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The Audacity of Protesting Anti-Semitism

Strange that a recent article about anti-Semitism that appeared in the Guardian should have been accompanied by a picture not of Jews, but rather of Palestinian children. Beneath it reads the caption “Palestinian children are denied some fairly basic human rights.” Which human rights? We’re not told. And “fairly basic,” is that a legal term? Well never mind.

The article in question is an attack on the Anti-Defamation League’s recent survey of global anti-Semitism. It at once accuses the ADL of having essentially fabricated its findings through the use of “leading questions” and of having then used these findings for political ends by defending Israel, implicating Muslims and specifically framing Palestinians. This despite the fact that all nationalities surveyed were asked the same set of questions. Naturally, the Guardian was able to find two Jews to write such a piece. Donna Nevel is described as “a long time organizer against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism” and serves on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace and the coordinating committee of something called the Nakba Education Project. Her co-author Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark similarly sits on the committee of the Nakba Education Project and is a co-founder of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. 

Nevel and Neimark’s article could be read in two ways. At face value it appears to simply be an attack on a survey about anti-Semitism–a fairly baffling undertaking as it is. Yet, to achieve this attack, the authors have to first undertake a rather unconvincing exercise in apologetics on behalf of anti-Semitism itself. Working their way through these allegedly “leading questions” the writers in each case try to convince the reader that what is being asked about here is either not really anti-Semitism, or otherwise that it’s not at all unreasonable that Palestinians and others should hold such views. So for instance, when the survey asks “Do Jews have too much power in the business world?” the authors claim in the Palestinian respondents’ defense, “Were they really to be expected to answer anything but ‘yes’?” Similarly, when the survey asked if Jews talk too much about the Holocaust, Nevel and Neimark argue that for Palestinians—who the survey found to be the most anti-Semitic population in the world—it is only fair that they should answer in the affirmative. After all, allege the authors, the Holocaust is exploited to justify denying Palestinians their human rights. 

One paragraph was so outrageous that even the Guardian lost heart and had it removed. A note at the bottom of the piece now states that a paragraph was removed “that made a reference to ‘loyalty to Israel’ that was inconsistent with Guardian editorial guidelines.” It might be instructive to quote the offending “dual loyalties” paragraph in full:

In its press release, the ADL states that “The most widely accepted anti-Semitic stereotype worldwide is: Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in.” It’s an odd indicator of anti-Semitism given that Israeli leaders consistently claim to speak for the global Jewish community and consider loyalty to Israel a precondition for being a good Jew. So it’s actually not surprising that this constant assertion has penetrated the consciousness of the rest of the world.

In their efforts to vindicate the Palestinians and other Muslim nations, Nevel and Neimark are forced to set the bar for anti-Semitism so high as to rid the term of all meaning. Indeed, in their article the authors complain of the ADL survey, “many of its questions are pointedly designed to skew the results because they have little to do with revealing actual anti-Semitism.” But overall the writers hardly give the sense of being genuinely concerned by whatever they consider “actual anti-Semitism” to be. In the wake of the precedent set by the Nazis, it seems that many are under the impression that if it doesn’t involve the mass extermination of the Jews, then it doesn’t really pass for serious anti-Semitism. In viewing the matter this way they risk legitimating the very demonization that makes such extermination possible.  

Yet, demonizing Jews via the ADL is precisely what Nevel and Neimark are apparently prepared to do. Dismissing the severity of rising global anti-Semitism, and accusing the ADL of instigating paranoia, the authors reference a survey showing that there is more bias against Muslims and Roma in Europe than Jews, although it seems the authors were too pleased with the results of that survey to raise the formerly worrisome matter of leading questions. They then go on to level their final allegation: that the ADL shouldn’t simply concern itself with anti-Semitism, but rather all prejudices.

By making this last attack, Nevel and Neimark appear to accuse Jews of the terrible crime of caring more about Jew-hatred than hatred of other peoples. One wonders if in the course of their work against “Islamophobia” and on behalf of Palestinians, the authors ever castigate these groups on the same charge. For these writers, the real crime is not the hatred of Jews–which they apparently think exaggerated–but the fact that the Jews have the self-interested audacity to protest their own persecution more than they protest the persecution of others. 


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