Criticizing Israeli Policies Is Not the Same Thing as Anti-Semitism
Friday, December 1,2006 00:00
By Tang Li, [email protected], ArabNews

During the past two-months I’ve taken up a new hobby of engaging people in discussion groups on the Internet. It’s been an amazing journey into finding out what people are willing to say when they feel they are hidden behind the anonymity of a screen name! As you may expect, I’ve found myself in passionate debates, particularly whenever it comes to the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The site that I had been exploring is a US-based one and as can be expected, most of the participants in the forums are American. The experience of talking to Americans on the Internet has been astounding.

Here we are on the Internet, the medium that is supposed to be the most free-flowing ever invented. The Internet was supposed to liberate people and increase freedom of speech.

Then, there is the fact that you are having a discussion with Americans, a people who are supposed to be brought up in the culture of many freedoms, a people who have been brought up in the belief that their society gains strength from being diverse.

When you read the views of Americans on the Internet that discuss the Arab— Israeli conflict, all these perceptions about the US and Americans believing in the love of freedom disappears.

The stance that most Americans have taken with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict can be summed up in a sentence: “Israel is God’s Land and anybody who disagrees with it deserves to be obliterated.”

It’s frightening to see the way in which the minds of a great people have been limited in such a way. These are, after all, the people who are supposed to be the anti-thesis of what Osama Bin Laden and his ilk stand for.

I am not anti-Jewish. I have Jewish friends and relatives who I love, respect and admire. I do admire Israel’s achievements in “making the desert bloom.” Israel’s scientists have made breakthroughs that made life better for humanity as a whole. And yes, there is the fact that Israel is the homeland of a people who have suffered immensely during World War II.

However, I take issue with Israel’s indiscriminate shelling of civilians in the Palestinian territories and no one outside Israel and the US disagrees that the invasion of Lebanon was open breach of human rights. What I find even more worrying is the fact that the US actively uses its veto in the UN Security Council to block any efforts by the international community to call these actions what they actually are — “War Crimes” against innocent civilians.

Thread after thread on this issue reads like this: “Israel does not start its conflicts and the casualties it inflicts are just unfortunate results of its self-defense.”

Let’s look at the evidence this summer’s conflict in Lebanon. It started with Hezbollah capturing two uniformed soldiers and it ended with Israel conducting artillery shelling that resulted in hundreds of dead Lebanese civilians, at least a thousand injured and half a million people displaced from their homes. Read any Internet posting from a non— American on the issue and you have the same response — Israel’s attack of Lebanon was inexcusable

To Americans, it seems that the Arabs just got what they deserved for not accepting Israel as “God’s Land.” I questioned this and asked one American youth what type of God he worshiped if he allowed his “Chosen People,” to send a helicopter gunship to take out Sheikh Yassin, an old man in a wheel chair. I was accused of being a communist who was brainwashed into not realizing that “Israel is God’s country,” and the Arabs have to understand that if they disagreed with this, they would have their a** kicked by Israel’s superior military power.

It seems that to many American minds, people like me don’t understand the situation in the Middle East and God’s design for the place. I’m frightened by the display of this mindset. America is after all the nation that saved the freedom-loving world from the idea of the “Master Race,” in the 1940s. And yet, here we are at the dawn of the new millennium, supposedly in more tolerant world of American values triumphant and yet we have America with the support of many of her people openly advocating the right of “God’s Chosen,” to do as they please with others.

Why can’t they see that a constructive dialogue on Israel is not a sign of “anti-Semitism?” Are the people in the nation that has produced more Nobel prizes than any other so incapable of understanding the difference between criticism of policy and criticism of a race? Evidence seems to point that way and that frightens me.