Letter: Beyond a matter of speech

Re: “A debate to be had, not censored” (Sept. 3): Ken Hershey ’13 hit the mark both with his general defense of academic freedom and his particular defense of the validity of talks given at the recent Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism conference.

However, there is a larger issue at stake here as well. Too many people — and this same sentiment was reflected both in the letter to President Levin from the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the recent opinion column by Yaman Salahi LAW ’12 (“Anti-Semitism but not anti-hatred,” Sept. 1) — defend anti-Semitic statements, beliefs and actions on the basis that they are merely “anti-Israel,” not anti-Semitic. Such sophistry has to stop. Opposition to specific Israeli policies is wonderful and legitimate, but too many hold Israel to extreme double-standards that can only be understood through the lens of age-old bigotry. To question the very legitimacy of the Jewish state while placidly accepting every other nation’s right to self-determination, to advocate for reparations for 1948 Arab refugees while ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab lands in the same period, to apply standards of proportionality to Israeli operations in Gaza different from NATO operations in Afghanistan all reflect attitudes of sinister, targeted irrationality.

And when the Jewish people is the only nation repeatedly subjected to these irrational, harmful double-standards, we must call these attacks by their rightful name: anti-Semitism.

-Yishai Schwartz

The writer is a sophomore in Branford College and the vice president of Yale Friends of Israel.


  • theantiyale

    *”but too many hold Israel to extreme double-standards that can only be understood through the lens of age-old bigotry.”*

    Dear Yishai Schwartz:

    I appreciate the conciliatory tone of your letter. Permit me to ask aquestion or two, please.

    Who are the “too many” in your letter?

    Certainly not the United States.

    My understanding is that Palestinian refugees had their homeland *taken from them* by an international edict, supported by the United States.

    Did “the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab lands in the same period” have their homeland taken from them?

    Does the fact that I dare to ask such questions seemingly critical of your letter make me “anti-semitic”?

    I recall asking a girl at Hamden High to go to a dance with me at the New Haven Country Club
    where my ballroom dancing lessons took place. She refused, saying the New Haven Country Club was anti-semitic because it refused to allow Jewish members.

    I was so naive at the time (1961, when I was a sophomore) that I had to ask my parents what “anti-semitism” was. Their explanation: Discrimination against Jews.Talk about growing up in an ethnocentric cocooon in Mt. Carmel.

    Ironically, Hamden High became the subject of a *Time* *Magazine* article that year because someone painted swastikas on the outside of its gym, the first such act of anti-semitic graffiti is decades in Connecticut.

    I am not naive now. Nor am I anti-semitic simply because I dare to ask you for answers about your opinions on Israel and anti-semitism.

    Thank you for your letter.

    Paul D. Keane, M. Div. ’80
    M.A., M. Ed

  • clarkejl

    Dear Mr Schwartz:

    Are you really suggesting that anyone who advocates for standards of proportionality in Israel’s military responses is an anti-Semite?

    On both sides, it seems, there is a tendency to suspect every critic of being motivated by bigotry (Arab and Muslim nations, too, could cite dozens of examples of “irrational, harmful double-standards” on the part of the international community).

    Undoubtedly, the supporters of both Israelis and Palestinians include some who are fueled by racial bias, but we should not allow these elements to stand in the way of peace. The best hope for advancing peace is through dialogue, which cannot happen until we stop accusing every opponent of bigotry.

    Joseph Clarke, Ph.D. Architecture 2015

  • ignatz

    Paul Keane’s impression — “that Palestinian refugees had their homeland taken from them by an international edict, supported by the United States” — is not uncommon, but it is wrong. The Palestinians-formerly-known-as-Arabs had no “homeland” in the State of Israel. Read Mark Twain’s account of his visit to Jerusalem circa 1900 — he found it desolate and largedly devoid of habitation. Indeed, the assertion of Palestinian “nationhood” and “homeland” arose only after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. What a coincidence! By the way, the so-called “refugees” of today are the children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren of those original refugees — only in the wacky world of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency is refugee status hereditary, and only for Palestinianis.

  • theantiyale


    In September 1947, one month after Partition of India, UNSCOP recommended partition in Palestine, a suggestion ratified by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947. .

    . . . On May 14, 1948, the last British forces left Haifa, and the Jewish Agency, led by David Ben-Gurion, declared the creation of the State of Israel, in accordance with the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Both superpower leaders, U.S. President Harry S. Truman and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, immediately recognized the new state.

    @ ignatz
    I realize that *Wikipedia* is a dubious source
    (above) but when it says “partition in Palestine,”
    I’m assuming that the people
    living in Palestine prior to the partition
    could reasonably be called
    “Palestinians”, *n’est-ce-pas?*


  • SY10


    Consider the majority of American critics of Israel – do you really think we don’t apply the same standards to the US and NATO? I would venture to say that criticism of Israeli policies is highly correlated with criticism of the US military’s actions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the liberals you seem to think oppose Israel out of antisemitism actually spend much more energy opposing American policies that we think are equally problematic. You might also consider why so many of the most promintent liberal critics of Israel are Jewish – perhaps it’s because of Judaism’s tradition of concern for the dignity and human rights of all people, and because many Jews understand that it is Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, that should take the lead in upholding those Jewish values. We who criticize in democratic societies often do so because we want the states we criticize to be the exemplars of their values, not out of hatred for them.

    As for those who question Israel’s right to exist (at least in anything other than as a purely academic question that offers equal concern about countries of the New World similarly founded on land previously inhabited by other people), you’re right – they are likely antisemitic. But where was the questioning of Israel’s legitimacy in Mr. Salahi’s column? In the debate as played out in the YDN, it seems to be nothing more than a strawman.

  • Yaman


    I have responded to the misrepresentations you made about my column. You can read my response, as well as my critique of several of the errors in your letter, here: [Response to Yale Friends of Israel][1].

    [1]: http://www.yamansalahi.com/2010/09/07/current-events/response-to-yale-friends-of-israel/

  • Brick

    Paul and Joseph,

    Gentlemen, it is extremely unfortunate that people who criticize Israel frequently overlook similar or worse misdeeds made by Israel’s enemies: the Jordanian civil war and massacre of Palestinians in September 1970; the Syrian massacre of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama; the Egyptian blockade against Gaza; the hijacking of the cruise ship “Achille Lauro” and the subsequent murder of a wheelchair-bound passenger, just to name a few. Also, it is easily forgotten that Palestinian passports are not legal travel documents in Syria or Canada, and that Palestinian citizenship is not recognized in Syria or Lebanon, where refugee camps have remained since 1948.

    It is not your criticism of Israel that is anti-semitic in nature; rather, it is the double standard that you use to judge Israel.

    Be well,