The Things Israel Does

“I’m not anti-Jewish, I’m anti-Zionist. I am anti-Israel taking what doesn’t belong to it. If you have a home and you’re kicked out of that home, you don’t come and kick someone else out."

This is just one quote from resigned White House correspondent Helen Thomas’ interview to be published in next month’s Playboy. Her resignation last year did not come about because of her ripe age –” Ms. Thomas is 90 –” but because of comments she made about Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.

Unlike the majority of public personalities, Helen Thomas hit the nail right on the head with the above statement. Being critical of Israel is not anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. And being anti-Israel is not necessarily about “delegitimizing” Israel or denying its right to exist. These offenses are merely a way of putting the speaker on the defensive instead of focusing on why criticisms are being lobbed at Israel in the first place.

If anything, Israel is beginning to make it extremely easy to criticize it. What is so amazing is how much of the world still blames others of anti-Semitism or delegitimizing Israel when criticism should clearly be directed in the other’s direction.

Take for example the recent kidnapping of a Palestinian in Ukraine. Dirar Abu Sisi was last seen boarding a train in the Ukraine city of Kharkiv headed for Kiev on February 19. His wife reported him missing and squarely blamed the Mossad –” Israel’s Intelligence and Special Operations Unit –” for taking her husband. A week or so later, news leaked that Abu Sisi had somehow called his wife, telling her he was in a jail in Petah Tikva. At first, Israel denied any involvement. Yesterday, after a partial gag order was lifted, Israeli authorities admitted to the “arrest and detention” of Abu Sisi.

Abu Sisi, an electrical engineer in Gaza’s power plant, was upper management and said to be a Hamas loyalist. He was visiting his wife’s family in the Ukraine when he went missing.

Kidnapping people in another country and mysteriously bringing them back to Israel without anyone knowing his whereabouts for weeks is hardly the practice of a democratic country. Ruthless regimes such as Pinochet’s Chile or Qaddafi’s Libya are infamous for making people disappear, and for these practices they are shunned, sanctioned and isolated. However, when Israel pulls these stunts, it is swept under the carpet, filed away as one more unpleasant but necessary measure to ensure Israel’s security and ultimately disregarded as a glitch in the otherwise ‘democratic’ and ‘civilized’ Israel.

For those of us at the receiving end of these practices, it is equally disheartening to hear Israel’s rants about parties within the country and abroad that seek to delegitimize Israel or call for its destruction. Just the other day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his rejection of the Palestinians’ reconciliation efforts.

“How can the Palestinian Authority could be in favor of peace with Israel and also want unity with Hamas which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state?” he asked in an interview with CNN. “It’s one or the other. Not both.”

To top it all off, Israel is unabashedly and unapologetically spying on foreign groups deemed anti-Israeli. According to reports in the Israeli press, the army’s military intelligence now “collects information” on left-wing organizations abroad that it believes seeks to delegitimize Israel.

According to the Israeli army, there is an “upsurge in worldwide efforts to delegitimize Israel and question its right to exist.” Thus, the new unit will keep tabs on groups involved in boycotting Israel, divesting from it or imposing sanctions on it. It will also gather information on groups that express a desire to bring war crime charges against Israeli officials by trying to link them with so-called terror groups.

On the ground, this is translated into a near-police state. People coming into the country with any sort of affiliation with any such group could be deported, fined or harassed for their supposed plans to “delegitimize” Israel. Never mind the democratic concept of freedom of speech, expression and choice. This is about questioning Israel. You are either a terrorist or an anti-Semite. In the worst case, you are both.