What is anti-Semitism?


When U.C. Santa Barbara Professor William Robinson sent students an email recently comparing Israeli actions in Gaza to what the Nazis did to the Jews in Warsaw, it was, in some eyes, yet another case of criticism of Israel veering towards blatant anti-Semitism. Robinson, not surprisingly, saw it differently. So the Los Angeles Times set out to sort things out for us.

Here’s the bottom line, courtsey of the deputy editor of the Times’ editorial page, Nicholas Goldeberg:

The Foxmans and Dershowitzes say that comparing Israelis to Nazis is, in the final analysis, anti-Semitic because it is so demonstrably untrue and so patently disingenuous. Even Israel’s fiercest critics, they argue, ought to concede that the country’s actions have been taken in its own defense — even if one believes that defense was misguided or disproportionately violent or even criminal. Further, they say that the number of Palestinian deaths during the 60-year conflict can’t begin to compare to the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. To suggest a moral equivalency is anti-Semitic because it’s so absurd.

Robinson’s bottom line is this: Whether you accept the analogy or find it "absurd," the real principle at stake is that of open debate and academic freedom. A professor engaging in a controversial conversation with his students may not be shut down by the defenders of a particular ideology. Deeply held beliefs are there to be challenged; that’s how critical thinking is developed.

You be the judge.

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