I've never thought much of Rosa Brooks's columns
in the LA Times,
but she really outdid herself this time:Criticize Israel? You're an Anti-Semite! by Rosa Brooks
This is the internet headline. In the Times
it was "On Israel, kid gloves--or else."EVER WONDER what it's like to be a pariah?
Not really, but if I did, I'd probably imagine what it's like to live in Israel, where my neighbors want to wipe me out yet the world turns its back.Publish something sharply critical of Israeli government policies and you'll find out. If you're lucky, you'll merely discover that you've been uninvited to some dinner parties. If you're less lucky, you'll be the subject of an all-out attack by neoconservative pundits and accused of rabid anti-Semitism.
In other words, if you criticize Israel harshly, you might be criticized back.
And what's this with the neocons? Brooks knows (presumably to her chagrin) that Israel has widespread support in the U.S., only a small bit of which comes from neocons.This, at least, is what happened to Ken Roth. Roth — whose father fled Nazi Germany
Unless she thinks this gives Roth an automatic pass, why bother to bring it up.— is executive director of Human Rights Watch, America's largest and most respected human rights organization.
Reading this, you'd have no idea that HRW and Roth have for years been criticized by (non-neocon) Jewish groups and others of having anti-Israel bias.
By the way, does she have any evidence to back up the "most respected" claim?(Disclosure: I have worked in the past as a paid consultant for thie group.)
No comment.In July, after the Israeli offensive in Lebanon began, Human Rights Watch did the same thing it has done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Congo, Uganda and countless other conflict zones around the globe: It sent researchers to monitor the conflict and report on any abuses committed by either side.
The background info's irrelevant. The question at hand is simply do they report on Israel fairly.It found plenty. On July 18, Human Rights Watch condemned Hezbollah rocket strikes on civilian areas within Israel, calling the strikes "serious violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes." So far, so good. You can't lose when you criticize a terrorist organization.
Sure you can, so buck up. You get told "it's America's fault" or "they're representing their people" or "they have no other choice." And you sure hear Israel blamed for the terror inflicted upon it. In fact, I bet Brooks won't be able to hold it in for a whole column.But Roth and Human Rights Watch didn't stop there. As the conflict's death toll spiraled — with most of the casualties Lebanese civilians
Anyone who reads the papers is aware that most of the deaths were on Lebanon's side. This tells us little or nothing about human rights violations and who's at fault.— Human Rights Watch also criticized Israel for indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
"Indiscriminate." So according to HRW, Israel just bombed without giving a hoot what they were bombing. Military target, not a military target--who cares, let's have some fun.Roth noted that the Israeli military appeared to be "treating southern Lebanon as a free-fire zone,"
I'm a bit surprised Brooks mentions this, since it makes Roth look pretty extreme. Certainly one can criticize the way Israel ran the war, but claiming they weren't going after a specific enemy doesn't make much sense.and he observed that the failure to take appropriate measures to distinguish between civilians and combatants constitutes a war crime.
If Israel as its policy wasn't going after specific combatant targets, why did it bother to warn civilians when it was about to attack (while Hezbollah hid among these civilians)?
By the way, note that Israel going after enemies is a "war crime," while Hezbollah intentionally targeting civilians is only a "probable war crime."The backlash was prompt.
If by backlash you mean people having the nerve to disagree.Roth and Human Rights Watch soon found themselves accused of unethical behavior, giving aid and comfort to terrorists and anti-Semitism.
Once again, this didn't come out of the blue. Critics have spotted similiar behavior many times before.
And it should go without saying that this report was music to the ears of terrorists and anti-Semites. Brooks shouldn't deny it, she should claim it's still worth it.The conservative New York Sun attacked Roth (who is Jewish)
You know, I kind of figured that already.for having a "clear pro-Hezbollah and anti-Israel bias" and accused him of engaging in "the de-legitimization of Judaism, the basis of much anti-Semitism." Neocon commentator David Horowitz called Roth a "reflexive Israel-basher … who, in his zest to pillory Israel at every turn, is little more than an ally of the barbarians." The New Republic piled on, as did Alan Dershowitz, who claimed Human Rights Watch "cooks the books" to make Israel look bad. And writing in the Jewish Exponent, Jonathan Rosenblum accused Roth of resorting to a "slur about primitive Jewish bloodlust."
I don't know about the other pieces, but I did read TNR
and Dershowitz, who both made some good points. We're not talking about baseless accusations, but arguments explaining why Roth's methodology and analysis are seriously flawed. It would be nice if Brooks tried to meet their arguments rather than dismiss them as name-calling.
By the way, you told us the New York Sun
is conservative, and David Horowitz is a neocon--how come you didn't tell us what Alan Dershowitz is?Anyone familiar with Human Rights Watch — or with Roth — knows this to be lunacy.
Maybe paid consultants know. I doubt everyone else does.Human Rights Watch is nonpartisan — it doesn't "take sides" in conflicts.
This is the issue in dispute. I think you need a little more than mere assertion to win the day.And the notion that Roth is anti-Semitic verges on the insane.
Insane or not, I don't see anything in the quotes above directly calling him an anti-Semite. They claim he's anti-Israel (and I know you don't think that's the same thing) and spreading nonsense and/or lies that please anti-Semites.But what's most troubling about the vitriol directed at Roth and his organization isn't that it's savage, unfounded and fantastical.
Hey, we agree on something.What's most troubling is that it's typical. Typical, that is, of what anyone rash enough to criticize Israel can expect to encounter.
Yes, everyone's so frightened of criticizing Israel. This would explain why it's the most criticized country in the history of the world.In the United States today,
I have no trouble finding criticism of Israel in the U. S. (If you want some URLs I'll be glad to supply them.) Still, Brooks is wise to limit her argument to the U.S.--in other countries, it's common to blame the world's only Jewish state for practically anything.
So American's out of step with everyone else. Could the whole world be wrong about the Jews? Hmm, when's the last time that happened? Oh yeah--always.it just isn't possible to have a civil debate about Israel, because any serious criticism of its policies is instantly countered with charges of anti-Semitism.
I don't know what she's been reading, but I saw civil debate. One of the things that made it civil was those criticizing Israel didn't make cheap accusations based on flimsy evidence.Think Israel's tactics against Hezbollah were too heavy-handed, or that Israel hasn't always been wholly fair to the Palestinians,
This is not the problem. The problem is with those (and they're legion) who say Israel's actions to defend itself are always heavy-handed and that they've always been unfair to the Palestinians. Worse, many find moral equivalency between a democracy that would like peace and a terrorist organization explicitly devoted to genocide.or that the United States should reconsider its unquestioning financial and military support for Israel?
Unquestioning? It may be popular (it should be popular) but it's easy enough to find people who question it.Shhh: Don't voice those sentiments unless you want to be called an anti-Semite — and probably a terrorist sympathizer to boot.
Because Brooks is the one who gets to decide who's a bigot, and don't you forget it.How did adopting a reflexively pro-Israel stance come to be a mandatory aspect of American Jewish identity?
So we are talking about the Jews! I thought we were just talking about Americans.
Skepticism — a willingness to ask tough questions, a refusal to embrace dogma — has always been central to the Jewish intellectual tradition.
Not that it matters, but American Jews are less likely to support Israel's policies than many other denominations in this country.
Ironically, this tradition remains alive in Israel, where respected public figures routinely criticize the government in far harsher terms than those used by Human Rights Watch.
Would that all countries were as good at self-criticism.
In a climate in which good-faith criticism
Good faith in this context is meaningless. Even a Holocaust denier can have good faith.
of Israel is automatically denounced as anti-Semitic,
I'd certainly oppose this if it ever happened. Do you have any examples?
Israeli policies are a major source of discord in the Islamic world,
What did I tell you? Israel's fault.
and anger at Israel usually spills over into anger at the U.S., Israel's biggest backer.
So when groups act out on their rage, even if they blame the wrong people, we should appease them rather than oppose them?
With resentment of Israeli policies fueling terrorism and instability both in the Middle East and around the globe,
Darn it, if Israel would just stop insulting its neighbors by existing, we could have peace in the world.
it's past time for Americans to have a serious national debate about how to bring a just peace to the Middle East.
We already know how. Israel's opponents have to give up their insane, self-defeating racist hatred. Once that happens, there'll be peace. Before that happens, I don't see any solution.
But if criticism of Israel is out of bounds, that debate can't occur — and we'll all pay the price.
And whose fault will that be? Of course, Israel's. And us for backing them. Couldn't be anyone else's.
Back to Human Rights Watch's critics. Why waste time denouncing imaginary anti-Semitism when there's no shortage of the real thing?
I don't think anyone denies there's a shortage. In fact, it's the main reason Israel has to work so hard to defend itself.
From politically motivated arrests of Jews in Iran to assaults on Jewish children in Ukraine, there's plenty of genuine anti-Semitism out there — and Human Rights Watch is usually taking the lead in condemning it.
Except when they're making it easier for Jew-haters to do their job.
So if you're bothered by anti-Semitism — if you're bothered by ideologies that insist that some human lives have less value than others
Any particular ideologies you'd like to mention?
— you could do a whole lot worse than send a check to Human Rights Watch.
Or you could contribute to the Mel Gibson Defense Fund.
Well, that's it. Perhaps I was a bit harsh. No doubt if Rosa Brooks reads this it'll be more evidence we can't have a serious discussion.