does not however mean that it excuses the treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government, its soldiers, or the pre-government fighters who ethnically cleansed the land known as the Palestine Mandate which was later broken up, some of which is now the country of Israel, which contains the world’s largest concentration camp… the Gaza Strip.
Misusing ‘anti-semite’ promotes using fallacious attacks against critics, rather than discussion and debate. Additionally it reduces the power, meaning, and painful history of real anti-semetism, which in turn means it will begin to be taken less seriously. This is a major problem, because there is real and violent anti-semetism in the world today. By using it to falsely claim a critic of a policy or action are anti-semetic it means that when someone reads an article that reads “anti-semitite attacks synagogue,” this new watered down usage makes “a guy criticized a synagogue” an equally likely reality. Which, one would think that Israel and the interest groups, NGO’s, and nonprofits it supports, is creating a situation they would want to avoid. Apparently shutting down criticism matters more than any of that though.
The whole thing is very familiar to me, because I am American, and it has been the American government’s modus operandi for well over 100 years. Look at the treatment that anarchists, socialists, communists, marxists, unions, political opponents, POC, Native Americans, anti-war activists, environmental activists, and that many others have received in the land of “free speech.” As such the next article in this series will cover some of America’s propaganda, mostly modern with some historical examples and context added.