Unhelpful views

Gerry Chidiac’s recent column, (“Chomsky provides spiritual example,” December 3) is an unfortunate example of co-opting religion to further a political agenda.

Chidiac bemoans the fact that noted linguist Noam Chomsky is regularly derided by supporters of Israel for his harsh anti-Israel rhetoric and views, instead arguing that Chomsky is more akin to a spiritual leader.

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First and foremost, Noam Chomsky may be Jewish, but that does not excuse or legitimize his virulent anti-Israel positions, which serve to demonize the world’s only Jewish country. He has argued that the State of Israel is not a legitimate country and has no right to exist. In fact, the Jewish people have had a constant and uninterrupted history in their homeland for three millennia, and – like all peoples in the world – have a right to self-determination. 

Chidiac puts Chomsky on a spiritual pedestal simply because he aligns with his own views on the Middle East, but that does not make Chomsky a mainstream voice in the Jewish world, let alone a spiritual one.

By claiming to say what Judaism speaks for, Chidiac reduces Judaism to a political view, and even more perversely, an anti-Israel view not held by the large majority of the world’s Jews. 

The more fundamental problem with Chidiac’s position is not merely the lionizing of Noam Chomsky as a hero by virtue of his anti-Israel views, but of the general misrepresentation of criticism of Israel being a noble or sacred position.

Israel is subject to criticism like any other country and it is a straw-man argument to claim that any criticism of Israel is antisemitism.

Fortunately, there is a widely accepted, international definition of antisemitism, courtesy of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), of which Canada is a signatory. According to the IHRA definition, the delegitimizing of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is an act of antisemitism.

Thus, criticisms can be made of Israel’s actions, but when those criticisms veer from policies to negating the Jewish people’s very right to self-determination in their historic homeland, it’s not difficult to see why it’s considered to be outside the realm of legitimate criticism.

Natan Sharansky, the famed refusenik who was imprisoned in a Soviet gulag for nearly a decade for the “crime” of practising Judaism and for seeking to emigrate to Israel, further outlined a 3D approach for how to determine if criticism of Israel crosses the path into outright antisemitism: Demonization, Delegimization, and Double Standards.

When Israel is compared, not to other nation-states around the world, but to a crime against humanity, it is antisemitism. When Israel’s very existence as the independent homeland of the Jewish people is denied, it is antisemitism. And when Israel faces criticism that no other country in the world is subjected to, that’s antisemitism as well.

There is no honour, prestige or spiritual greatness gained in denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, as Chomsky has repeatedly done, nor in lauding his views as an example to be followed. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only happen when both sides agree to accept the existence of the other, and as of this writing, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has made no secret of its true views. Antisemitic messages permeate official PA schools, mosques, and media outlets, brainwashing the next generation of Palestinians into seeing Israel, not as a partner in peace, but as a cancer that must be eradicated.

If Chidiac truly wants to see peace come between Israel and the Palestinians, he would be well-advised to look at the recent peace deals between Israel and Sudan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, respectively. Israel is not the obstacle to peace; rejection of Israel is the obstacle, and the sooner that Israel’s existence is accepted – and views like Chomsky’s rejected as dangerous and unhelpful – the sooner peace may come to the Palestinians too.

Robert Walker

Toronto

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