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Contemptible

By Matthew Yglesias on January 2, 2009 at 11:29 am

"Contemptible"

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Noah Pollack of Commentary deems J-Street’s statements on the fighting in Gaza “contemptible.” And good for him. Personally, I find Pollack and Commentary fanatical and the whole point of J Street is to give progressive Jews an opportunity to reclaim the conversation over Middle East policy from the sort of rancid rightwingery represented by the Commentary crowd.

But then along comes his ponderous conclusion:

It is time that thinking people started calling J Street what it actually is — an anti-Israel group.

This kind of thing really pisses me off. One simply doesn’t talk about any other country this way. Countries implement policies. In democratic countries, like Israel, those policies are subjected to debate and criticism. To have a disagreement about policies is to be engaged in political debate. But here in the United States we see this constant campaign to label political disagreement about Israeli policy or about US policy toward Israel as “anti-Israel” or even anti-semitism. It’s offensive, it’s nonsense, it’s contemptible, and it ought to stop. A person who’s opposed to the existence of Israel is “anti-Israel”; a person expressing disagreement with something the Israeli government does is criticizing public policy. It’s very hard to see how eliding the difference between the two helps the Zionist cause. The label is a useful bludgeon for Pollack to try to wield against J Street, but the blowback around the world of convincing everyone who dislikes something or other the Israeli government does that they ought to adopt an “anti-Israel” self-conception is enormous.

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