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KHACHATRIAN: The Intellectual Dishonesty of 'I’m Just Criticizing Israel'

Imagine there’s someone who really dislikes the Toyota Motor Corporation. But when castigating Toyota, they don’t actually criticize the automobile manufacturer’s products or practices. They don’t specify which exact models they perceive to lack value, reek of unreliability, or whatever other foibles they’ve encountered. They don’t criticize Toyota for what Toyota actually does. In an effort to delegitimize and destroy the company, they instead concoct wild allegations that Toyota’s vehicles are wantonly killing people, and that the company is run by unhinged racists.

This is ultimately the ploy of anti-Israel activists.

Nearly every time hardline anti-Israel proponents are challenged on their own arguments – no matter how malevolent – they default to the same defense: “I’m just criticizing Israel’s government! Criticism of Israel’s government and policies is not anti-Semitism!”

Such was the case of Marc Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor and former CNN pundit. Hill was fired from his position at CNN last month after a speech he delivered at the United Nations advocating for the replacement of Israel with a Palestine state, went viral, sparking a bevy of backlash.

“CNN Fires Marc Lamont Hill for Criticizing Israel & Redacted Tonight (VIDEO)” – RT America

“CNN fires Marc Lamont Hill in wake of remarks criticizing Israel and calling for a ‘free Palestine’” – The Washington Post

“Criticizing the actions of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Since when is advocating for human rights a fireable offense? Join us in standing in solidarity with Dr. @MarcLamontHill:” – Mark Ruffalo, actor

Hill began his speech hailing a torrent of accusations on Israel, “At the current moment there are more than 60 Israeli laws that deny Palestinians access to full citizenship rights, simply because they are not Jewish. From housing to education, it is clear that any freedoms naturally endowed to all human beings are actively being stripped away from Palestinians through Israeli statecraft.”

I don’t know what these sixty-plus laws that Hill invokes are, as he doesn’t list any of them. But if he’s suggesting only Jews can become Israeli citizens, that is largely incorrect.

First, Palestinian Arabs born in Israel are citizens by birth. Immigration, however, is a more nuanced issue. Israel, in contrast to countries like Canada, is not an immigration country. It’s a Jewish state. More accurately, the Jewish state: When in 1948, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, read Israel’s Declaration of Independence, he declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel, to be known as the state of Israel.” So, for a gentile living in the United States, or some other country, immigrating to Israel on a lark isn’t the most straightforward task. But it’s not impossible. It would require first applying for a foreign work visa and having the skills to boot. Or marrying an Israeli citizen. As per the Israeli Nationality Law of 1952, “Adults may acquire Israeli citizenship through naturalization. To be eligible for naturalization a person must have resided in Israel for three years.”

Hill’s latter claims that Israeli statehood strips Palestinian Arabs from their rights to housing and education is an elusive one.

If Hill’s proposition is that Israel is at fault because its laws don’t apply to Palestinians living in the disputed territories, there is a very simple explanation here. Palestinian Arabs who live in the disputed territories don’t have to follow Israeli laws. They’re not Israeli citizens. They have to follow laws set by the Palestinian Authority. One such law is, that selling land to Jews is strictly illegal and punishable by death — are these discriminatory laws considered wrong?

Hill continued his speech by accusing Israel of holding Palestinian Arabs captive “under the threat of random violence.” He added “Contrary to western mythology, black resistance to American apartheid did not come purely through non-violence. Rather, slave revolts, and self-defense, and tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. King or Gandhi were equally important to preserving safety and obtaining freedom. We must allow the Palestinian people the same range of opportunity and political possibility.”

Despite claiming that non-violence ought to be encouraged, Hill excused terrorism against Israelis, stating “We cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians of resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing.”

The United States embassy opening its doors in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, last May was followed by a rabble of Palestinian Arabs storming the country’s 40-mile border with the Gaza strip. Amid the reams of protesters, were scads of terrorists hurling firebombs and other explosives at border guards. Israeli forces returned fire, killing 60. Hamas themselves admitted that nearly all the casualties were their own militant terrorists.

If Israel’s military operations in the West Bank and Gaza are “random violence,” as Hill suggests, then Israel is undoubtedly history’s finest force in exclusively eliminating terrorists amidst a sea of civilians by random. If, as Hill also professes, Israel practices a state policy of “ethnic cleansing” against the Palestinian Arabs, there Israel excels only in ineptitude. The Palestinian Arab population has seen nothing but rapid growth since Israel’s inception in 1948. And a 2016 UN report projected the population in the Palestinian territories to double by 2050. But regardless, Hill uses these fictitious premises to excuse and justify terrorism against Israelis.

In his closing remarks, Hill issued a call to action, demanding justice for the Palestinian Arabs, manifested as “A free Palestine from the river to the sea.”

Geographically, Israel is situated between two bodies of water: the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and the Jordan River on the east. A free Palestine “from the river to the sea” consequently eliminates Israel entirely to liberate the land it resides on in favor of the Palestinian State. Hill wasn’t criticizing Israel’s government. He was criticizing Israel’s existence.

The playbook exploited by Marc Lamont Hill and countless other anti-Israel activists ranging from Linda Sarsour to Jimmy Carter, to former Pink Floyd front man, Roger Waters, is the following:

Step 1: Fabricate a non-existent Israeli law or policy, that, if real, would constitute a colossal human rights violation. Don’t be afraid to be dramatic. Ethnic cleansing has a real ring to it. And always remember to be as vague as possible. Use broad terms and generalizations, making your claims harder to challenge on specific grounds.

Step 2: Next, feign outrage about the existence of this newly concocted law, and justify any acts of terrorism against Israel under the guise of “resistance” against this law you just invented.

Step 3: If anyone points out that what you’re saying lacks any smidgeon of truth, simply reply, “I am just criticizing the Israeli government! Are you a fascist? Am I not allowed to criticize Israeli government policies?”

It goes without saying that criticism of Israel’s government is as kosher as criticism of any country’s government. The only catch is the criticism hinges on the issue under scrutiny being real. It requires specific criticism, aimed at an existing law or practice. Conversely, what borders on bigotry is blithely fabricating non-existent laws or practices — like, Israel’s perpetration of ethnic cleansing — and using them to undermine Israel’s existence. Self-avowed “critics” of Israel who are derided as addled anti-Semites exclusively focus their ire on laws they themselves imagine into existence. Not for the betterment of the Palestinian Arabs, but for the belittling of Israel.

 
 
 

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