"Does Criticizing Israel Make Me An Anti-semite?"
People wiser and more eloquent than I have addressed that question, but in light of recent events in the Mideast, and of subsequent discussions of those events here in Open, I feel the need to ask it myself, and to attempt to answer it.
It irritates me when people who are incapable of defending their position (whatever that position may be) with reason and facts resort to the sort of cheap name-calling exemplified by calling others "unAmerican" or "Nazis" or anti-semites, or whatever, so in the interest of open debate I'm going to enter these dangerous waters. I've seen people in OS who are afraid to express their opinions about Israel and Palestine for fear of being called a racist and worse, but I don't intend to be one of them.
To begin with, I need to say that I'm neither a conservative nor a "leftist", nor do I attach much importance to those labels in an objective sense. I form my opinions based on realities and on the most accurate information I can find, not on worldviews rooted in dogma. Something I encounter over and over again in online discussions - starting with the Israel/Palestine issue but not limited to it - is people who are incapable of thinking and of viewing the world outside of the prism of their ideology. I've been called an anti-semite and a hater of Israel for expressing reservations about the policies and actions of its government, and I've also been called a Zionist from the other camp for not condemning Israel across the board.
The bottom line is that far too many people are incapable of thinking without referencing the talking points they get from whichever echo chamber they spend the most time in. Someone on Open Salon for instance took me to task yesterday for not loving the US and Israel enough. I was astonished to find that one of the metrics of loyalty to my native country is apparently an unqualified love for Israel. The same person who said my affection for Israel wasn't strong enough and that I was obviously an anti-semite then mentioned a post I once wrote about Rachel Corrie, and went on to make some disaparaging remark about her to the effect of "little girls shouldn't lie down in front of bulldozers." It was interesting to me that his rancor was directed at an idealistic young woman who was killed while trying to help others and not at the government which, while in the process of demolishing people's ancestral homes, crushed her to death under tons of steel. The person then claimed that writing in an admiring way about Rachel was de facto proof that I was a supporter of Hamas and a terrorist lover. When I attempted to point out that I had no use for Hamas and that I didn't hate Israel at all, he shot back "You. Hate. Israel."
"You. Hate. Israel."
This sort of "logic" is used by a lot of people, not just those on the Right, and not just in the debate about Palestine. When someone is persuaded that a thing is true because they believe it to be so, and that if they say it often enough it makes it even more true, it's indicative of a lack of ability or a disinclination to view the world in any other way but black and white. It's a way of thinking that reduces any topic under discussion to a zero sum game, and is a major contributor to the ever-worsening political polarization of this country.
The constant stream of propaganda flowing from AIPAC (which is enthusiastically seconded by many on the Christian Right), coupled with an unwillingness to recognize that wrong is wrong no matter who does it, or to realize that the interests of the Likud Party don't necessarily coincide with the interests of the United States, lies at the heart of the rancorous nature of the debate here. The inevitable result of all this is accusations of "anti-semitism" even when such accusations are patently inaccurate, or accusations of being a terrorist lover - or of being a Zionist for that matter, even though most people so labeled have no dog in that particular fight.
Far too many people aren't capable of the kind of critical thinking which might allow them to see that the official version of events, whether from the US government or Israel (or from Hamas and Iran for that matter), is often made up of distortions, half-truths, and outright lies. Even many people who are capable of multi-leveled, rational thought on a wide range of topics have too much invested in their ideologically or religiously based worldview to allow them to discuss Israel without resorting to slander and grossly inaccurate, unfair epithets.
Another impediment to rational debate on this topic is an automatic, exaggerated, knee-jerk defensiveness on the part of many supporters of Israel whenever the government of that country does something stupid and obviously wrong. The inevitable last (or often first) resort of this sort of person is name-calling and calumny, with the intention of silencing the voices of any who'd dare to question their views.
I love my country, always have and always will, and that is exactly why I'm willing to recognize its flaws as well as its strengths. It seems to me that if I'm free to criticize my own country when it's in the wrong, I (and anyone else who approaches the topic fairly) should be equally free to criticize Israel without fear of being tarred as an anti-semite.