February 3, 2013
This post was written by Ivan Bielik (email contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
At the end of 2012, American Simon Wiesenthal Center announced the list of 2012 Top Ten Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs. Besides Iranian regime or Greece’s Golden Dawn there is a name of one German journalist named Jakob Augstein. He might have deserved the place in the list because of criticism of Israeli politics and its leadership. For this reason, he is dangerous for world peace. Why is it a farce?
It is crucial now to explain what exactly anti-Semitism is because, according to definition, we are able to review the strength of Wiesenthal Center’s objection towards Mr. Augstein then. According to English dictionary anti-Semite is a person who is hostile toward or prejudiced against Jews. It is important to point out that there is no direct link to Israeli (Jewish) politics. Jews are meant in the definition as an ethnic group.
The fundamental problem lies in this distinction. In the report, some quotations of Mr. Augstein are presented. There are the views on Israeli political leadership, nuclear threat in the Middle East and impediment of lasting peace in the region, “special relationship” of Israel with the US or Gaza Strip problem. There is nothing offensive against Jews as an ethnic group. No call for extermination, no hostility, only critique of Israeli politics. In this moment I ask myself what is wrong when one criticize some politicians? Are Israeli political elites untouchable? Do they act only just or reasonably? The people of Europe are used to read in newspapers about politics. In many cases it is more negative than positive image, but criticism of politics is normal practice in Europe (at least in the EU). The benefit which such actions have been bringing is the plurality of opinions, the possibility of seeing the problem from different point of view. In fact, the idea of democracy is based on plurality. Therefore, I cannot see any plausible reason why politicians ought not to be criticized for their decisions.
From the theory of argumentation, Wiesenthal Center makes obvious fallacy. It is called Ad hominem attack. This strategy is, although seductive, not reasonable in discussion because instead of refuting arguments of opponent, you start to attack his/her personality. Thus, Ad hominem does not provide any reason for believing in the conclusion. For the simplicity, I present the reasoning of Wiesenthal Center.
If anybody criticizes Israel, then he/she is an anti-Semite.
Every anti-Semite is bad person.
Mr. Augstein did criticize Israel.
Therefore, he is anti-Semite and bad person.
But this is not a good or sound argument because criticizing Israeli politics is not a definition of anti-Semitism. So, the argument has got a false premise.
There is another point to add. Indeed, there are not only non-Jews who are criticizing Israeli politics, but also Jews who are doing the same (for example Tony Judt or Hannah Arendt). Are they then also anti-Semites? No. Afterwards they contradict themselves. Criticizing politics is not a symptom of ethnic hatred. So, the assumption of Wiesenthal Center is false.
At this point I would like to make absolutely clear that any hostility or prejudices against Jewish people are unthinkable from my side. Jews are equal as French or Germans or Czechs. These ethnics should never be objects of hatred or prejudices. But we ought to be aware of differentiating between ethnicity and politics. Politicians are subjects of media scrutiny in France, Germany or Czech Republic. Are Israeli politicians different case? I do not think so.
As a consequence, such Ad hominem strategy is hazardous approach. Showing that Israeli center does not allow any dissenting opinion about politics in Jewish state leads to proclamation of some sort of exclusiveness and self-arrogance. Such approach is not going to gain support and friends for Israeli case. I am afraid that it will be conversely. It is up to representatives of Israel to decide what path they will take. Mr. Augstein is not dangerous for Jews, but their reluctance of criticizing their political leaders is.
Author : ipwg