Double Standards

Neve Gordon

Anti-Semitism is on the rise and needs to be challenged. But the working definition of anti-Semitism that was formally adopted this week by the British government is dangerous. It says that anyone who subjects Israel to 'double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation' is an anti-Semite.

Setting aside the categorisation of Israel as a democracy (for me as an Israeli Jew it undoubtedly is, but for my Palestinian neighbours in South Hebron it undoubtedly is not), what if the double-standards clause were applied in other cases? Given that the UK condemns Iran more harshly than China for human rights violations, one could conceivably accuse the British government of being Islamophobic. But then the UK’s criticism of Saudi Arabia, which is reducing parts of Yemen to rubble (with the help of arms supplied by Britain), is lax when compared to its criticism of Sudan, which would imply the British government is guilty of another sort of racism.

The definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the British government is itself a manifestation of a double standard, since it treats Israel differently from every other country in the world rather than as a nation among nations.


  • 15 December 2016 at 1:32pm
    Fred Skolnik says:
    An antisemite is someone who is hostile to Jews as such. Since only the antisemite knows for certain who he is, the only way to spot one is by his words and actions. On the right, antisemites make no bones about their Jew hatred but on the left there is a certain reluctance to admit to it, so it is indeed often disguised as the more respectable Israel hatred in a time when vocal Jew hatred has become unfashionable, though not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic. The giveaway is always the vehemence of the language and the unqualified bias, which reveals something coming right out of the belly. As for whom the government of the United Kingdom or any other country chooses to criticize or not to criticize for political or other reasons, that is a far cry from the phenomenon among individuals of obsessively singling out Israel as the world's great transgressor and being conversant with every piece of dirt on the Internet that puts Israel in a bad light, to an extent that can only be called abnormal. I'm sure you all know what I mean.

    • 15 December 2016 at 4:46pm
      name says: @ Fred Skolnik
      It is naive to think that this shift will not stifle some legitimate criticism of Israeli policy, though hopefully most of it can be recast in unambiguously impartial terms which clear it from charges of antisemitism.

      Unfortunately, this change will only empower and legitimize pro-Israeli antisemitism. I'm thinking mainly of American attitudes especially prevalent among the 90+ million evangelical base, who can say things like "I love Zionists! It's a shame they're mostly hell-bound Jews" without batting an eyelash. To be fair, most people are hell-bound according to evangelical protestants, and indeed (too) many other ideologies - however, those ideologies do not form a voter base to which Trump may be eager to pander to.

      Will this definition of antisemitism spread to Europe? I'm not sure what the state of antisemitism is on the continent, I would think it is virulent wherever populist nationalism takes hold. There may be Muslims and refugees to demonize and scapegoat today, but when those flows recede other minorities will take their place. A definition which makes support for Israel its litmus test for antisemitism will do little to protect Jewish minorities living abroad.

      Some conjecture here: this may have been considered a beneficial side-effect of this definition by Israel's right-wing government which lobbied for it to be taken up here in the USA a week or so before it was in the UK. Ultimately, it will just push more European Jews to Israel. I will not forget how Netenyahu shamelessly invited French Jews to move to Israel after marching with other world leaders in the demonstrations of solidarity following the Charlie Hebdo attack.

    • 15 December 2016 at 7:13pm
      stettiner says: @ name
      "I’m not sure what the state of antisemitism is on the continent", but I have an opinion anyway....

    • 16 December 2016 at 1:54am
      Jonathan Rosenhead says: @ Fred Skolnik
      Fred Skolnik says "The giveaway is always the vehemence of the language and the unqualified bias, which reveals something coming right out of the belly." And then he goes on to talk about individuals obsessively singling out Israel...and being conversant with every piece of dirt etc etc. Talk about pots criticising kettles!

      It is entirely reasonable to hold up to criticism the many and long-maintained offences of the Israelis against the human rights of Palestinians. What is really disproportionate is the exaggeration by some supporters of Israel about the extent of antisemitism in the UK. The number of hate crimes recorded by the police is about 220,000 annually. In 2015 the number of these that were recorded as antisemitic was just 629. Why is the Government not promulgating an official definition of Islamophobia?

      We need to be on our guard against the ugly virus of anti-Semitism. But grossly exaggerating its current prevalence is likely to weaken our vigilance (think of the little boy who cried 'Wolf!') rather than strengthen it.

    • 16 December 2016 at 8:31am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Jonathan Rosenhead
      I think what I am saying is clear with or without the pots and kettles and I am sure you agree that there are a great many Jew haters in the world and that these are prone to hate Israel as well without reference to what Israel does or does not do. I am suggesting that the language of the criticism and the clear bias is what allows one to make the distinction.

      As for Israel's misdeeds, any "criticism" that completely ignores what the other side has been doing for the past 100 years is bound to arouse suspicion.

  • 15 December 2016 at 7:46pm
    streetsj says:
    Is there any need to have different rules for anti-semitism? Why isn't it covered by existing race laws?

  • 16 December 2016 at 9:36am
    farthington says:
    This is all about Israel as per usual and not about anti-semitism sui generis.
    As for Israel's so-called 'democracy', Uri Davis' 2003 Apartheid Israel is a useful antidote. One doesn't need to head to Hebron to unearth an apartheid state.
    You'd think the zios would lie low without having to constantly bring the global Jewish community into complicity with its crimes against the long suffering non-Jewish Palestinians.

  • 16 December 2016 at 10:28am
    Fred Skolnik says:
    And where exactly have you "headed," my friend? Have you ever been to Hebron? Have you ever been to Israel? Or do you just watch television and read blogs?

    Israeli Arabs eat in the same restaurants as Jews, travel on the same buses and trains, use the same public spaces, are treated in the same hospitals as Jews, treat Jews in these hospitals as doctors and nurses, serve as lawyers and judges in Israel’s legal system, teach and study in the universities, serve in the Knesset. This is not the condition or situation for which the term apartheid was coined. The tactic of the haters has always been to expand or redefine commonly understood terms of opprobrium for the sole purpose of applying them to Israel ("Nazi" and "genocide" are two more of these terms). There is certainly unjustifiable discrimination against Arabs in Israel, which is primarily related to the Arab-Israel conflict, but to call this apartheid only belies a will to use the dirtiest words the haters know in order to vilify Israel, and this is precisely what I was talking about above.

  • 16 December 2016 at 6:50pm
    dmr says:
    Within Israel as defined by the country within the Green Line (so-called), we can agree that things are more or less as you describe them, Mr Skolnik, though after reading your comment one might be forgiven for concluding that race relations in the Jewish State are hunky-dory, barring instances "unjustifiable" discrimination here and there against a minority.

    But beyond the Green Line? Within the occupied territories? There one finds a military dictatorship ruling unhindered over a helpless population deprived of political and indeed human rights and subjecting it with depressing regularity to any number of abuses and atrocities. There we have seen a despotic regime operate through a myriad of arbitrarily applied sanctions and employing laws, most egregiously pass laws, designed to exercise total panoptic control over those at its mercy. There one finds a deliberate, carefully thought through and institutionalised pattern of separate economic and social development, evinced in grotesque disparities between the two groups and in a stratospheric dissimilarity of condition. The facts pertaining to this state of affairs speak for themselves.

    What is this, Mr Skolnik, if not a form of apartheid approaching that in place in South Africa in years gone by? Or - let's face it - as near as makes little difference? It may not conform in every detail to classical apartheid. it may not, to be sure, be actuated by racial animus or be contrived with a view to exploiting a pool of surplus labour. But those who, unlike you, do not see things in Israel/Palestine with the eye of (Zionist) faith have long since come to acknowledge the structural identity of what is now the case in Palestine with what was the case elsewhere.

    Nor do earlier distinctions apply. If - and this is doubtful - Israel proper (pre-1967) was ever a democracy for all its citizens, Israel nowadays and for all practical purposes is the name that applies to a single geo-political entity reigning supreme between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, an entity in which, in many ways and nowhere more egregiously than in the Palestinian West Bank, if you are a Jew you are treated one way and if an Arab, another. If the number is growing of those who speak of Israel as an apartheid state, this is not, as you fondly imagine, because they are actuated by an incandescent anti-Semitism but because they wish to call a spade a shovel.

  • 16 December 2016 at 7:55pm
    dmr says:
    " As for Israel’s misdeeds, any “criticism” that completely ignores what the other side has been doing for the past 100 years is bound to arouse suspicion."

    Really, Mr Skolnik. Such a foolish remark. So childish, and illogical: "Why're you punishing me,sir? What about him? ?He did too!..."

    But we are not talking about Tibet, Mr Skolnik. Or about China. Or about the Congo. Nor ought we to. We are talking about Israel.

    • 16 December 2016 at 9:30pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ dmr
      You seem to be pretending not to understand what I’m saying. What the other side has done is initiate full-scale wars and rampant terrorism with the declared aim of destroying the State of Israel and massacring its population. That is why Israel has fought back.

      Here, my friend, is the root of the conflict, from Azzam Pasha, the Arab League Secretary-General, saying in Sept. 1947:

      “The Arab world is not in a compromising mood. It’s likely, Mr. Horowitz that your plan is rational and logical, but the fate of nations is not decided by rational logic. Nations never concede; they fight. You won’t get anything by peaceful means or compromise. You can, perhaps, get something, but only by the force of your arms. We shall try to defeat you. I am not sure we’ll succeed, but we’ll try. We were able to drive out the Crusaders, but on the other hand we lost Spain and Persia. It may be that we shall lose Palestine. But it’s too late to talk of peaceful solutions.”

      Do you get it now? – just another Arab conquest, just another Spain or Persia. Not to us!

    • 17 December 2016 at 5:28am
      Fred Skolnik says: @ dmr
      And no, this is not a form of apartheid. It is a military occupation. If it were a form of apartheid, all occupations would be forms of apartheid, including the Allied occupation of Germany after World War II. An occupation by definition entails separation between the occupying power and the occupied population and the existence of two different legal systems for occupying and occupied nationals. All separation measures instituted by Israel are solely for purposes of security.

      As for the occupation of the West Bank as such, it came about because Hussein attacked Israel, specifically and mainly by bombarding Jewish Jerusalem indiscriminately and without provocation on the night of June 5, 1967, for reasons he himself has explained and which have nothing to do with Israel’s preemptive attack against Egypt. You start a war, you lose a war, you get your territory occupied. That is the oldest story in history. The occupation continued because the Arabs declared at Khartoum: “no peace, no recognition, no negotiations” – and for the next 25 years couldn’t even bring themselves to pronounce Israel’s name. The occupation became oppressive because the Arabs engaged in terrorist acts against Israel’s civilian population. If they want the occupation to end they will have to renounce terrorism and negotiate an end to the conflict.

    • 17 December 2016 at 8:08am
      rae donaldson says: @ Fred Skolnik
      It's Mr Skolnick's world; the rest of us just live in it.

    • 17 December 2016 at 8:10am
      rae donaldson says: @ rae donaldson

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