Anti-Semitism and the left, Jews and the right

Readers respond to Dennis Fox and Michelle Goldberg.

By Salon Staff
May 16, 2002 1:52AM (UTC)
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Read "The Shame of the Pro-Palestinian Left."

I was upset by the article "The Shame of the Pro-Palestinian Left." Once again, those people who are protesting the deplorable acts of the Israeli government are coined as anti-Semitic and oooh, a term we hadn't heard since the Cold War: "leftist." I am neither anti-Semitic nor a leftist, but I am seriously concerned by the brutality the Israeli government is using to "bring down" or "nest out" the "terrorists." Why were bulldozers rolled into Jenin while no one could enter the camp to see what was going on? Why were ambulances kept from entering the war zones to help the wounded and the dying? Why were Palestinians used as human shields by the Israeli army?


I do not believe that Hamas, and to that extent perhaps Arafat, is justified in its bombing of innocent people, and yet, I constantly ask myself, "What pushes a 14-year-old to blow up himself or herself other than desperation that has been translated by fanatic and despicable Hamas leaders into fanaticism?" It is disgusting to hear Hamas use political rhetoric when describing their actions, "anti-Sharon this, "anti-settlement that," and to listen to these kids ready to blow themselves up talking about Allah and the intifada, somehow trying to convince themselves that blowing themselves up in the middle of a crowd will bring them to paradise -- the two speeches by Hamas and these kids are quite different, and the outcome for each quite distinct.

Peace will never be achieved if the press continues to embellish the truth with rhetoric and carefully chosen words shielding us from what is really happening there. It is impossible to point fingers as both parties are conducting horrific acts against each other, one using the latest weaponry, the other having only themselves to blow up and using Israeli guns bought on the black market.

Finally, I want to remind Mr. Fox that the fact that I have critiqued the Israeli government (as well as Arafat's Hamas) does not make me anti-Semitic nor a leftist. As a human being, you have to question what your government as well as governments and leaders abroad are doing, especially when it involves the killing of innocent people regardless of religion, nationality, age or sex. Perhaps there is something to learn from those who protest a leader's or a government's actions, even though they may irk you or you may not necessarily agree with everything that they say. That is what our country was founded upon, and if you choose to see no evil, hear no evil, then you choose to live uninformed and biased yourself.


-- Laurence Guettier

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing such a balanced and thoughtful article on this subject. I am so glad to finally see this disconnect addressed. I, too, felt the same frustration that the author felt at the recent marches in Washington, D.C. While I am opposed to the Israeli occupation, I still deplore the Palestinian suicide bombings. Seeing signs like the ones described made me leave the march. I fail to understand (or perhaps I do, but find it so disheartening) why the American left must take the opposite side in this conflict, and become anti-Israeli. But just as disheartening is the fact that someone who does not support Israel can be labeled an anti-Semite. I love the Jewish faith, and its people. Israel is not all that the Jewish faith is. This is about condemning the violence on both sides, and searching for a lasting peace.

-- Rebecca Henry


Dennis Fox writes: "Israel has massacred civilians in the past."

This is an outrageous statement, made with no factual backing whatsoever. Yes, civilians have died in Israeli military operations, but they have never been the intended targets.

Maybe Mr. Fox should take his own advice: "First, we need to know what we're talking about" and "We also need to rein in our rhetoric."


And maybe Salon should assign some fact-checkers to their stories.

Shame on you, Dennis Fox. And shame on you, Salon.

-- Stephen Stein

Two comments concerning Dennis Fox's article.

First of all, all Jews are responsible for the actions of Israel just as all Americans are responsible for the actions of our government. I didn't vote for President select Bush, nor have I partaken in the immoral activities that this country has committed and continues to commit worldwide. But as an American I am responsible for my government and what it does in my name. I can sit back and do nothing or I can become active and make every effort to change my government's immoral and hypocritical nature. The same applies to all Jews because Israel was created by Jews, for Jews, and it represents them and acts in their name. Simply because we do not condone some of our government's actions does not mean that we are, therefore, absolved of responsibility. Like it or not, responsibility goes with the territory.


Second, the use of the term "anti-Semitic" to mean "anti-Jewish" is the ultimate in anti-Semitism. Why? Because not all Jews are Semites and not all Semites are Jews. Only the Jews with Hebrew or other Semitic ancestry are Semites whereas the Palestinians are Semites, as are all Arab peoples, along with the descendents of the Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, many Ethiopians and Phoenicians to name a few. How did this term get corrupted to where its usage is now an affront to the majority of the world's Semites and discounts their heritage? I would like to know. I would urge you to instruct your authors to use the term "anti-Jewish" instead of "anti-Semitic" when that is what they really mean.

-- Gene Dunn

Dennis Fox's humanistic sentiments are admirable, and reflective of the views that long animated the Israeli left and its Jewish-American supporters (of whom I was formerly one). But notwithstanding the existence of a handful of voices in the wilderness like that of Jonathan Kuttab, the fact remains that there has never, over the course of a 100-year conflict, been any meaningful response from the other side. Mr. Fox should face the fact that the anti-Semitism and murderous terrorism that he deplores are in fact pervasively characteristic of the Palestinian national movement, and today inseparable from it.


One need not believe that Israel, unlike any nation in the history of the world, is innocent of all wrongdoing to recognize that today the choice is between murderous religious hatred and those who would defend themselves from it. Mr. Fox's wistful hopes for the emergence of a Palestinian Mahatma Gandhi do not relieve him of the responsibility of having chosen, objectively speaking, to stand with supporters of the former.

-- Howard Jaeckel

I'd like to thank Mr. Fox very much for his article. He managed to remain partisan but also to be fair and even-handed in his treatment of the issues, and to level some well-deserved criticism at members of his own generally well-intentioned faction. Reporting of this kind is what attracted me to Salon and what keeps me reading. Thanks very much, Mr. Fox, for demonstrating that strong commitment to a position does not equate with irrational zeal.

-- Justin Davis


Read "Jews and the GOP."

I always find it fascinating that criticism of Israel's oppressive policies in Palestine under conservative leaders like Sharon automatically means a rebuke of the very tenets of Judaism. It's as preposterous as the idea that criticism of George W. Bush is equal to spitting on the Constitution (even if John Ashcroft and Ari Fleischer think that might be so).

I also want to take umbrage at the tendency to lump the American left with liberals throughout the rest of the world ("the global justice movement"). If transnational political affiliation is some kind of new standard of responsibility, I could write for hours on the horrors that Trent Lott and Tom DeLay are ideologically affiliated with, from environmental ruin in Latin America to the repressive policies against women in Saudi Arabia. The point is, Americans are more centrist than many of their Western counterparts on the political spectrum, which makes any offhand remark about America's affiliation with other countries' degrees of radicalism (and, unfortunately, awareness) quite suspect.

Finally, if American Jews decide to embrace the far right simply because it has recently made proclamations in support of Israel's existence, while forgetting that most Democrats want the same thing and peace, then American Jews need to crack their American history books.


-- Oliver Griswold

American Jews and those excitable religious conservatives could really show their loyalty and convictions by joining the armed services. All the hand-wringing and pondering what political party can do more is a hollow exercise. Defending one's beliefs, however, leaves no room for partisan lap dancing. Frankly I'm tired of all the kowtowing to religious groups. We wind up sending young soldiers, who may have no stake in the outcome, into harm's way from conflicts generated from cultural and religious narcissism. Put up or shut up. This goes for all religions.

-- Ron Anguiano

Salon Staff

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