Saturday, July 03, 2021

Academic BDS Comes to China

The Guardian has an interesting article about a scientific journal editor, David Curtis, who stepped down from his post after his attempt to implement a boycott of Chinese academics was rebuffed by his publishers. The direct precipitation of his resignation appears to be a mix of two things: first, that he was prevented from publishing an article he co-authored raising the specter of a China boycott, and second, that he had of his own accord begun implementing a policy of rejecting all submissions by Chinese academics due to "the complicity of the Chinese medical and scientific establishment in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs." (The latter decision was denounced by the journal higher-ups as a violation of policies forbidding national origin discrimination).

It is not clear whether the figures involved in the call to boycott Chinese academics are involved in the BDS campaign against Israel. I can imagine them being sympathetic; I can also imagine them being people who thought BDS against Israel was absurd precisely because we should be starting with more serious violators like China and decided to put their money where their mouth was (a quick google search didn't reveal any particular links between Curtis and BDS, whether favorable or critical).

I have been banging the drum about the likelihood that BDS (or BDS-style tactics) will at some point stop "singling out" Israel and make itself apparent as part of activists' toolkits addressing other countries and controversies. And indeed, this particular iteration seems highly reminiscent of the earliest days of anti-Israel BDS (not only because it is originating in the UK). The flat ban on submissions by Chinese academics is identical to how academic BDS began -- the earliest significant academic BDS "move" was a decision by a British journal editor to demand the resignation of Israeli colleagues from her editorial board because "I can no longer live with the idea of cooperating with Israelis as such." Nowadays the BDS movement has made gestures at moving away from pure nationality-based discrimination in favor of allegedly targeting only "institutions, not individuals"; I suspect if the China BDS movement gains legs it will begin making a similar pivot (though, as with the Israel case, I also suspect that the new standard will often be honored primarily in the breach).

But what does the potential emergence of a China academic BDS movement mean for the future of the Israel academic BDS campaign? The core personnel are going to be different -- partially because different people have different interests, partially because the Israel BDS movement has more than its share of tankies who think the entire Uighur issue is western imperialist claptrap. Nonetheless, there will likely be some overlap, and the fact that BDS is being promoted in other cases will do more to legitimize it as a legitimate option even as there may be disagreements about whether a BDS style campaign is properly applied to this or that case. So in that sense, any successful mainstreaming of the China BDS campaign will likely help bolster the Israel one even if the principal actors are different people.

On the other hand, the development of "BDS" in the China context, precisely because it offers a comparator case and can falsify the "singling out" hypothesis, also is likely to generate new norms which will serve to modulate and regulate the Israel case as well. While Curtis' proposal is drastic -- no submissions from any Chinese academics, period -- it is supremely unlikely, given China's integration into global academia and knowledge-production, that a BDS movement of that form will gain any traction. Far more plausible is the implementation of considerably more narrow and targeted measures -- particular institutions or projects that are inextricably bound up in human rights abuses that directly (and not just by association) taint the specific academic work emanating therefrom. And particular will likely actually be particular -- it will not be tenable to use sweeping notions of complicity or culpability to drag in every single Chinese university or institution (the main mechanic by which "institutions, not individuals" reverts back to "individuals").

This is part of what I've been saying when I suggest that social movements, BDS including, "moderate as they mainstream." The more BDS becomes a general tool of social activism rather than an Israel-only one-off, the more it will adjust itself to adopt standards that actually can be plausibly generalized to a range of cases, and while extirpation of all Israelis from the global community is at least a conceivable social goal, extirpation of all Chinese nationals (or all nationals of all countries whose governments are implicated in significant human rights abuses) is not.

Put differently, to the extent people start thinking seriously about applying "BDS" to the China case in a manner that is plausible and scalable, the equilibrium that will be set will be one that likely will not countenance flat bars on academic participations by persons of a particular nationality, nor "institutional" proscriptions that amount to doing the same thing, but may accept narrowly-tailored measures targeted at specific wrongdoers. And -- insofar as China would be used as a comparator case to justify measures in other states as well (namely, Israel) -- there is a decent chance that these norms will translate over to the Israeli case as well. It won't happen without a fight, and you can be sure that the old-guard will continue to insist on the more fundamentalist version. But I do think that's the most likely trajectory.

Coming Soon: Abolishing Qualified Immunity for Everyone But Killer Cops

As "qualified immunity" has become a more prominent target for criminal justice reformers, it has been noted by many that Justice Thomas has regularly been issuing calls for the Court to reconsider the doctrine (one which, as he notes, has little historical or textual basis to it). But yesterday, writing on the denial of certiorari in a case called Hoggard v. Rhodes, Justice Thomas gave further color to how his revisiting qualified immunity might look -- and it doesn't exactly bode well:

[T]he one-size-fits-all doctrine [of qualified immunity] is also an odd fit for many cases because the same test applies to officers who exercise a wide range of responsibilities and functions.... why should university officers, who have time to make calculated choices about enacting or enforcing unconstitutional policies, receive the same protection as a police officer who makes a split-second decision to use force in a dangerous setting? We have never offered a satisfactory explanation to this question.

In other words, Justice Thomas is suggesting a path where we keep something like qualified immunity for police officers using violent force, but abolish it for public university officials contending with the judiciary's rapidly evolving and often seemingly arbitrary campus free speech jurisprudence, because police officers have to make "split-second decisions" whereas campus deans have time to "calculate". If ever there was a way to get the new right-wing court onboard with getting rid of qualified immunity, holding out the possibility that one could open up politically targeted harassment suits of hoity-toity college administrators while preserving the authority of the police to maim with impunity is about as tantalizing as one could get.

On the point that police officers are differently situated because they have to make "split-second" choices, I'd note first that a separate distinguishing feature between the deans and police officers is that the alleged constitutional violations of deans typically don't involve killing anyone (and typically can be fully remedied by injunctive relief). I'd note second that judges sometimes have a propensity to describe any police misconduct as involving "split-second decisions" even in cases where they are absolutely making calculated choices under no especial pressure or time crunch.

Eight Good Deeds

As many of you no doubt have heard, a Rabbi by the name of Shlomo Noginski was stabbed the other day outside a Jewish community center near Boston. A suspect has been arrested and Rabbi Noginski is, thankfully, recovering.

At a rally in his support, one of the Rabbi Noginski's colleagues urged people to respond to this horrible attack with eight good deeds -- one for each time the Rabbi was stabbed. I thought it was a great sentiment (if admittedly just a touch macabre), and decided to donate, in Rabbi Noginski's honor,  to eight organizations pursuing justice in the United States and around the world.

Below are the organizations I donated to. I invite you to join me, whether with these organizations or others that pursue projects meaningful to you.

***

The Anti-Defamation League: Still without parallel as a force fighting extremist hate and bigotry around the world.

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society: One of the premier immigrant rights organizations in America. Their slogan -- "We Used to Take Refugees Because They Were Jewish. Now We Take Them Because We're Jewish" -- makes me swell with pride.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund: With the Supreme Court dealing yet another blow to voting rights in America, the NAACP LDF's work could not be more urgent.

OneVoice: For years, they've been doing the hard, thankless work building grassroots support within both Israel and Palestine for peace and justice based on mutual respect for the rights and dignity of all persons in the region.

Be'chol Lashon: One of many great organizations supporting Jews of all hues and backgrounds, and which works tirelessly to ensure that the Jewish community is an equitable place for everyone in our community.

Harlem Lacrosse: A wrap-around support network for young people in five cities (including Boston) across America -- it's great (and not just because my wife helps run it!).

Operation Hope: The effort to provide economic opportunity to communities underserved by contemporary capitalism is the "silver rights movement" (and not just because my brother helps run it!).

Stop AAPI Hate: The attack on this Rabbi is one instance of a larger wave of racist violence which has afflicted many communities across the country, and we're stronger when we fight it together.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What is "All Lives Matter-ing"?

A trend I've noticed in Jewish discourse recently is an uptick in people complaining about folks allegedly "All Lives Matter-ing" antisemitism. Sometimes, the complaints strike at behavior that seems obviously dismissive or denigrating towards Jewish activism against antisemitism. Other times, they seem to target statements that seem utterly anodyne or even salutary in clearly addressing antisemitism. There doesn't, however, seem to be a clear unifying thread save that the targets usually are not talking just about antisemitism -- they're either talking about antisemitism alongside some other oppression(s), or they're speaking in general terms about "oppression" without mentioning antisemitism specifically.

Does that suffice to explain what it means to "All Lives Matter" something? And if not, what, exactly, does this complaint mean? What is the proper understanding of "All Lives Matter-ing"?

I should start by saying that I'm not wild about the appropriation of "All Lives Matter-ing" in this context at all, for reasons relayed in this post. It often seems used less to illuminate a problem and more as a sort of nyah-nyah gotcha predicated on the wrong and alienating view that well obviously you'd see this is wrong if it were Black people frame that I loathe so much. For the most part, rather than grabbing language from other social movements that may or may not fit our own situation, we'd be better served to develop our own vocabulary that is tailored to our own case.

But to the extent there is a useful "generic" account of what it means to "All Lives Matter" something, what is it? Here's my rough stab at it, which certainly is open to refinement:

To "All Lives Matter" something is to respond to a complaint of an injustice experienced by a particular community by suggesting the complaint is illegitimate or exclusionary unless it is reframed away from focusing on the particular community and instead presented in more universal language.

Under this account, "All Lives Matter" ALMed "Black Lives Matter" because it responded to the particular claim of injustice identified by the BLM slogan by suggesting that this claim, or the campaign around it, is illicit and exclusionary because it is particularly about Black lives and should instead speak of all lives.

The first important feature of my account is that ALMing is necessarily reactive. It responds to something; it chastises another statement or movement or campaign that is already on the table. If it isn't responsive, it isn't an ALM statement. Consider the following sentence:

"We should treat people of all backgrounds with courtesy and respect."

Is that sentence "All Lives Matter-ing"? Not on its own, no. People say sentences like that all the time, with no particular controversy or compunction. There is no general proscription against saying banal universalistic niceties.

However, if one has just heard an account of how, in one's organization, Black employees are consistently denigrated, viewed as inferior, have their views shut down, concluded with a plea that the organization needs to "treat our Black employees with courtesy and respect", responding

"We should treat people of all backgrounds with courtesy and respect,"

with an arched voice and a tone of reproach -- that's All Lives Matter-ing. It responds to a specific account of injustice faced by a particular group by suggesting it's illegitimate precisely because it speaks of a particular group rather than of the universal "all". That, of course, is the original relationship of "All Lives Matter" to "Black Lives Matter" -- the objection was not to any sentence that expresses universalist humanist sentiments, it was to a particular sentence uttered in a particular context where it was expressly presented as a retort to "Black Lives Matter." Absent that reactive character, such a sentence is not All Lives Matter-ing.

Second, "All Lives Matter-ing" does not encompass every situation where someone tries to link different forms of oppression or marginalization together. Again, this is very obvious once one looks at the original context of how ALM related to BLM. After all, say what you will about Black Lives Matter activists who posit links between police violence in Ferguson and Gaza, or Chicago and Columbia, it would be weird to claim that they're "All Lives Matter-ing" themselves. Clearly, the objection to "All Lives Matter" is not meant to encompass any effort at solidarity or inter-group alliance.

If someone says "our experience with misogyny calls us to stand with victims of homophobia," they are not ALMing. If someone says "we oppose worker exploitation in San Juan, just as we oppose it in San Jose", they are not ALMing either. If someone says "we oppose racism, misogyny, antisemitism, and homophobia", they also aren't ALMing unless they're doing so in response to pressure which suggests a statement which solely focused on any one of those would be illegitimate for not mentioning the rest. But of course people are permitted to say, of their own accord, that they oppose multiple forms of oppression -- how weird would it be to argue otherwise? 

Again, attempts at coalition-building wouldn't satisfy the above definition of ALMing at least insofar as they are not done to delegitimize the initial claim of injustice, or to suggest that the initial, "unadorned" protest against it was illicit or improper. One can imagine circumstances where calls for coalition do take such a form, but the mere fact that someone is seeking to draw two cases of oppression together and forge an alliance among those fighting them is obviously not enough (how spectacularly self-defeating if it were!).

With this account in mind, how do the alleged cases of folks ALMing antisemitism fare? As one might guess, it depends.

On the one hand, consider a recent case where the diversity officer for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators was terminated one day after releasing a statement addressing antisemitism and hate crimes spikes against the Jewish community -- allegedly because releasing such a statement was disrespectful to Palestinians (the statement, for what it's worth, did not mention Israel, Palestine, or Zionism in any way). That case fits the ALM frame I promote above quite well -- the backlash was in response to a statement regarding the particular problem of antisemitism, which was presented as illegitimate insofar as its specific focus on Jews was interpreted as implicitly denigrating the status of other groups unnamed. Where the mere fact that a given organization is talking about antisemitism, specifically, is portrayed as exclusionary and thereby illegitimate, with the proposed correction "talk about all these other groups too" -- that's ALMing.

On the other hand, I recently had a conversation with a Jewish professional regarding how to mobilize against hate speech online, such as Cynthia McKinney's tweet about Zionists being responsible for 9/11, by working with other communities who also experience a glut of hateful and harassing speech on social media. In the course of explaining why I didn't like the (false and hurtful) frame that companies like Twitter "protect every group but the Jews", I proffered an alternative:

"Social media has a hate problem, of which McKinney's tweet is just the latest example. Jews know it, Muslims know it, women know it, people of color know it, the LGBT community knows it -- everyone seems to know it but Twitter."

For this, I was accused of promoting an "All Lives Matter" frame. Now, I'd have been entirely fine with just saying "Cynthia McKinney's tweet was antisemitic, and Twitter needs to show it takes antisemitism seriously." I have no issue with attacking her tweet as antisemitic, unadorned -- it doesn't have to come attached to discussion of any other form of hatred in order to be opposed. But it struck me as extremely weird -- bizarre even -- to tell me that even trying to present this issue in a way that presents a unified front with other groups is a form of ALM. Seriously?  If we ever try to make common cause with other groups (to say nothing of the members of our own community whose identities intersect with other groups), we're now out-of-bounds? That's not standing up for oneself, that's setting oneself up for political failure.

This is part of a worrisome pattern, where any time someone situates the fight against antisemitism as part of any larger struggle or campaign, they'll be accused of ALMing. Woe befall the statement condemning antisemitism that also mentions racism, or the social movement which tries to establish linkages between antisemitism and Islamophobia -- it's All Lives Matter-ing!

The kernel of legitimate worry here is the fear that fighting antisemitism "alone" will be viewed as illegitimate unless it is sanctified by association with these other, supposedly more prestigious, struggles. This worry, of course, is what actuates my own definition of ALMing above (a complaint about X specific oppression is delegitimated  as exclusionary unless it is folded into a larger and non-particular campaign). But when that worry causes one to lash out against any and all endeavors which locate the fight against antisemitism as existing alongside other struggles, all one ends up doing is obliterating the possibility of allyship and solidarity. That it is justifiable to fight against antisemitism alone does not mean it is preferable to fight against antisemitism alone. 

And indeed, while I think Jews are absolutely entitled to talk about antisemitism unadorned, we also should be free to decide that in certain situations it is better to talk about antisemitism as part of a network or relationship with other bigotries -- a larger practice of hate speech online, a larger system of White supremacy, a larger complex of discriminatory dismissal -- without being accused of treating antisemitism as "lesser" for doing so. It can be better because it's better tactics; it can be better because it builds relationships with other communities we care about (or, for some of us, are part of as well!). But the fundamentalist form of the ALM accusation undermines those efforts, and that's a problem. Particularly given how deeply much of our community thirsts for solidarity from other groups that we feel is not forthcoming, it is impossible to overstate how spectacularly self-sabotaging misapplication of the "All Lives Matter" charge can be.

I suspect the root of the problem, to circle all the way back to the beginning, is that often the "All Lives Matter" accusation really isn't about a thought-out analytical account of how to appropriately versus inappropriately talk about antisemitism. Its main motivator is the perception -- at best incompletely accurate, at worst absolutely misguided -- that "ALM" is an accusation people listen to, and so if we can invoke it (regardless of whether it makes sense to do so) people will listen to us too (or if they don't, we can bask in the satisfaction of knowing they're hypocrites). For Jews who feel like we can't get others to listen to us, that promise can be intoxicating -- even though when the "ALM" charge fails to compel others to listen we won't be uncovering a hypocrisy so much as we'll be experiencing the same failures others experience right alongside us.

Nonetheless, if ALM is going to become a generic charge (and again, my own reservations notwithstanding, perhaps that ship has sailed), we have a responsibility to get it right. Getting it right does not mean tossing it out like candy any time antisemitism is mentioned in the same breath as another oppression. It means opposing a very specific move, where people respond to entreaties about antisemitism by viewing them as illegitimate unless they universalize themselves. Does that happen? Absolutely it does, and it's repellant. Is that what's happening every time someone talking about antisemitism is accused of "All Lives Matter-ing"? No, and it's high time we learned to tell the difference.

A Letter to Fellow Jews on Open Discourse, Rigorous Inquiry, and Generosity of Spirit

A few weeks ago, Tema Smith and I began circulating a letter about how leaders in the Jewish community talk about "social justice" concepts -- things like Critical Race Theory, White supremacy, and intersectionality. We were concerned at how often prominent Jewish figures treated these terms in a strawmanned or caricatured fashion -- held out as boogeymen responsible for every stupid column some college sophomore penned at UC-Santa Cruz. This treatment did not reflect the values of open discourse, rigorous inquiry, or generosity of spirit that are essential to fair and productive dialogue (ironically, values that many of the offenders cited in cavalier dismissal of the relevant concepts).

The letter was delayed by the eruption of hostilities between Israel and Palestine in Gaza, but now has been publicly released. I am tremendously proud of the diverse set of prominent Jewish leaders who have signed on. To name just a few, we have:

  • Esther Lederman of the URJ
  • Rabbi Amy Eilberg, the first woman ordained by the Conservative Jewish movement
  • Aaron Keyak, Joe Biden's director of Jewish engagement
  • Eric Greene of the Jewish Multiracial Network
As Tema put it, reading the list of signatories makes me feel a part of very good company!
 
In addition, while our letter is not a direct response to the "Jewish Institute for Liberal Values" missive published last month, I will note that we also have several signatories from the original "Harper's Letter" onboard our piece as well, and I daresay that ours represents a more faithful manifestation of the values of that letter in terms of insisting on fair, rigorous, and generous readings of contested social phenomenon.

I reprint the content of the letter below. If you wish to add your name, we still are accepting signatures via this form.

***
A Letter to Fellow Jews on Open Discourse, Rigorous Inquiry, and Generosity of Spirit

We are Jews of a variety of political, religious, and ideological stripes. We hold diverse views but we unite in affirming the indispensable need for rigorous, open discourse in all aspects of Jewish communal life.

We write to note our concern that, in many key contexts and several critical moments, significant portions of our community have not successfully lived up to these values when assessing contemporary social justice movements. Too many Jewish public figures have engendered discussions of concepts like “intersectionality”, “critical race theory”, “white privilege” (or “white supremacy”), and other like terms where they are painted in simplistic, even glib, forms that bear little to no relationship to what proponents of these theories actually advocate. It is especially alarming that these bad faith critiques have accelerated alongside the growing recognition of the impacts of racism in America, including inside our Jewish community.

Unfortunately, we have regularly seen Jewish organizations, public figures, and media outlets level “critiques” of social justice concepts that are almost entirely unmoored from any engagement with their actual content. We have read with dismay too many articles that purport to speak authoritatively on social justice without ever citing or even referencing crucial primary source material, leading to a marked gap between what these concepts are alleged to assert about Jews (and others) compared to what they actually say. Nuance is swept aside to support uncharitable or outright hostile interpretations, and obvious absurdities are presented so that these concepts can be dismissed without further thought. The result is an impoverishment of Jewish communal discourse and a failure of our thought leaders to fulfill the basic obligations of an honest interlocutor.

Ironically, while those who criticize these social justice terms (and their associated political movements) often level their concerns in language of free speech and liberal discourse, they frequently do not display the generosity of spirit and commitment to fair, impartial, and rigorous reading that makes genuine inquiry and debate possible.

Just as Jews can reasonably insist that those who speak about, e.g., Zionism, antisemitism, Orthodoxy, “chosenness”, or other weighted terms avoid strawman caricatures of such concepts, basic respect should compel Jewish speakers to seek out genuine knowledge of social justice theories grounded in actual, reputable primary source texts. Sweeping statements that such theories (for example) make crude divisions of the world into “oppressor” and “oppressed” classes, or explicitly identify Jews as White supremacist dominators, must be supported with evidence, not simply stated as if fact. Indeed, it seems apparent that the purpose of framing social justice concepts in such obviously farcical fashion is to avoid a reasoned discourse which might have to engage seriously with the significant normative, analytical, and observational insights such concepts bring to bear on crucial issues of equity. Such evasion is fundamentally incompatible with principles of open inquiry and fearless engagement that characterize Jewish communal discourse in its most robust and authentic form.

The signatories to this letter may take differing views as to the degree to which concepts like intersectionality and critical race theory aid in improving our understanding of Jewish experience. But we agree that any discussion about these concepts must take them seriously and read them fairly, and we are concerned that the attempt by some in the Jewish community to present such theories as inherently offensive, dangerous, or (paradoxically) censorial is in effect demanding the suppression or dismissal of important conversations the Jewish community should be having.

Many inside and outside of the Jewish community, including but not limited to Jews of Color, have been intimately involved in the creation, development, and application of social justice concepts — to the Jewish case and beyond. We urge that the Jewish community commit to including these voices as part of developing our collective understanding of what these concepts actually mean; and avoid speaking on these subjects based on rumor, innuendo, or hyperbolic sentiment. A commitment to such inclusion and to fair readings does not compel any particular conclusion; it does not demand either blind acceptance or knee-jerk criticism. Rather, it is the indispensable foundation on which any informed position on these matters must rest.

We, again, reiterate our view that liberal deliberative values are absolutely essential to the health and vitality of the Jewish community — values which include openness to challenging ideas and refusal to indulge in strawmanning, hyperbole, or other tools of dismissal. Precisely because we commit to these values, we are insistent that we live these values out in all contexts — including when engaging with theories of social justice that may be discomforting or controversial. We are confident that a recommitment to these values in the social justice context will help promote free, sophisticated, generous, and charitable engagement with all those who care about securing an equitable world.

We invite you to sign onto this open letter to add your voice to this call for open discourse, rigorous inquiry and generosity of spirit.

[Signatories]

Monday, June 28, 2021

Antisemitism vs. Illegitimate Anti-Israel(i) Discrimination

One thing I noticed come up a few times in the Moshava Philly saga was folks who (a) agreed that the conduct in question represented illegitimate discrimination against Israelis on the basis of nationality but (b) denied it was antisemitic. That is, they agreed it was wrong, just a different wrong from antisemitism.

I confess I haven't put a ton of thought into making this differentiation myself, particularly in cases (as here) where it seems that the "anti-Israeli" discrimination is inextricably bound up with the fact that the targets are Jewish Israelis, specifically (it is dubious that an Israeli Arab food truck would have faced the sort of pushback Moshava Philly experienced). In concept, it is obviously possibly for someone to have a prejudice against Israelis that has absolutely nothing to do with Jewishness -- it is even-handed hatred towards Israelis of all backgrounds and faiths. In practice, there are very few cases of illegitimate anti-Israel biases which are not linked in some way to its Jewishness (even if, on occasion, the link is that the non-Jewish Israelis are tied too closely with the Jewiness of it all).

But my own views notwithstanding, this got me to wondering: What are the stakes of insisting on this distinction between antisemitism and concededly illegitimate anti-Israeli discrimination? And if we do make the distinction what short-form name should we give to illegitimate anti-Israeli discrimination?

On the latter, the lack of a pithy title is inconvenient to say the least. I've heard "Ziophobia" used a few times, but let's just say not by the people who I'd expect to be invested in rigorously policing the difference between antisemitism and anti-Israeli discrimination. But I'm not sure a better term currently exists out there. Suggestions welcome.

On the former, certainly one often hears people emphatically distinguish between "antisemitism" and "legitimate criticism of Israel" -- an important distinction, to be sure. But this is different, since by stipulation the persons I'm talking about concede the "criticism" in question is not legitimate -- and, in particular, is not legitimate in a discriminatory and thereby morally wrongful fashion (there are plenty of cases where a criticism may be technically "wrong" but does not morally wrong anyone -- free speech must allow for some play in the joints where people are free to be mistaken -- but these cases go further and entail circumstances where by concession the bad behavior generates a valid claim of injustice). Given that, what are the consequences of being sure to say "this is wrong, and discriminatory, and should be opposed -- but we shouldn't call it antisemitic"?

My instinct is that it is part of a broader campaign to disassociate discourse about Israel in any form -- even concededly illegitimate forms -- from claims of antisemitism. In that way, it is an adjunct to the "legitimate criticism of Israel is not antisemitism" contention, albeit different in content. Holding fast to this distinction even in the cases of illegitimate criticism helps build the firewall which blocks accusations of antisemitism in the cases of legitimate criticism (or, perhaps more importantly, in the arguable cases).

And a side-effect -- perhaps desired, perhaps not -- is to prevent this form of discriminatory from accessing the particular moral punch of "antisemitism" as a concept. While nominally there's no reason why "antisemitic" discrimination has to be worse than "national origin discrimination against Israelis", practically speaking it represents a retreat -- it's bad, but not antisemitic bad. 

Part of what the disassociation campaign is doing, after all, is trying to split off discourse about Israel from the broader histories and structures of antisemitism that accentuate its dangers -- tying certain discourses into extreme manifestations of violence and oppression. The goal, in some ways, isn't just about protecting "legitimate" criticism but also about degrading the dangers of "illegitimate" criticism. There are all sorts of cases where we might think someone is being kind of extreme or ridiculous or unfair to, I dunno, Canada, and so we might "oppose" it insofar as we generally oppose extreme unfair ridiculousness, but we also don't view it as a four-alarm moral fire. The goal is to do the same thing when faced with unfairness towards Israel or Israelis -- not so much justify as make it mundane, make it small-potatoes, isolate it from any broader pattern or practice of systemic wrongdoing.