No, anti-Semitism isn’t (mostly) behind the current campaign

Radio Farda is the Iranian branch of Radio Free Europe and receives millions of hits monthly by discussing issues the Islamic Republic would rather keep hidden.

I was interviewed last week about the Gaza flotilla (though I should note, for the record, that I think real anti-Semitism is a tiny reason behind the current campaign against Israel):

The international condemnation of Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla has been immediate and intense.

The raid, in which at least nine aid workers died, has sparked international controversy, from the United Nations to the streets of Istanbul.

Yet some experts suggest that the response to the raid has been disproportionate. Charles Asher Small is the Director of the Yale University Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism.

“What I find troubling about the response – particularly the media response – is the lack of clear analysis, the lack of setting the context of what has taken place. Who runs the flotilla? Who sent the flotilla out? What was the agenda of those operating the flotilla? Which countries aided and assisted in sending this flotilla towards Israel, towards Gaza? [This] is not just a story of a few ships going to Gaza.”

Anthony Loewenstein is a freelance journalist who has written extensively on Israel and the Middle East. Loewenstein says the international response to the raid both has and has not been disproportionate.

“There’s no doubt there are many, many conflicts around the world with far more death and destruction than the Israel-Palestine conflict. I mean the Congo, Burma, other countries like North Korea. I think the difference with Israel-Palestine is that Israel is obviously a close ally of the US”¦ So I think there’s probably a lot more scrutiny on Israel than say on repressive regimes. I mean if a country claims to be a democracy – and Israel obviously does – than it has to behave in a much better way than North Korea, Burma, or Iran.”

Many of those who condemned the Israeli raid have done so on humanitarian grounds.

Yet Yale University’s Small doubts that humanitarian concerns can explain all of the criticism. He is concerned that those behind the flotilla, as well as those who have supported it in recent days, have been motivated by anti-semitism.

“There’s now video surfacing of people on the ships singing about killing Jews as they were floating to bring this so-called Peace Initiative,” Small told Radio Farda.

Loewenstein also believes humanitarian concerns do not fully explain the intense international criticism of the Israeli operation. He says that the concern expressed for the plight of the Palestinians has not always been sincere.

“If you’re asking me is all the concern for what’s happened [since the raid on the flotilla] because people solely care about the Palestinians the answer is no. Some of it is [a] convenient excuses to mask other problems. When it comes to the Arab world, they’ve often used the Palestinians as an excuse to mask dealing with their own problems”¦ And that’s of course being used even more effectively by other countries in recent years including Iran.”