Jerusalem, June 2, 2010 … The examination of the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism were the subject of a seminar held this week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Herzliya, Israel.
The ADL conference, "Anti-Israel Rhetoric: Criticism or Anti-Semitism – How Can We Tell The Difference?" was convened to provide guidance for the diplomatic community in Israel in areas of economic and academic boycotts, editorial cartoons, the media, the United Nations, politics and the Jewish community.
"The problem is there are intelligent, educated people who don't see anti-Semitism that is plain to many of us, when it is in their face," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, in an address setting the stage for the one-day conference held on June 1.
"We can all agree that criticism of Israeli actions or policies is not by its nature anti-Semitic. Legitimate criticism abounds here in Israel. You follow the media here and you see it in every Israeli newspaper," he said. "But there is an important corollary – criticizing Israel is no excuse for anti-Semitism. When criticism contains anti-Semitism, it loses its legitimacy."
Several conference participants said the international reaction in the aftermath of Israel's May 31 commando raid on a flotilla of ships heading for Gaza showed once again how Israel is demonized by the media, international governments, and in the United Nations.
"The convening of the Security Council or the General Assembly for an anti-Israel session will serve nothing more than a stage for Israel bashing," said Dan Gillerman, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. "Not a single session of the Security Council has ever helped the life of a single Palestinian, or saved the life of a single Israeli. There is a lot of hypocrisy and double standards there."
Also featured was Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive, Jewish Agency for Israel, who reiterated his 3-D test for when criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitism: De-legitimization, Demonization and Double-Standard.
In a session on "Cartoons of Criticism and Cartoons of Anti-Semitism," Michel Kichka, cartoonist and senior lecturer, Bezalel, showed examples of editorial cartoons commenting on Israel from around the
world. He showed some that were legitimate criticism, and many more that were anti-Semitic. "Israel is at war in four areas – military, diplomatic, psychological, and media – and we lost the media war," Mr. Kichka said.
The conference featured a panel moderated by Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, on the subject of "BDS" -- Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions. Israela Mani, Deputy Managing Director of Economy & Tax, Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, discussed the movement to boycott Israeli products and companies; Gerald Steinberg, Professor, Bar Ilan University and President, NGO Monitor, discussed the issue of academic boycotts; and Matthew Kalman, a Jerusalem-based foreign correspondent, discussed what he described as the three "Ps" influencing foreign news coverage of events in Israel -- policy, parachutes, and paranoia – with "policy" referring to Israeli policies that are not understood or correctly explained by foreign correspondents, "parachutes" for journalists who are dropped in to cover the region with little knowledge of the issues, and the "paranoia" of Israeli authorities in their attitude
toward the media.
The parachute journalists, "get off the plane and before they hit the ground they are already reporting," Mr. Kalman said. "And they don't know where they are. They couldn't point to this place on a map. They have no idea what they are talking about, and that goes right from the bottom right to the very top of foreign correspondents here."