In a review of Anthony Julius’s Trials of the Diaspora for the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore warns of the anti-Semitism that is creeping “back on to English lawns”. With little qualification, he argues that “criticism of Israel is often quite different from that of other countries involved in violent political conflict. It is existential criticism. It is against the Jews.”
I agree that anti-Semitic attitudes are indeed prevalent in much of the debate surrounding the Israel-Palestine issue, but to blame liberals and progressives for this sorry state of affairs is wrong. I have touched upon this subject in a recent blog on Israel’s plan to increase settlement activity in East Jerusalem, so will not go into depth here. Yet one line in Moore’s article needs refuting. He writes: “In a weird ideological alliance with Islamism, the secular left now tries to argue that Israel is an ‘apartheid’ state.”
Is this such an outrageous statement? In 2008, the then United Nations general assembly president, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, said that Israel’s actions on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip were reminiscent of “the apartheid of an earlier era”. Risking public censure, he added: “We must not be afraid to call something what it is.”
His views echoed those of the UN special rapporteur John Dugard, who announced in 2007 that “Israel’s laws and practices certainly resemble aspects of apartheid”. Citing house demolitions in the post-1967 occupied territories as an example, his report said: “It is difficult to resist the conclusion that many of Israel’s laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.”
Were Brockmann and Dugard “in a weird ideological alliance with Islamism”? How about Desmond Tutu, patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa, who, after a visit to the Holy Land in 2002, said: “It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa”?
No area of political debate should be off limits, and to imply, offhand, that the likes of Tutu, Brockmann and Dugard are Islamist stooges is a failure of rational thought.