Pictured: Alan Dershowitz speaks in the United States Senate on January 27, 2020. (Photo by Senate Television via Getty Images)
Let there be no doubt that the recent spate of one-sided petitions singling out Israel for condemnation are motivated by hatred of Israel, precisely because it is the nation state of the Jewish people.
The bigots who promote these petitions, and the useful idiots who sign them, cannot possibly be motivated by a concern for universal human rights. If they were, they would focus on nations with really horrendous human rights records, such as Iran, which hangs gays, China, which imprisons Muslim dissidents, Russia, which murders dissenters, Saudi Arabia, which oppresses women, Syria, which gases its own people, as well as Palestinians, and many other nations that face no external threats. Israel, on the other hand, faces existential threats, and acts in self-defense. It does more to protect innocent civilians than any country faced with comparable threats. Yet it is the only country that is subject to petitions by teachers unions, faculty senates, student bodies, and other groups that seem to focus more on Israel than on their own mission to improve the lives of their members.
I am not talking here about criticism of Israeli policies, I support such criticism, as I do criticism of American policies, but there is a vast difference -- in tone, in content, nastiness and yes, in bigotry -- between legitimate criticism and the demonization that these petitions direct against the nation state of the Jewish people.
As Thomas L. Friedman, a frequent critic of Israel policies wrote:
"Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest."
So let's call a bigot a bigot and anti-Semite an anti-Semite. Let's not mince our words. I challenge any of those who have organized these one-sided petitions to justify "Why Israel?" There is an old joke about a Hitler rally in which the Fuhrer shouts out a rhetorical question: "Who is to blame for all of Germany's evils?" And before the crowd can shout "the Jews," a man in the front row screams out: "The bicycle riders." Hitler stops and turns to the man and asks him, "Why the bicycle riders?" To which the man responds, "Why the Jews?" I am now shouting that question to the bigots who promote these hateful petitions: "Why the nation state of the Jewish People?" There is no good response.
The fact that the United States provides funding to Israel does not explain the hatred. The United States provides considerable funding to Jordan, Egypt, and now the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, Israel gives back as much as it gets to American national security. If the United States were to suddenly to cut off all aid to Israel, the petitions would not stop, the hatred would not abate and the bigotry would not end. Surely the justification has nothing to do with the comparative records of various countries, or with the manner by which the United Nations divided the British mandate into to potential states: one for the Jewish residents of the area; and one for the Arab residents— which the Jews accepted and the Arabs waged war.
Nor is it based on support for the Palestinians, as a people. These same petition writers and signers have been notably silent about the 4,000 Palestinians who were recently killed by Syria. Nor were they heard from when Jordan killed thousands of Palestinians or when Hamas murdered members of the Palestinian Authority during its coup in the Gaza Strip. This is not about the Palestinians; it is about the Jews. And it is about hatred toward the Jews and their state.
Some of the writers and signers are themselves Jews, but that does not excuse their self-hating bigotry. Even if one could argue that Jews have a special obligation to be critical of their own state, that would not justify the bigotry shown by so many non-Jews, both in the United States and in Europe.
If you do not believe me, read what a Palestinian human rights activist, Bassem Eid, says about "the squad" and other bigoted demonizers of Israel:
"I'm a Palestinian who grew up in a UNWRA refugee camp outside of Jerusalem.... Let me say this as directly as I can: Rep. Omar does not know what she is talking about. Worse, for years, Rep. Omar has been engaged in not arguing any facts, but simply throwing out dirty anti-Semitic epithets, a mirror image of the anti-Semitism by "white supremacists" she claims to decry.
"Politicians like Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spend a considerable amount of time attacking Israel for the supposed harm it inflicts on Palestinians. If they truly care about the wellbeing of Palestinians, they ought to focus their attention elsewhere. These days, the vast majority of suffering Palestinians experience is the direct result of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and the influence of the terrorist group Hamas....."
Therefore, let us stop pretending that these hateful, one sided and mendacious petitions are anything but what they are: anti-Semitic bigotry, pure and simple. History will judge the bigots behind them harshly. So should all decent people today.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of the book, The Case Against the New Censorship: Protecting Free Speech from Big Tech, Progressives and Universities, Hot Books, April 20, 2021. His podcast, "The Dershow," can be seen on Spotify, Apple, iTunes and YouTube. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute.