Reckless charges of anti-Semitism stunt the debate

To the Editor:

In his column, Eli Muller ’03 first dismisses the notion that criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitic, but then goes on to say that “fetishistic hatred” is inherent in such criticism anyway (“Locating the hate in anti-Zionism,” 2/28).

To Muller, calling Israel an apartheid state is anti-Semitic. This is despite the fact that Arab citizens of Israel cannot live on 92 percent of the land because it’s owned by the Jewish National Fund and therefore off-limits to all non-Jews, citizens or not. He finds it unacceptable to suggest that Israel may be guilty of ethnic cleansing, even though parties in the current government coalition have openly advocated the “transfer” of Palestinians, and even former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has called for the “mass deportations of Arabs from the territories.” Furthermore official Israeli documents themselves demonstrate that Palestinians were forcibly driven from their homes in 1948, directly countering the myth that they left voluntarily. Even today, home demolitions are a common form of intimidation. Regarding demolitions, Amnesty International notes that, “The Palestinians are targeted for no other reason than because they are Palestinian.”

Statements of fact are not libelous. Israel, like the United States, claims to be a secular state. Would it be anti-Christian to point out that the United States pushed Native Americans off their land in a way that could only be termed ethnic cleansing?

Reckless charges of anti-Semitism and racism are thrown around all too often to stunt dialogue. People are too afraid to have a real discussion, so they just try to avoid the issues by putting labels on those who raise them. If we are to move forward, we have to be willing to have an honest, open dialogue. I would therefore like to extend a personal invitation to any willing person on campus to come have a real conversation about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with me.

Saqib Bhatti ’04

February 28, 2003

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