John Judis writing in The New Republic has a judicious take on the American Jewish Committee’s accusations of anti-semitism. I’ll quote from his conclusion, which makes a broader point:
There is a paradox that haunts these charges of anti-Semitism. On the one hand, Rosenfeld, Harris, and others want to deny that American Jews and American Jewish organizations like AIPAC suffer from dual loyalty in trying to influence U.S. foreign policy. It’s anti-Semitic or contributes to anti-Semitism, they say, to make that charge. On the other hand, they want to demand of American Jewish intellectuals a certain loyalty to Israel, Israeli policies, and to Zionism as part of their being Jewish. They make dual loyalty an inescapable part of being Jewish in a world in which a Jewish state exists. And that’s probably the case. Many Jews now suffer from dual loyalty–the same way that Cuban-Americans or Mexican-Americans do. By ignoring this dilemma–and, worse still, by charging those who acknowledge its existence with anti-Semitism–the critics of the new anti-Semitism are engaged in a flight from their own political selves. They are guilty of a certain kind of bad faith.
These controversies over anti-Semitism come, too, at a predictable and particularly unfortunate time in the discussion of U.S. foreign policy. The last time a similar brouhaha arose was in the 1970s, when Jewish peace organizations in the United States challenged Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. At the urging of the Israeli government, organizations like Breira were run out of town by their traditional, and more subservient, brethren. Partly as a result, the United States acquiesced in Israeli policies that, in the long run, have benefited neither the United States nor Israel. The same thing could happen again. A debate has already begun over U.S. policy toward Iran in which AIPAC and the Israeli government have expressed interest in the United States stopping at nothing to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Fears of a new Holocaust–made more plausible by the very real anti-Semitism of Iran’s president–have been sounded. What policies are in the interest of the United States? And of Israel? These are difficult questions, but they are not made easier to answer when critics of Israel and of the Israel lobby in the United States are charged with anti-Semitism.
I also have a piece on this subject up on The Guardian‘s Comment Is Free website.