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Norman G. FinkelsteinBrooklyn, NY
Although it’s often alleged that anti-Semitism lurks behind criticism of Israel, the evidence adduced to support this claim is unpersuasive.

The main act of the New Anti-Semitism roadshow homes in on Israel’s critics. It is alleged that Jew-hatred lurks behind much of the denunciation. One influential definition[1] points up these examples of anti-Semitism masquerading as legitimate criticism:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” But, according to Israel’s leading historian, Benny Morris, “transfer [i.e., expulsion] was inevitable and inbuilt into Zionism,” while according to Ari Shavit, in his widely acclaimed bestseller, My Promised Land, “If Zionism was to be, Lydda could not be.”[2] The upshot is, realization of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination by Israel’s founding did inherently entail ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population. 

“Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” But, far from holding Israel to a more stringent standard, overwhelmingly its critics have targeted Israel’s immunity to any standard. For example, since 1979 the UN Security Council has repeatedly condemned Israel’s policy of building settlements in occupied Palestinian territory as a “flagrant violation” of international law, while in 2004 the International Court of Justice unanimously declared Israeli settlements “in breach of international law.” Yet, Israel persists in its settlement policy, while the UN, although repeatedly imposing sanctions on other member States, has not imposed any on Israel, even as its settlement policy constitutes a war crime and crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

“Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.” But Israel’s PR machine itself invokes the charge of “blood libel” (i.e., that Jews murdered Christian children for ritual purposes) in order to silence critics by reversing its sting. Thus, mere mention of Palestinian children killed by Israel typically prompts accusations of a “Global Blood Libel against Israel.”[3]

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” But, on the one hand, Israelis across the political spectrum have not been averse to making such bone-chilling analogies [4] while, on the other hand, Israel itself routinely depicts its antagonists—including Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas—as reincarnations of Hitler and Nazi-like.[5] Indeed, a Google search of the key words Netanyahu Iran Nazis brings up more than 800,000 results.

“Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” But, by representing itself as the state of the Jewish people, Israel itself collectively implicates Jews in its actions, just as Netanyahu collectively implicates Jews when he touts himself as the “representative of the entire Jewish people.”

In sum, these examples of anti-Semitism allegedly hiding behind criticism of Israel comprise factually accurate depictions by Israel’s critics (first bulleted example), factually inaccurate depictions of Israel’s critics by its watchdogs (second bulleted example), and questionable practices of which Israel is as, if not more, culpable than its critics (third, fourth and fifth bulleted examples).


[1]“Working Definition of Antisemitism,” European Forum on Antisemitism (

[2] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: 2004), p. 60; Ari Shavit, My Promised Land: The triumph and tragedy of Israel (New York: 2013), p. 108. For critical analysis of Morris’s work, see Norman G. Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish romance with Israel is coming to an end (New York: 2012), chapter 10; for a dissection of Shavit’s bestseller, see Norman G. Finkelstein, Old Wine, Broken Bottle: Ari Shavit’s Promised Land (New York: 2014).

[3]“The Global Blood Libel against Israel,” Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) (23 March 2012).

[4] Norman G. Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (New York: 1995; expanded second paperback edition, 2003), p. xxiii; Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much, pp. 104-5, 270.

[5] Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti-Semitism and the abuse of history (Berkeley: 2008), pp. 56-58.  

#Norman Finkelstein, #Israel, #Palestine, #Anti-Semitism