Israel, the settlements and anti-Semitism

Michael Coetzee says the settlement issue has long been used as a red herring in reporting on the conflict

WE ARE often told there are many critics of Israel out there who are not anti-Semitic. Finding them can however be quite difficult.

I don't doubt for a second they exist, but they are far outnumbered by the rage-filled bigots who relish any opportunity to give voice to their anti-Semitism while hiding under the cloak of "criticism of Israeli policies".

This is especially true in the comments sections of news websites and on social media.

Take as an example an article published on a local news site on 1 September. It was a Reuters-sourced piece about the US criticising Israel for declaring 400ha of land in Gush Etzion in the West Bank as State land.

Not mentioned in this particular story, but in most other versions published the same day, is the fact that Gush Etzion is part of an area that will likely remain under Israeli control when a two-state solution is reached.

The issue of settlements has long been used as a red herring, when it is in fact well known that land swaps will form part of any two-state agreement.

Not mentioning these pertinent facts and simply reporting the new decision as if it's some sort of blatant land grab or annexation is irresponsible.

But I digress; what I'm more concerned about at the moment is not the bias of many news services, but rather the bias of the consumers of this news.

The aforementioned article's comment section was filled with anti-Semitic remarks, such as "Hitler didn't do a very good job".

In reply to this statement, another commenter said: "[Hitler] had no chance. Surrounded by leaders of Jewish ancestry he tried and he died."

Another reader called on Muslims to unite "and fight the Jews".

Note how the hostility is not directed at the Israeli government, or even Israeli citizens, but at all Jews, everywhere.

This phenomenon doesn't happen in other conflicts. When Russia invaded, occupied and annexed Crimea, there were no calls for people to unite and fight Russians wherever they find them.

News stories on that conflict didn't come with comments saying that Hitler didn't kill enough Russians, or that Stalin should have sent more of them to their deaths.

It's only when Israel hits the headlines that we see calls for collective punishment of Jews all over the world. Why? The only reasonable conclusion is that anti-Semitism is at the root of this sort of response.

If Israel does something you don't like, and you suddenly find yourself angry at all Jews, then it's time to do some introspection.

Even more disconcerting than the wave of anti-Semitism unleashed on social media in the last few months is how acceptable such outbursts have become.

People post openly anti-Semitic comments and engage in incitement using their Facebook accounts, with their names and details visible to all.

Obviously they feel that they can engage in hate speech with impunity, and they appear to be correct in this assumption.

If there are no consequences socially, legally or economically for openly advocating the murder of your fellow citizens, then South Africa's future does not look too bright.

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