Monday, March 23, 2015

Fancy That!

This past evening, on his show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver criticized Bibi Netanyahu. Specifically, he mocked his flip-flop on whether he supported a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict -- prior to the election he had blustered that a Palestinian state wouldn't be created during his tenure; after the election he was insistent that he's all in favor of the creation of a Palestinian state. Oliver proclaimed that if Netanyahu could get away this stunt, he should "go on the road as Netanya-houdini -- 'words cannot hold him!'"

It was a funny bit. I laughed. And here's what I didn't see happen: Anyone calling Oliver anti-Semitic.

How? How is this possible? We all know, after all, that any criticism of Israel (or its current leadership) immediately tars one as an anti-Semite. And this was a criticism on a popular national television program no less! And it's not the case that he's just saying something everyone agrees with -- many American Jewish groups have taken pains to argue that there was no inconsistency in Bibi's position and, indeed, nothing to see here at all. Yet even though we had a criticism, and even though it's a criticism that (it's fair to say) many mainline Jewish groups disagree with (I'm not among them -- I trust Bibi about as far as I could throw him on the two-state solution area), nobody argued that Oliver was being anti-Semitic. Because, as it turns out, there are plenty of perfectly fair-play criticisms one can make about Israel and its government that won't be called anti-Semitic.

The refrain "you can't criticize Israel without being called anti-Semitic" continues to be a lie, and an obvious one at that. Yet no matter how many times it is falsified, no matter how many stakes are put through its heart, it will no doubt keep on shambling forward.

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