Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Paper on Distinguishing Between Criticism of and Bias Against Israel

The topic of Israel is a volatile one which can lead to heated rhetoric. Some of that rhetoric has been described as Antisemitic, while those who use such rhetoric claim that such criticisms are nothing more than an attempt to silence Israel's critics.

Cartoon by Dave Brown that later won first prize in the British Political
Cartoon Society's annual competition

To address the issue, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in NY has now come out with a 2 page document to serve as a guide for dialogues about Israel to ensure that those dialogues can be critical of Israel -- without crossing into bigotry, bias and baseless assertions.

The paper is entitled: Elevating the Discussion to Advance Peace: Distinguishing Between Criticism of and Bias against Israel, and is formatted as a Word document.

Here is an excerpt:
...Though separated by thousands of miles, Americans of all stripes engage full throttle in these debates. At times, though, differences devolve into uncivil acrimony - and sometimes into bias and even bigotry. When this occurs, dignity is diminished, people holding diverse viewpoints cease listening to each other, and reconciliation moves farther down the road.

To enhance understanding and inter-group civility, it is necessary to distinguish between criticism of and bias against Israel. Stifling debate or dissent is NOT our intent.

...We are concerned when critique of Israel is characterized by:
  1. Denying the very legitimacy of the State of Israel and the right of the Jewish people as a nation to sovereignty in any portion of its ancient homeland.

  2. Criticizing the efforts of the State of Israel to defend itself without considering the right to self-defense or the causes that lead to the need for self-defense.

  3. Assigning to Israel responsibility for all Palestinian violence and incitement, or justifying all Palestinian violence and incitement.

  4. Failing to acknowledge when Israel takes risks for peace and takes positive steps in the treatment of Palestinians and to end the conflict.

  5. Criticizing Israel for its wrongs while not criticizing others involved in the conflict for their wrongs or identifying Israel as the root of all the problems in the Middle East, because moral integrity is linked to moral consistency.

  6. Employing certain anti-Jewish motifs, such as those that assert Jewish control or conspiracy to control finance, media, or government.

  7. Using outdated Christian theological understandings of Judaism and the Jewish People, which most Churches have repudiated since the Holocaust, in discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    These include:

    1. Those supersessionist and replacement theologies that cast Jewish religious beliefs and practices as primitive, legalistic, tribal, and parochial in the face of Christian universalism, in application to the Israel-Palestinian conflict;

    2. Assignment of biblical responsibilities and judgments to the modern state of Israel that are not assigned to any other country;

    3. That theological view that holds that the Jewish people lost all right to the land because of their rejection of Christianity;

    4. The use of biblical texts that assign to Israel only prophecies of punishment and doom and not those of restoration to the land;

    5. The use of the adversos Iudaeos tradition which employs classic medieval Christian anti-Jewish stereotypes and extends the classic Christian teaching of contempt from Judaism and the Jewish people to Zionism and the State of Israel.

  8. These theologies betray deep rooted theological bias, not just against Israel, but also against Judaism and the Jewish people. Careful attention must be given to use of the language of the cross or deicide imagery in describing the actions of the modern Jewish state. 
Read the whole thing.

It's a start.

The paper is co-authored by Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, Judaic Scholar at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, JCPA Vice President Ethan Felson and Rabbi David Sandmel, Crown Ryan Chair of Jewish Studies, Catholic Theological Union and Senior Advisor on Interreligious Affairs, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.


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