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Criticism of the Israeli government

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Title: Criticism of the Israeli government  
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Subject: Human rights in Israel, Anti-Zionism, Arab–Israeli conflict, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Science and technology in Israel
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Criticism of the Israeli government

Criticism of the Israeli government, often referred to simply as criticism of Israel[1][2][3] is an ongoing subject of journalistic and scholarly commentary and research within the scope of International relations theory, expressed in terms of political science. Within the scope of global aspirations for a community of nations, Israel has faced international criticism since its declaration of independence in 1948 relating to a variety of topics,[4][5][6][6][7] both historical and contemporary.

International criticism of Israeli government policies is usually expressed within the discipline of Palestinian territories such as Israeli settlements, human rights of Palestinian Arabs, the conduct of Israeli Defense Forces during conflicts and accusations of economic strangulation[8][9] of Palestinian territories. Criticism of historical Israeli government policies relate to issues with ongoing consequences such as the refusal to allow post-war Palestinian refugees and their descendents to return to their homes, and the prolonged occupation of territories gained in war and the construction of settlements therein. Israel's status as a representative democracy has been questioned as Israeli residents of the occupied territories are allowed to vote in Israel’s elections while Palestinian residents are not.[10][11][12][13] Another source of criticism is the friction generated by the conversion issue between Israel's orthodox rabbinate and non-orthodox segments of the Jewish diaspora. At one end of the spectrum, these criticisms support attempts to delegitimize[14][15][16] Israel's right to exist. This has led to an ongoing debate regarding at what point criticism of Israel crosses the line to antisemitism.

One of the effects of international criticism has been the impact on social psychology of the Israeli Jewish public - according to a survey more than half of Israelis believe "the whole world is against us", and three quarters of Israelis believe "that no matter what Israel does or how far it goes towards resolving the conflict with the Palestinians, the world will continue to criticize Israel".[17]

Criticisms of Israeli policies come from several groups: Jewish and Arab Media bias is often claimed by both sides of the debate. Since 2003, the UN has issued 232 resolutions with respect to Israel, 40% of all resolutions issued by the UN over the period and more than six times that of the second placed country, Sudan.[18]

Criticism of contemporary policies

Peace process

In February 2011, Netanyahu called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to complain about Germany's vote in favor of a resolution at the United Nations Security Council to declare Israeli settlements to be illegal and she responded "How dare you! You are the one who disappointed us. You haven't made a single step to advance peace."[19] A few days later veteran Israeli diplomat Ilan Baruch resigned saying that Netanyahu's policies were leading to Israel's delegitimization.[20]

Israeli settlements

The participating High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention,[21] numerous UN resolutions, the International Court of Justice[22] and other instances have ruled that Israel's policy of establishing civilian settlements in territories considered occupied, including in East Jerusalem, is illegal. Israel disputes the notion that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are occupied under international law, though Israel's view is not widely accepted internationally.

Israel's settlement policy has drawn harsh criticism from the United States[23] and the European Union.[24]

Ali Jarbawi called the policy as “one of the only remaining settler-colonial occupations in the world today.”.[25] In his book “Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation”, Eyal Weizman describes Israel’s policy as a “political system at the heart of this complex and terrifying project of late-modern colonial occupation.”[26]

The international community criticized Israel for 'failing to protect the Palestinian population' from Israeli settler violence.[27]

Human rights

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said Israel operates a "two-tier" judicial system in areas of the occupied Palestinian territories it administers, to an effect which provides preferential services, development, and benefits for Israelis living in settlements in the occupied territories while imposing harsh conditions on Palestinians and other non-Israeli citizens. In some cases Israel has acknowledged differential treatment of Palestinians and Israelis, such as having separate roads for both communities and operating checkpoints for Palestinians, asserting that the measures are necessary to protect Israelis from attacks by Palestinian armed groups. Human Rights Watch rejects Israel's rationale, saying that no security rationale can explain many instances of differential treatment of Palestinians. HRW says that repairing a home "does not under any stretch of the imagination constitute a security threat".[28]

In 2011 the Israeli parliament passed a law criminalizing participation in boycotts of Israeli settlements. The law drew criticism from the EU, the United States and the Anti-Defamation League.[29]


Amnesty International reported that in 2009 hundreds of Palestinians were detained and held incommunicado for extended periods of time by Israel. While most were later released without charge, hundreds were tried before military courts whose procedures often failed to meet international standards for fair trial. According to Amnesty, almost all Palestinian prisoners were held in violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits the transfer of detainees to the territory of the occupying power (ie, Israel proper). It claimed that about 300 minors and 550 adults were held without charge or trial for more than a year.[30]

In 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Israel held thousands of Palestinians as prisoners, and called on Israel to release them. Ban said the release of political prisoners would "serve as a significant confidence-building measure" and boost prospects of peace in the region.[31] Also Amnesty International has called on Israel to release political prisoners, saying "all political prisoners held without charge or trial should be tried in fair trials or immediately released".[32] Israel objects to releasing prisoners, many of whom have been convicted by Israeli courts for violent crimes such as murder. However, several prisoner release deals have been conducted by Israel as a gesture in negotiations, many which involved the release of hundreds or more prisoners.


According to Amnesty International, methods of torture used by Israel on Palestinian prisoners include prolonged tying in painful stress positions, sleep deprivation and threats to harm detainees’ families. Beatings and other ill-treatment of detainees are common during and following arrest and during transfer from one location to another.[30]

Treatment of ethnic and religious minorities

Organizations such as Amnesty International, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Israeli government-appointed Or Commission, and the United States Department of State[33] have published reports that document racism and discrimination directed towards racial and ethnic groups in Israel.

According to a study commissioned by Israel's Courts administration and Israel Bar Association, Arab Israelis who have been charged with certain types of crime are more likely than their Jewish counterparts to be convicted, and once convicted they are more likely to be sent to prison. The study also found differences in lengths of prison sentences given, with the average prison sentence at nine and a half months for Jews and 14 months for Arabs.[34]

Rights groups have said that anti-discrimination employment laws in Israel are rarely enforced. A coalition of nine Israeli rights groups has opposed a practice under which companies can advertise their policy to hire only Jewish Israelis, and no Arab Israelis. Companies advertising under a "Hebrew labor" banner adhere to a segregated employment philosophy derived from a practice by Jewish immigrants in Palestine in the first half of the 20th century which was meant to strengthen emerging Israeli industry from British and Arab influence.[35]

Military Criticism

"Neighbor Procedure"

The IDF acknowledged using the "Neighbor Procedure” or the “Early Warning Procedure”, in which the IDF would encourage a Palestinian acquaintance of a wanted man to try and convince them to surrender. This practice was criticized by some as using "human shields", an allegation the IDF denied, saying that that it never forced people into carrying out the Neighbor Procedure; and that Palestinians volunteered to prevent excess loss of life. [37] are among the groups who made the "human shield" comparison. The Israeli group B'Tselem also made the comparison, saying that "for a long period of time following the outbreak of the second intifada Operation Defensive Shield, in April 2002, the IDF systematically used Palestinian civilians as human shields, forcing them to carry out military actions which threatened their lives".[38] The Neighbor Procure was outlawed by the Supreme Court of Israel in 2005 but some groups say the IDF continues to use it, although they say the number of instances has dropped sharply.[38][39]

Weapons of mass destruction

Israel is seen to possess a nuclear arsenal of about 150 weapons, and Israel has been criticised for maintaining nuclear weapons and for not agreeing to a nuclear-free Middle East zone. In September 2009, the IAEA passed a resolution that "expresses concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities, and calls upon Israel to accede to the NPT and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards..." [40]

Israel has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention but not ratified it, citing neighbouring states that have not done so either.[41] Israel is widely believed to have chemical weapons but officials have never directly admitted it, although in 1990 Science Minister Yuval Neeman threatened to retaliate against an Iraqi chemical-weapons strike "with the same merchandise".[42] Israel has not signed the Biological Weapons Convention.[41]


Amnesty International has harshly condemned Israel's policy of assassinations targeting individuals. Israeli officials have admitted that the policy exists and is being pursued, saying it helps prevent acts of terrorism from being committed against Israel. The United States has a very similar policy. Criticism against has been raised also from some on the Israeli left, who say assassination policy is "gangster behavior" unbecoming of a government and is against Israeli law.[43] Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that assassinations are illegal, but leaked documents suggest that Israel's army has ignored the ruling.[44]

Criticism at the United Nations

The UN has issued 232 resolutions with respect to Israel since 2003, representing 40% of all resolutions issued by the UN over the period and more than six times that of the second placed country, Sudan.[18]

According to testimony by the pro-Israel human rights NGO UN Watch to the United States Congress in January 2011 with respect to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Israel has been the focus of 70% of approximately 50 condemnatory resolutions by the council, 60% of the ten Special Sessions of the council and 100% of the council's five fact-finding missions or inquiries.[45]

Lack of democracy

Some Israeli individuals such as Human Rights Watch, B'tselem, Peace Now and others have questioned Israel's status as a democracy. These questions focus on the lack of democracy in the Israeli-occupied territories, not Israel proper. Such criticisms are based on the belief that both Israeli citizens in settlements and Palestinians should be given the right to suffrage, considering the Palestinians are effectively under Israeli authority and thus should benefit from it. There is a growing concern that the occupation of the territories is not temporary, given the over forty-five year duration and the large and the permanent nature of the Israeli settlements.[10][11][12][13][46][47][48]

Accusations of apartheid

Comparisons between apartheid South Africa and Israel are increasingly made. Israelis recoil at the analogy, but the parallel is widely drawn in international circles.[49][50]

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a group in Israel with support from several EU states, asserted in 2008 that the separate road networks in the West Bank for Israelis and Palestinians, the expansion of Jewish settlements, restriction of the growth of Palestinian towns and discriminatory granting of services, budgets and access to natural resources are "a blatant violation of the principle of equality and in many ways reminiscent of the Apartheid regime in South Africa".[51]

Israel has also been accused of apartheid by Michael Ben-Yair, Israel's attorney-general from 1993 to 1996 [52] and Shulamit Aloni, who served as Minister for Education under Yitzhak Rabin.[53]

Judaization of Jerusalem

The term Judaization of Jerusalem refers to the view that Israel has sought to transform the physical and demographic landscape of Jerusalem to correspond with a vision of a united and fundamentally Jewish Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.[54]

The United Nations has criticised Israel's efforts to change the demographic makeup of Jerusalem in several resolutions. All legislative and administrative measures taken by Israel, which have altered or aimed to alter the character, legal status and demographic composition of Jerusalem, are described by the UN as "null and void" and having "no validity whatsoever".[55] Richard Falk, an investigator with the U.N. Human Rights Council, said that Israel's expansion of East Jerusalem settlements and evictions of Palestinian residents can "only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing".[56]

In a 2008 report, John Dugard, independent investigator for the United Nations Human Rights Council, cites the Judaization of Jerusalem among many examples of Israeli policies "of colonialism, apartheid or occupation" that create a context in which Palestinian terrorism is "an inevitable consequence".[57]

The Law of Return

Israel has enacted a Law of Return that allows persons of Jewish ancestry a fast-track to Israeli citizenship. Palestinian refugees cannot apply for Israeli citizenship under the law since they are not Jewish, though they can apply for Israeli citizenship through the conventional channel. The law has drawn criticism from the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies which says the law is a "main example of Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian Arabs".[58] The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says the contrast between the Law of Return and Israeli opposition to the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees exhibits "barefaced racism".[59] More than 1,000 American Jews have backed a campaign entitled “Breaking the Law of Return”, saying the Law of Return creates an ethnically exclusive citizenship, which they see as unjust.[60]

Comparisons with Nazi Germany

Israel is sometimes compared to [67] The US State Department and the EU Working Definition on Antisemitism consider such comparisons as antisemitic.

Following the 1967 Six Day War, the Soviet Union compared Israeli tactics to those of Nazi Germany.[68] A similar comparison was made by the Israeli Arab author Nimer Nimer.[69] Yeshayahu Leibowitz, one of Israel’s most prominent and acclaimed public intellectuals, philosophers, and scientist, and an Orthodox Jew, warned in 1982 that if the occupation continued, Israel would be in danger of succumbing to “Judeo-Nazism".[70]

In 1984, author Israel Stockman-Shomron noted Nazi allusions in articles critical of Israel in publications including The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post and The New York Times.[71]

In 2000, Nur Masalha characterized Israel's occupation of Palestine territories as comparable to the Nazi Lebensraum (living space) policy of gaining land and materials for the benefit of Germans.[72]

In 2002, Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago compared conditions in Ramallah to concentration camps and, in conversation with a journalist, commented that the gas-chambers would "be here before long".[73]

In 2004, writer Josie Sandercock described Gaza as the "largest concentration camp in the world".[74]

In 2005, Chilean author Luis Sepulveda wrote: "In Auschwitz and Mauthausen, in Sabra, Shatila, and Gaza, Zionism and Nazism go hand in hand".[75]

In 2006, Arab journalist Jihad al-Khazin wrote an article in Al-Hayat comparing Ehud Olmert to Hitler.[76]

In 2009, Professor William I. Robinson was accused by the Anti-Defamation League of anti-Semitism and misconduct because his classroom materials included a visual image comparison of the Israeli attacks on Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto. Scholars for Peace in the Middle East supported Robinson, citing academic freedom.[77]

In 2009, British Member of Parliament Gerald Kaufman suggested that an Israeli justification for the deaths of 1,000 Palestinians on the grounds that "500 of them were militants" represented "the reply of a Nazi", and that the same logic could have been applied in the Warsaw Ghetto.[78] Moreover, accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been directed at Israel were recently highlighted by the British member of parliament Sir Gerald Kaufman where he described Israel as (sic) a rogue state which commits war crimes.[79]

In 2009 and 2010, two United Nations special rapporteurs, Richard Falk and Jean Ziegler, were criticised by pro-Israel commentators for making comparisons between policies of the Israeli government and those of Nazi Germany.[80][81][82]

In 2010, Israeli professor Gavriel Salomon protested against Israeli loyalty-oath legislation, and compared Israel to Nazi Germany, adding: "I am not talking about the death camps, but about the year 1935. There were no camps yet but there were racist laws. And we are heading forward towards these kinds of laws."[83]

The European Forum on Anti-Semitism stated in 2004 that "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" amounted to anti-Semitism[84] In 2006, the British All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism recommended that the UK Government adopt the same stance.[85]

Sociologist David Hirsh accuses anti-Zionists of double-standards in their criticism of Israel, and notes that other states carry out policies similar to those of Israel without those policies being described as "Nazi". He suggests that to describe Israel as engaged in "genocide" carries an unspoken accusation comparison with the Holocaust and an equation of Zionism with Nazism.[86]

British author Howard Jacobson has suggested that comparisons between conditions faced by Palestinians and those of the Warsaw Ghetto are intended "to wound Jews in their recent and most anguished history and to punish them with their own grief" and are a form of Holocaust denial which accept the reality of Jewish suffering but accuse Jews "of trying to profit from it". "It is as though," he says, "by a reversal of the usual laws of cause and effect, Jewish actions of today prove that Jews had it coming to them yesterday." [87]

Criticism of Past Israeli Actions

Palestinian refugees

Palestinian refugees are defined by the UN as Arabs who lived in Palestine for at least two years prior to 1948 and their descendants, and who fled or were expelled from their homes during and after the 1948 Palestine War.

The causes and responsibilities of the exodus are a matter of controversy among historians and commentators of the conflict.[88] Whereas historians now agree on most of the events of that period, there remains disagreement as to whether the exodus was the result of a plan designed before or during the war by Zionist leaders or was an unintended consequence of the war.[89]

Significant international pressure was placed on both sides during the 1949 Lausanne Conference to resolve the refugee crisis. The parties signed a joint protocol on the framework for a comprehensive peace, which included territories, refugees, and Jerusalem, in which Israel agreed "in principle" to allow the return of all of the Palestinian refugees.[90] According to New Historian Ilan Pappe, this Israeli agreement was made under pressure from the United States, and because the Israelis wanted United Nations membership, which required Israeli agreement to allow the return of all refugees. Once Israel was admitted to the UN, it retreated from the protocol it had signed because it was completely satisfied with the status quo and saw no need to make any concessions with regard to the refugees or on boundary questions. This led to significant and sustained international criticism.[90]

Allegations of ethnic cleansing

"New Historian" Ilan Pappe argued in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine that Israel's policy between 1947 and 1949, when "over 400 Palestinian villages were deliberately destroyed, civilians were massacred, and around a million men, women, and children were expelled from their homes at gunpoint" is best described as ethnic cleansing.[91][92][93][94] However, Pappe's work has been subject to significant criticism and allegations of fabrication by other historians.

For example Israeli historian Benny Morris called Pappe "At best... one of the world’s sloppiest historians; at worst, one of the most dishonest." When asked about the 1948 Palestinian exodus from Lydda and Ramle, he responded "There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide - the annihilation of your people - I prefer ethnic cleansing. [...] There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on."[95] He also added in 2008, that "There was no Zionist "plan" or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of "ethnic cleansing". Plan Dalet (Plan D), of 10 March 1948 ... was the master plan ... to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state".[96]

In 2002, John Pilger stated "Shortly after it was founded in 1948, Israel controlled, mostly as a result of a United Nations partition and partly by force, a total of 78 per cent of historic Palestine. The Palestinians, who were the majority, fled in an orchestrated campaign of fear and terror, or they were expelled. These days, this would be known as ethnic cleansing."[97]

Occupation and annexation of neighboring territories

The territories occupied by West Bank and much of the Golan Heights. From the Six Day War until 1982, the Sinai Peninsula was occupied by Israel, but it was returned to Egypt in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty. The Gaza Strip was also occupied by Israel until its unilateral disengagement. UN Security Council resolution 242, emphasized "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war," setting the stage for controversy on the legal status of areas captured in 1967, and in 1948. There are two interpretations of international law this matter: The Israeli position is that:

  • The wars in 1956 and 1967 were waged by Israel to ensure the state's survival. As most hostilities were initiated by the Arab side, Israel had to fight and win these wars in order to ensure the state's sovereignty and safety. Territories captured in the course of those wars are therefore legitimately under Israeli administration for both security reasons and to deter hostile states from belligerence.
  • In the absence of peace treaties between all the parties at war, Israel has under all circumstances the right to maintain control of the captured territories. Their ultimate disposition should be a result of peace treaties, and not a condition for them. Even so, Israel asserts that:
    • The 1956 war was caused by a pattern of Egyptian belligerence against Israel, culminating with the nationalization of the Suez Canal and the blockage of the canal for Israeli traffic in violation of the Convention of Constantinople and other relevant treaties, in their view a clear casus belli (i.e., an act justifying war)
    • The 1967 war was similarly caused by the closing of the Straits of Tiran, the rejection of UN forces in the Sinai desert, and the redeployment of Egyptian forces. Jordan and Syria entered the war in spite of Israeli efforts to keep these frontiers peaceful.
    • The 1973 war was a surprise attack against Israel by Syria and Egypt.

The Arab position is that:

  • The 1956 war was a result of a conspiracy between France, the United Kingdom and Israel in violation of Egypt's sovereignty. Egypt claimed several legal justifications for refusing Israel use of the Suez Canal, including the right of self-defence.
  • The war in 1967 was an unprovoked act of aggression aimed at expanding the boundaries of Israel, and the territories captured during this war are illegally occupied.
  • As a result, the territories must be ceded in order for peace to be achieved.

Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in 1980-1 by the Jerusalem Law and the Golan Heights Law has not been recognised by any other country.[98] The Palestinian Authority, the EU,[99] and the UN Security Council[100] consider East Jerusalem to be part of the West Bank, a position disputed by Israel. International bodies such as the United Nations have condemned the Jerusalem Law as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore hold that the establishment of the city as Israel's capital is against international law. Consequently, countries have established embassies to Israel's government outside of Jerusalem.

Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in September 2005, and declared itself no longer to be in occupation of the Strip. This has been contested by the UN, which though not declaring Gaza "occupied" under the legal definition, has referred to Gaza under the nomenclature of "Occupied Palestinian Territories". Some groups do assert that Gaza is legally occupied.[101][102][103]

Responses to criticism

Criticism of Israel regarded as antisemitism

Some criticisms of Israel or Israeli policies have been characterized as anti-Semitic. Proponents of the concept of New Antisemitism, such as Phyllis Chesler, Gabriel Schoenfeld and Mortimer Zuckerman, argue that, since the 1967 Six-Day War, many criticisms of Israel are veiled attacks on Jews and hence are essentially antisemitic. Abba Eban, Robert S. Wistrich, and Joschka Fischer focus on criticism of Zionism, and contend that some forms of anti-Zionism, particularly attacks on Israel's right to exist, are anti-Semitic in nature.

Critics of this view often portray this view as an "equation" of criticism with anti-Semitism. Some critics of Israel or Israeli policies, including Ralph Nader, Jenny Tonge, Noam Chomsky, and Desmond Tutu suggest that equating criticism of Israel with antisemitism is inappropriate or inaccurate. Other critics, such as John Mearsheimer, Alexander Cockburn, Norman Finkelstein, and William I. Robinson, claim that supporters of Israel sometimes equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in a deliberate attempt to prevent legitimate criticism of Israel and discredit critics.

However, proponents of the view usually argue that the equation of criticism with antisemitism is rarely made. For example, Alvin H. Rosenfeld considers this argument to be disingenuous, dismissing it as "the ubiquitous rubric 'criticism of Israel,'" He states that "vigorous discussion of Israeli policy and actions is not in question," but rather statements that go well beyond legitimate criticism "and call into question Israel's right to continued existence." [104] Alan Dershowitz claims that some enemies of Israel pretend to be victimized by accusations of anti-Semitism, in order to garner support for their position.

Dina Porat (head of the Institute for Study of Anti-semitism and Racism at Tel-Aviv University) characterizes some anti-Zionist ideals as anti-Semitic, because they amount to singling-out Jews for special treatment, while all other comparable groups of people are entitled to create and maintain a homeland. She contends that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic because it is discriminatory: "...antisemitism is involved when the belief is articulated that of all the peoples on the globe (including the Palestinians), only the Jews should not have the right to self-determination in a land of their own.[105] Hannah Rosenthal of the United States State Department said UN double standards against Israel constitute "profound anti-semitism".[106] However, many commentators have suggested singling out Israel for disproportionate criticism is warranted as a result of Israel's actions.[107][108][109][110][111][112]

Distinguishing legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) prepared a report in 2003 that distinguished criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism by testing whether "Israel is seen as being a representative of 'the Jew'": if the speaker is considering Israel as a representative of Jews in general, then anti-Semitism is deemed to be underlying the criticism.[113]

Natan Sharansky, former Soviet dissident and Israeli Minister, suggested a three-part test to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitic attacks. Sharansky's tests that identify a criticism as anti-Semitic are:[114]

  1. Demonization - when Israeli actions are blown so far out of proportion that the account paints Israel as the embodiment of all evil.
  2. Double Standards - when Israel is criticized soundly for an action or policy that any other government would be viewed as justified in doing, like protecting its citizens from terrorism.
  3. Delegitimization: a denial of Israel's right to exist or the right of the Jewish people to live securely in a homeland.

Demonization and double standards are often used as evidence of anti-Semitism in relation to criticism of Israel. Sharansky believes that some criticisms involve applying an especially high moral standard to Israel, higher than applied to other countries (particularly compared to surrounding countries), yet the only special characteristic of Israel is that it is a Jewish state, hence there is an element of anti-Semitism.[115]

Delegitimization was a factor addressed by Abba Eban, who claimed that efforts to deny "the equal rights of the Jewish people its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations" constituted anti-Semitism.[116]

Foreign Ministry

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel) has encouraged the use of social media to counteract criticism of Israel's policies. One member of the diplomatic corps proposed more aggressive action regarding Israel's critics. In June 2012, Israel's Channel 10 published an e-mail in which Nurit Tinari-Modai, deputy head of Israel's mission in the Republic of Ireland and wife of the ambassador, Boaz Moda'i, proposed harassing expatriate Israelis who criticized Israeli policies, posting photos of them and publishing disinformation that would embarrass them. She claimed that they were critical of Israel because of their sexual identity. Following the publicity about Tinari-Modai's tactics, the Foreign Ministry quickly distanced itself from her letter. Her recommendation included the following :"You have to try and hit their soft underbellies, to publish their photographs, maybe that will cause embarrassment from their friends in Israel and their family, hoping that local activists would understand that they may actually be working on behalf of Mossad."[117][118][119]

Israeli public opinion

International criticism is an important focus within Israel. According to an August 2010 survey by Tel Aviv University, more than half of Israelis believe "the whole world is against us", and three quarters of Israelis believe "that no matter what Israel does or how far it goes towards resolving the conflict with the Palestinians, the world will continue to criticize Israel".[17] As a result, public diplomacy has been an important focus of Israeli governments since Independence. The Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy & Diaspora Affairs seeks to explain government policies and promote Israel in the face of what they consider negative press about Israel around the world.

Claims of media bias

Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, writes that the "tendency to blame Israel for everything" has provided Arab leaders an excuse to deliberately ignore the human rights of the Palestinian in their countries. As an example, he said that while the world is furious over the blockade on Gaza, the media choose to deliberately ignore the conditions of the Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon and other Arab countries.[120]


European governmental reports

European Union 2006 report on antisemitism

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC, recently renamed to Fundamental Rights Agency) published a draft of an operational definition of antisemitism called Working Definition of Antisemitism[122] which accompanied a report by the EUMC on report that summarized antisemitism in Europe.[123] The EUMC working definition included five kinds of behaviors related to criticism of Israel that might be manifestations of antisemitism:[122]

  1. 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.
  2. Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  3. Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  4. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  5. Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

This part of the definition has proved highly contentious and is seen by many as attempting to proscribe legitimate criticism of the human rights record of the Israeli Government by attempting to bring any criticism of Israel into the category of antisemitism, and as not sufficiently distinguishing between criticism of Israeli actions and criticism of Zionism as a political ideology, on the one hand, and racially based violence towards, discrimination against, or abuse of, Jews.[124]

Paul Igansky points out that one of the EUMC anti-Semitic behaviors, comparisons between Israeli policy and those of the Nazis, is "arguably not intrinsically antisemitic", and that the context in which they are made is critical. Igansky illustrates this with the incident where Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was described by fellow Jewish Israelis as cooperating with the Nazis, and depicted wearing an SS uniform. According to Igansky, the "Nazi" label was merely used as "charged political rhetoric" in this case.[125]

EISCA 2009 report on criticism of Israel

Following the 2006 EUMC report, the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (EISCA) published a report in 2009 entitled Understanding and Addressing the ‘Nazi Card' - Intervening Against Antisemitic Discourse which discussed comparisons of Israel with Nazi Germany.[126]

The 2009 report incorporated from the 2006 report the five specific kinds of criticism of Israel that should be considered as anti-Semitism (see above for a list of the five).[127]

The report does not say all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic: "Abhorrence and protest against the policies, practices, and leaders of the Israeli state can be expressed in numerous forceful and trenchant ways, as they could against any other state - none of which would be antisemitic…",[128] and "Drawing attention to the consequent harms in [playing the Nazi card against Israel] should not be intended, or taken, in any way as an attempt to suppress criticism of Israel and its military practices."[129]

Antony Lerman criticized the report, and suggested that it could be used to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel, and suggests that the report's authors do not adequately address that possibility.[130]

Claims of United Nations bias

The United Nations has never condemned China's occupation of Tibet or recognized the Tibetans' right to self-determination. Alan Dershowitz finds the UN position hypocritical, as he concludes China's occupation of Tibet has been longer, more brutal, deadlier and less justified than Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.[131]

See also


  • Ahlmark, Per, "Human Rights, Anti-Semitism, and The Wallenberg Legacy, in Nuremberg forty years later: the struggle against injustice in our time (International Human Rights Conference, November 1987 papers and proceedings), Irwin Cotler (Editor), McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 1995
  • Bruckner, Pascal, The tyranny of guilt: an essay on Western masochism, Princeton University Press, 2010
  • Buckley, William, In search of anti-Semitism, Continuum, 1992
  • Chesler, Phyllis, The new anti-semitism: the current crisis and what we must do about it, Jossey-Bass, 2003
  • Chomsky, Noam, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, House of Anansi, 2003
  • Cohen, Patricia, "Essay Linking Liberal Jews and Anti_Semitism Sparks a Furor", The New York Times, January 31, 2007, online
  • Cotler, Irwin, "Human Rights and the new anti-jewishness", in Jerusalem Post, Feb 5, 2004
  • Dershowitz, Alan, The Case for Israel, John Wiley and Sons, 2003
  • Dershowitz, Alan, The Case Against Israel's Enemies: Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who Stand in the Way of Peace, John Wiley and Sons, 2009
  • Donskis, Leonidas, Troubled identity and the modern world, Macmillan, 2009
  • EISCA Report - by Igansky, Paul, and Sweiry, Abe, Understanding and Addressing the ‘Nazi Card' - Intervening Against Antisemitic Discourse, published by European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (EISCA), 2009, online.
  • Ellis, Marc, Judaism does not equal Israel, The New Press, 2009
  • EUMC report - Antisemitism - Summary overview of the situation in the European Union 2001-2005 - Working Paper, Beate Winkler, European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), May 2006, online.
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  21. ^ point 12
  22. ^ paragraphs 95-101 and 120
  23. ^ Biden's rebuke on new housing comes as Israel seeks to reaffirm U.S. relations (Washington Post, March 11, 2010)
  24. ^ Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on demolition and settlements in East Jerusalem (January 10, 2011)
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  28. ^ Separate and Unequal (Human Rights Watch, December 19, 2010) (1. Summary)
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  34. ^ Israeli Arabs more likely to be convicted for crimes than their Jewish counterparts, study shows (Haaretz, August 2, 2011)
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  39. ^ "Israel Probes "Human Shield" Allegations", CBS News, 11 April 2007.
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  41. ^ a b Chemical and Biological Weapons Status at a Glance (Arms Control Association)
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  43. ^ Israel's 'assassination policy' (BBC, August 1, 2001)
  44. ^ Israeli soldier faces jail for passing secrets to reporter (The Independent, Feb. 7, 2011)
  45. ^ UN Watch Testifies Before U.S. Congress on "The State of Human Rights at the U.N."
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  49. ^ Settler policy imperils Israel’s foundations, Financial Times, Feb. 21st, 2013: "Faced with widely drawn international parallels between the West Bank and the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa, senior figures in Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party have begun to admit the danger."
  50. ^ Worlds apart (The Guardian, Feb. 6th, 2006)
  51. ^ Civil rights group claim Israeli occupation is "reminiscent of apartheid" (The Independent, Dec. 7, 2008)
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  53. ^ אכן כן, אפרטהייד בישראל (Ynet News, December 31, 2006 (Hebrew)) (English translation)
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  55. ^ THE STATUS OF JERUSALEM (Chapter 12) (UN)
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  58. ^ Written statement* submitted by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status (Feb. 18, 2002)
  59. ^ THE PALESTINIAN RIGHT OF RETURN (ADC issue paper 30, 2001)
  60. ^ Left-Wing US Jews Call ’Law of Return’ Racist (Israel National News, Feb. 23, 2010)
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  71. ^ Stockman-Shomron, Israel, Israel, the Middle East, and the great powers, Transaction Publishers, 1984, p.79
  72. ^ Masalha, Nur, Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: the politics of expansion, p. 80
  73. ^ Le Monde, May 24, 2002, cited in Bruckner p.71; also discussed in Soyinka, Wole, Climate of fear: the quest for dignity in a dehumanized world, Random House, Inc., 2005, p.109, Rosenbaum, pp.18-19, Berman, Paul, Terror and liberalism, pp.139-140
  74. ^ * Sandercock, Josie, Peace under fire: Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement, Verso, 2004, pp.209-231.
  75. ^ Une sale historie [Paris: Anne-Marie Metailie 2005] p.44, cited in Bruckner, p.71.
  76. ^ Jihad Al-Khazin, “The Small Fuhrer,” Al-Hayat, July 14, 2006
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    • What is anti-Semitism? A UCSB professor's controversial e-mail underscores the need to define a sensitive subject by Nicholas Goldberg. May 12, 2009. Los Angeles Times
    • online
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    • Spencer, Robert and Geller, Pamela, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America, Simon and Schuster, 2010, pp.97-98.
  82. ^ Bard, Mitchell G., Will Israel Survive?, Macmillan, 2008, p.196: "Jean Ziegler, the UN special rapporteur on the Right of Food, for example, called the Gaza Strip 'an immense concentration camp' and compared Israelis to Nazis."
  83. ^ Shtull-Trauring, Asaf, "Israeli academic: Loyalty oath resembles racist laws of 1935", in Haaretz, 10 October 2010. online
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  89. ^ Benny Morris, 1989, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, Cambridge University Press; Benny Morris, 1991, 1948 and after; Israel and the Palestinians, Clarendon Press, Oxford; Walid Khalidi, 1992, All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, Institute for Palestine Studies; Nur Masalha, 1992, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought, Institute for Palestine Studies; Efraim Karsh, 1997, Fabricating Israeli History: The "New Historians", Cass; Benny Morris, 2004, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press; Yoav Gelber, 2006, Palestine 1948: War, Escape and the Palestinian Refugee Problem, Oxford University Press; Ilan Pappé, 2006, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, OneWorld
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  92. ^ Benny Morris. The Liar as Hero, MARCH 17, 2011
  93. ^ Ian Black February 17, 2007Divided Loyalties
  94. ^ David Pryce-Jones Raus Mit Uns, Literary Review
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  96. ^ Benny Morris, "Benny Morris on fact, fiction, & propaganda about 1948", The Irish Times, 21 February 2008, reported by Jeff Weintraub
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  98. ^ See also UN Security Council Resolution 497 [4]
  99. ^
  100. ^ s:United Nations Security Council Resolution 478
  101. ^
  102. ^ "Human Rights Council Special Session on the Occupied Palestinian Territories" July 6, 2006; Human Rights Watch considers Gaza still occupied.
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  104. ^ Alvin H. Rosenfeld, "Rhetorical Violence and the Jews," The New Republic, February 27, 2007.
  105. ^ Dina Porat, Defining Anti-Semitism, accessed 15 November 2008 See also Emanuele Ottolenghi
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  113. ^ "Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003", European Montoring Centre on Racisma and Xenophobia (EUMC), 2003, online, pp 13, 240:
    "ARE ANTI-ISRAELI AND ANTI-ZIONIST EXPRESSIONS ANTISEMITIC? If we turn to the crucial question of defining the point where anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist expressions are to be considered as antisemitism, then we could conclude, on the basis of our definition of antisemitism, that anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist attitudes and expression are antisemitic in those cases where Israel is seen as being a representative of “the Jew”, i.e. as a representative of the traits attributed to the antisemitic construction of “the Jew”. But what if the opposite is the case and Jews are perceived as representatives of Israel? What if Jews are criticised or offended for Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians? If we stick to our definition, then, strictly speaking, we would have to qualify hostility towards Jews as “Israelis” only then as antisemitic, if it is based on an underlying perception of Israel as “the Jew”. If this is not the case, then we would have to consider hostility towards Jews as “Israelis” as not antisemitic, because this hostility is not based on the antisemitic stereotyping of Jews... What should not be considered as antisemitic and therefore does not have to be monitored under the heading of “antisemitism”, is hostility towards Israel as “Israel”, i.e. as a country that is criticised for its concrete policies. Hostility towards Israel as “Israel” (as opposed to criticism of Israel as representative of the stereotypical “Jew”) should only then become a matter of general public concern, when there is explicit evidence that criticism of Israel as “Israel” produces attacks on Jews as either “the Jew” or “Israeli”. If there is no such evidence, the case of criticism and hostility towards Israel as “Israel” should not be part of monitoring activities under the heading of “antisemitism”.
  114. ^
    • Sharansky, Natan, "3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization", in Jewish Political Studies Review 16:3-4 (Fall 2004), online
    • See also: Congressional record of the 108th congress, Second session, volume 150, part 14, Sept 15 2004 to Sept 28 2004, page 18505:
    "[Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota speaking] Natan Sharansky … has talked about three ways to determine whether criticism of Israel rises to the level of anti-Semitism. He talks about the three Ds" Demonization, double standards, and delegitimization. Demonization - when Israeli actions are blown so far out of proportion that the account paints Israel as the embodiment of all evil; Double Standards - when Israel is criticized soundly for thing any other government would be viewed as justified in doing, like protecting its citizens from terrorism. Delegitimization: a denial or Israel's right to exist or the right of the Jewish people to live securely in a homeland."
  115. ^ Sharansky, Natan, "3D Test of Anti-Semitism: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization", in Jewish Political Studies Review 16:3-4 (Fall 2004), online
  116. ^ Quoted by Oliver Kamm, "Chomsky, antisemitism and intellectual standards", [5]:
    Kamm quotes Eban: "There is no difference whatever between anti-Semitism and the denial of Israel's statehood. Classical anti-Semitism denies the equal right of Jews as citizens within society. Anti-Zionism denies the equal rights of the Jewish people its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations. The common principle in the two cases is discrimination". (New York Times, November 3, 1975).
  117. ^ "Round, Simon 'Israeli envoy: activists have 'sexual identity problems (June 14, 2012) The Jewish Chronicle"
  118. ^
  119. ^ "Silver, Jonny 'Israel’s Ireland embassy: Hitler would have liked the UN' (Aug. 6, 2013) Haaretz"
  120. ^ Demonizing Israel is bad for the Palestinians, by Mudar Zarhan, 01/08/2010, Jerusalem Post
  121. ^ The leveling wind: politics, the culture, and other news, 1990-1994. George Will. Viking, 1994. p. 336
  122. ^ a b
  123. ^ EUMC report
  124. ^
  125. ^ Igansky, Paul, "Conceptualizing Anti-Jewish Hate Crime", in Hate Crimes, Barbara A. Perry (Ed.), Greenwood Publishing Group, 2009, pp 114-115
  126. ^ Ignasky, EISCA Report. A brief excerpt from the report's introduction, p. 4:
    "Playing the ‘Nazi card’ is a discursive act involving the use of Nazi or related terms or symbols (Nazism, Hitler, swastikas, etc.) in reference to Jews, Israel, Zionism or aspects of the Jewish experience. It manifests in words uttered in speech or in writing, or in visual representations such as artwork, drawings, caricatures, cartoons, graffiti, daubings and scratchings, or visual expressions such as a Nazi salute or the clicking of heels. In many instances, the playing of the Nazi card is unquestionably antisemitic. However, the inclusion of particular modes of criticism of Israel in definitions of antisemitism has provoked controversy. The result has been a war of words which has stagnated into an intellectual and discursive cul-de-sac of claim and counter-claim about what does and does not qualify as antisemitism…. One of the most challenging components of antisemitic discourse in general, and the discursive theme of the Nazi card in particular, concerns the problem of when the Nazi card is played against Israel and its founding movement, Zionism. In this case playing the Nazi card involves equating the Israeli state collectively, or the state embodied by its leaders or its military practices, with Nazis, Nazi Germany, and the genocidal actions of the Nazi regime…."
  127. ^ EISCA report, p 34
  128. ^ EISCA report, p 24
  129. ^ EISCA report, p 32
  130. ^ Lerman Should we ban ..":
    "While much of the [report's] definition [of anti-Semitism relating to criticism of Israel] is unexceptionable, it cites five ways in which antisemitism could be seen to "manifest itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context". One of these – "using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism... to characterize Israel or Israelis" – is fully justified. The other four are contentious: "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination"; "Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation"; "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis"; "Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel". None of these four are self-evidently antisemitic. But all could be used to justify labeling legitimate criticism of Israel as antisemitic. So the authors' approval of them makes their claim that "Drawing attention to the consequent harms in [playing the Nazi card against Israel] should not be intended, or taken, in any way as an attempt to suppress criticism of Israel and its military practices" both naïve and flimsy."
  131. ^
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