It is not anti-Semitic to be critical of Israel, but it can be anti-Semitic to be critical only of Israel.
This is something that many Presbyterian leaders — and leaders of other Protestant denominations who have made clobbering Israel a professional preoccupation — fail to understand.
The Presbyterian church, of course, has been preternaturally concerned with Israel’s moral failings, proposing, from time to time, that the church divest its stock portfolio of companies doing business there. (Recently, the church has pulled back a bit, but only a bit). Naturally, Christians can think whatever they wish about Israel (though I tend to find the idea of Christians sitting in moral judgment of Jews somewhat chutzpah-like, given the fact that Israel only exists because Christianity showed itself chronically unwilling to accept Jews as equals).
But here’s the core of the issue: A while back, when I asked Presbyterian spokesmen to name other countries that were the subject of similar campaigns of excoriation by their church, they came back with … nothing. Not China, for its behavior in Tibet, not Russia for its treatment of Chechens, not Egypt or Sudan for their treatment of Christians, which I thought might at least qualify as a parochial concern, and certainly not Palestinians, and their leading clerics, for countenancing the murder of Jews. It was only Israel’s behavior that sent them to the barricades. This is nothing more than scapegoating, and scapegoating is a form of prejudice.
I write this not as a flaming supporter of Israeli government policy. I have been called an anti-Semite by Israel’s partisans on the American Jewish right, for my writing on the crimes of the settlement movement (http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/040531fa_fact2).
(And, by the way, Tony Judt, who self-righteously asserts that no one dare speak in America about the failings of settlers, needs to employ Google’s search engine more effectively.)
I think Jews should be critical of Jewish behavior that does not conform to the standards set by our Prophets. I also think we should not behave in the manner of Tony Judt, and of Israel’s critics on the Christian left, who seem to see only evil in the evolving Jewish experiment in nationhood.
Jeffrey Goldberg, a staff writer at the New Yorker, is the author of “Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide.