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Opinion

Readers React: Criticizing Israel is fine, but questioning its legitimacy crosses the line into anti-Semitism

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 05, 2014: Student Omar Issa Attar, right, stands in front of Royce Hall on t
Students at UCLA protest a decision by the university in 2015 not to divest from companies that do business with Israel.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I do not always agree with the Times Editorial Board, but I have never been so hurt and deeply offended as I was by its editorial saying that it isn’t anti-Semitic to oppose Israel’s right to exist.

Whether or not someone is critical of the government or was hurt by the establishment of the modern state of Israel is fair game in my mind. However, Israel is currently home to 6 million Jews, the largest population of Jews in the world. It is their homeland. Did the editorial board pause to ask, “What would happen to these 6 million Jews if Israel were to no longer exist?”

Without Israel, Jews would be subject to massacres and ethnic cleansing, like they faced in Europe prior to and during the Holocaust and more recently in the Arab world. Jews don’t have anywhere else to go.

Calling for the destruction of the homeland of the Jewish people is deeply troubling, offensive and in my view bigoted. It causes deep pain for the majority of Jews. That is why it should not be acceptable on a college campus or elsewhere.

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Terry Fahn, Pacific Palisades

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To the editor: I agree with The Times’ editorial that criticism of Zionism — or of Israel, which clearly is a political entity — is not to be conflated with anti-Semitism. But why is this false assertion of anti-Semitism being made in the first place?

I contend that it is because Israel’s consistent and well-documented record of violating Palestinians’ human rights presents proponents of Israel with a losing argument. They want to use “lawfare” to shut down the argument, particularly on college campuses, as they know they cannot successfully defend Israel’s record in an open debate.

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The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement does not call for the end of the state of Israel. Its demand for equal rights for all people who are under Israeli control is a political one; it is not based on religion or ethnicity.

Rick Chertoff, Sherman Oaks

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To the editor: The State Department definition of anti-Semitism now being used by the Department of Education isn’t some “dangerously broad” leap by the Trump administration. It’s essentially what the State Department has been using since it was mandated by a 2004 law to document and combat acts of anti-Semitism globally.

Thirty-one countries around the world have adopted the definition. Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus wisely decided that the Education Department should use this widely accepted definition to help better understand how anti-Semitism is expressed today. The definition simply recognizes that while of course not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, some is.

In 2016, the University of California system came to a similar conclusion, with the UC regents noting that “opposition to Zionism is often expressed in ways that are not simply statements of disagreement over politics and policy, but also assertions of prejudice and intolerance toward Jewish people and culture.”

The regents declared, “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

Using the definition will not in any way restrict anyone’s right to criticize Israel. Rather, the definition will simply help the Department of Education assess cases like the Zionist Organization of America’s against Rutgers University, and determine whether alleged discriminatory conduct is unlawfully motivated by bias against Jews.

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Susan Tuchman, New York

The writer is director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Law and Justice

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