James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The danger of writing about Israel

A note on writing about Israel and its conflicts with its neighbors:

Publishing anything more than superficially critical of Israel in this country is dicey business. It gives rise to some degree of fear, but that very fear and its causes are what make commentaries such as the one below necessary.

Inevitably, someone or even several people will denounce me as an anti-Semite. I will be vilified as a hater of Jews, a liar, a propagandist for terrorists and more, in all likelihood. It has happened before, more to others than to me, but I've seen it and been the brunt of some of it in the past. A friend and colleague shunned me for two or three years because of critical comments I made about some Israeli policy.

That is how critics, not enemies, of Israel have been largely silenced in this country since before Israel formally existed. The real enemies never are silenced, though what they say often is vile and untrue.

I may even lose some friends, whom I cherish. And that is a major reason that honest discourse about the Mideast has been almost absent in this country. We all fear the wrath. Only recently, in private and in on-line discussions among like-minded people have I seen or heard frank criticism of Israel and it's actions – but the discussion thus far is hidden from a wider public.

Anyone who publicly raises tough and serious questions about Israel's actions or leaders inevitably must defend himself/herself against emotional onslaughts. From my reading, I have come to think that critics within Israel – and there are far more than most Americans realize – take less abuse than critics here.

From the perspective of those who support Israel in all things at all times, charges of anti-Semitism are easier and more effective than facing up to the criticisms themselves.

Worse, at least some Jews and a few others with understandably powerful emotional ties to Israel, or at least the myth of Israel, always find themselves wondering about the true feelings of anyone sharply critical of that country. It's a sad fact and a hell of a mess, and most of us who are aware of some hard truths about the country, but who also despise racist and anti-Semitic crap, have been intimidated into keeping our thoughts to ourselves for a very long time.

Anyone who knows me knows a charge of anti-Semitism aimed at me would be absurd, but that won't matter. I can offer undeniable evidence to counter the accusations and it won't matter. There is no effective answer to the charge for those who choose to believe it, which is the reason it is used. Yet we simply must face the truth of the Middle East and Israel. The region can never be healed without that.

To haters on both ends: I'll throw away or delete unread the inevitable charges of anti-Semitism, and the almost as inevitable anti-Semitic hate material that will come my way, so don't bother.