July 23, 2014 / 25th of Tamuz, 5774
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05/01/2010
Crossing The Line Between Criticism and Anti-Semitism

The line between criticism of the State of Israel for its actions vis-à-vis the conflict with the Palestinians, and Anti-Semitism, has always seemed a fine line to me, but it is a line in my mind nonetheless. There are times though when it is clear that someone is using criticism of Israel as cover for saying hateful things about Jews, and when Haaretz recently reported on comments by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle about the State of Israel, I felt as though this line was being crossed quite clearly.  After apparent anti-Israel remarks in a comedy sketch on the BBC the network issued an apology, which prompted Mr. Boyle to call Israel a “terrorist state” and to compare the situation in the Middle East to South African Apartheid. Before he goes on another ignorant verbal rampage, it would do Mr. Boyle well, I would suggest to take a loot at a history book or two and learn something about what has actually been going on in Israel/Palestine in the last one hundred years.  I have always been very vocal in my belief for a two-state solution, but I also know that it was the Arab nations (led by the Saudis) who vehemently rejected any kind of a peaceful partition in the period immediately after World War 2, and instead opted for a series of low-intensity conflicts as well as more than one attempt at outright invasion, in order to bring about a resolution which they would have deemed acceptable. Even after the Six Day War, which shifted the balance of power somewhat, Israel found itself besieged by the PLO and other terrorist groups bent on bringing down the only democratic state in the region.

The conditions in Gaza certainly represent a humanitarian crisis of major proportions, but this is not solely the fault of Israel, and for Mr. Boyle to have said suggested so is abhorrent. What is happening in Gaza is a result of seventy years of war and armed conflict,  a near-total abdication of responsibility by neighboring Arab states (chief among them Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan) to provide humanitarian aid or offer citizenship, the extremely high level of corruption on the part of the late Yasser Arafat, and in-fighting between groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has not always behaved well either, and there are times when I think Israel has gone too far with some of its military operations, but when faced with rocket attacks and suicide bombers, I doubt there is any nation on earth which would (or frankly, should) refrain from responding with force to such disgusting provocations.

In the end, from what I read in Haaretz, it seems that Mr. Boyle is someone who had a chance to say things about Israel and Jews which are inaccurate at best, and he took it. I think that the BBC should be applauded for its apology, and Mr. Boyle should be sent to the library where perhaps he might learn a thing or two about the real history of the Middle East.

-Daniel E. Levenson
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
The New Vilna Review
www.newvilnareview.com

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The New Vilna Review is a Boston-based online journal dedicated to exploring ideas about modern Jewish identity from an individual and communal perspective. We publish essays, fiction, poetry, interviews and other media by new and established writers and artists from around the world.

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