At a security conference in Germany this weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry noted that if the status quo persists in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, boycotts against the country will likely grow.
This objective observation from Kerry was met with blindingly offensive attacks by Israeli government officials, who tarred Kerry as an anti-Semite interested in Israel’s demise for legitimizing the international boycott movement by … noticing it exists.
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Economy Minister and member of the extreme-right Jewish Home party, stated:
“We expect of our friends in the world to stand by our side against the attempts to impose an anti-Semitic boycott on Israel, and not to be their mouthpiece.”
Adi Mintz, a high-ranking official in the Settler’s Council, accused Kerry of an “anti-Semitic initiative” and stated:
“The anti-Semites have always resorted to a very simple method – hit the Jews in their pockets.
And Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Intelligence Minister, accused Kerry of holding a gun to Israel’s head by stating that the boycott movement could grow if a peace accord is not reached:
Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head when we are discussing the matters which are most critical to our national interests.
Even Netanyahu critiqued Kerry for mentioning the boycotts, though in softer terms. Needless to say, the Obama administration is apoplectic, and rightly so. Israel’s closest and most important ally, the United States, is having its highest-ranking diplomat slurred as an anti-Semite. This is the man responsible for trying to broker a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a man who has bent to nearly every Israeli demand in the process.
He is a clearly an ally in a government which is Israel’s greatest ally. So why is he being attacked as an anti-Semite, or as a mouthpiece for anti-Semitism?
Because right-wing extremists both in America and in Israel have become so accustomed to using the anti-Semitism charge as a way to either shut down dialogue on difficult issues or to delegitimize those who might critique Israel that it is now done reflexively.
This reflexivity is so pronounced that Israeli officials could, with a straight face, suggest America’s most important diplomat is anti-Semitic for merely observing the existence of the Palestinian/international boycott movement, and the danger it presents to Israel if the status quo persists. (A danger Israel’s Channel 2 profiled recently.)
For such leaders, Israel’s violation of international law, with its continued appropriation of Palestinian lands and building of settlements, is not an issue worthy of discussion.
What is? Mentioning the Palestinians’ nonviolent opposition to such violations. Even if you don’t endorse them.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.