Scarlet 'A' Is for 'Anti-Semitism'

Ideological Puritans Brand Critics of Israel

Puritan Ways: Branding heretics and witchhunts were hallmarks of 17th century America. Some Zionists are going down a similar path today.
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Puritan Ways: Branding heretics and witchhunts were hallmarks of 17th century America. Some Zionists are going down a similar path today.

By Eva Illouz

Published November 14, 2012.

(page 3 of 3)

My article was interpreted as a point by point comparison between France and Israel. But it was an attempt to engage in an exercise in historical and political imagination in order to illustrate that something fundamental about universalist morality is becoming increasingly flawed in Israeli polity. My point is simply this: in basing the definition of citizenship on religion, the Israeli-Jewish polity has considerably narrowed the range, the force and the intensity of the morality present in the Israeli public sphere.

Finally, in calling any critic of Israel anti-Semitic, some Jews are acting irresponsibly: they make the fight against real anti-Semitism less effective. Surely, there is a difference between moral critique and racial hatred? Between the will to dominate a group and the desire of justice for all?

As an Israeli I must ask my Jewish brothers and sisters to stop projecting on us their tangled relations with the majority cultures they live in, however painful these relations may be. We Israelis are facing a different set of problems. Zionism was a movement of national self-determination, which conceived of itself as a just political project. It emerged from the ardent desire of Jews to espouse the Enlightenment ideal of living a self-determined life free of fear. But whereas other movements for national emancipation in Europe succeeded, Zionism, which brought European ideas in the Middle East faced far more serious challenges, internal and external. To become again a just and universalist political project, Zionism demands an unprecedented capacity to stretch the boundaries of our political imagination. Rather than exercising a close surveillance of any and all critiques of Israel, members of the Jewish community would better help their cause by facing up to this challenge.



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