Response To Likudniks

By Jeffrey Rudolph (December 2016, last update March 2021)

As Israel’s myriad human rights abuses and contraventions of international law have become impossible to deny, one argument that apologists for Israel routinely fall back on is: While Israel has engaged in human rights and other abuses, other countries commit far worse abuses. Therefore, it is wrong – and possibly indicative of anti-Semitism – to focus excessively on Israel’s wrongs.

As someone who has worked at information tables dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the following is my systematic response to this fallback argument.

1. It is true that Israel is not, and has never been, the worst human rights abuser in the world.

2. It is not true, however, that the main human rights groups focus primarily on Israel. “Human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International focus their attention and campaigns on abuses in many different countries, and only a small percentage of their work focuses on the Middle East and Israel.” In fact, “Most human rights organizations and international bodies, including the UN, do routinely condemn Palestinian acts of terror.”

3. While many states’ “domestic” human rights record is far worse than Israel’s, there are not many states whose human rights record in “occupied territories” is far worse than Israel’s. And, needless to say, “violations of human rights should be opposed regardless if they take place within a country’s internationally-recognized borders or in an illegally occupied territory.”

   “[T]here are only three countries that are engaged in what the United Nations and the international community recognize as a foreign belligerent occupation: Israel [which occupies the Golan Heights, West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip], Morocco [which occupies the Western Sahara], and Armenia [which occupies a small portion of Azerbaijan].” (It’s reasonably argued that China (Tibet), Turkey (northern Cyprus) and Russia (Crimea) should also be recognized as occupiers. In any event, Tibet is not an issue for the EU, as its member states recognized Tibet as an integral part of China when diplomatic relations were established between the EU and China.)

-Western Sahara: “The prevailing international perspective toward the conflict is very much in line with the concept of Sahrawi self-determination, and not at all in line with Moroccan annexation. The United Nations considers the Western Sahara to be a non-self-governing territory and the Polisario Front to be the ‘sole legitimate representative’ of the Sahrawi people. Forty countries recognize the ‘Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’ that the Polisario Front declared in 1976. SADR is a full member of the African Union. Morocco has not received comparable support for its claims from the Arab League, which has offered only a vague statement about respecting Moroccan territorial sovereignty.” (The US and Israel do not recognize the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people. “Thus, the two governments that most vociferously complain that Israel has been singled out for criticism have been rather muted in their condemnation of other occupations.”)

4. “[W]hile some anti-Semites do choose to single out Israel for criticism, that doesn’t mean that the majority of criticism of Israel is therefore motivated by anti-Semitism.” Likewise, that some criticism directed at Saudi Arabia is motivated by Islamophobia is no reason to stop criticizing the many human rights abuses committed by Saudi Arabia.

   “When international human rights activists pursued a boycott campaign against South Africa for its apartheid policies, they were accused of unfairly singling out South Africa by the white South African apartheid regime and [its] closest supporters. Few people argued, however, that supporting a boycott of South Africa indicated a special or unique hatred of white South Africans [or of white Protestants].”

-The simple fact that many Jews – including Israeli security professionals – criticize Israel’s illegal behavior makes it absurd to automatically label critics of Israel as anti-Semites. For example, in 2016, “A group of more than 200 [former Israeli] military and intelligence officials criticized [their] government for a lack of action in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…and issued a detailed plan they say can end the impasse.” “The group’s chairman, [former IDF general] Amnon Reshef,…warned ‘the current status quo is an illusion’ that endangers a two-state solution…‘In our experience we know that you cannot defeat terror only by military means, you have to improve the Palestinians quality of life,’ he said.”

   “When pro-Israel advocates say they are OK with criticism of Israel, what they mean is criticism which presumes Israel is a good actor that sometimes makes mistakes. Once you go beyond this you are no longer in the territory of the acceptable for them. That’s why real progressive Zionists are often slandered as self-hating: because they acknowledge Israel’s wrongs are not always mistakes, that its will is sometimes malevolent.” (Abraham Silberstein, Facebook post, 5 Aug. 2021)

-By definition, “all moral concern is selective because it always involves choices. Such choices must be justified in their own terms–is the critique of Israel justified or not–rather than in relation to other possible choices.” Indeed, many Likudniks have selectively chosen to expend considerable energy supporting Israel and its occupation. Undoubtedly, if they were not so committed to singling out Israel for favor, they could easily find causes more deserving to promote. (Prof. Ran Greenstein, Facebook comment, 13 Sept. 2017)

   Furthermore, people tend to “protest injustices that have particular meaning to them.” They normally do not focus on the world’s worst injustice. “In the 1970s, for instance, American Jewish groups boycotted the Bolshoi Ballet when it visited the United States in order to protest the Soviet Union’s treatment of Russian Jews. Were those Jewish groups guilty of a double standard? Absolutely. However bad Moscow’s anti-Semitism, it paled in comparison to the crimes committed in the 1970s by Uganda’s Idi Amin or Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge.”  (19 Nov. 2018)

   Given that “humans have a right to choose the…causes that matter to them most[,] [and] given Israel’s location in territory sacred to more than half of humanity, [it] stand[s] to reason that Israel’s actions will be highly visible, and hence particularly subject to scrutiny…”

-Since 2008, “the US Department of State…has defined antisemitism to include any of three categories of criticism of Israel, known as the ‘three Ds’: delegitimisation of Israel, demonisation of Israel and double standards for Israel….By the state department’s definition, delegitimisation includes ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist’. Thus anti-Zionism – including the view that Israel should be a state of all its citizens, with equal rights for Jews and non-Jews – is a form of delegitimisation and therefore antisemitic. According to this definition, virtually all Palestinians (and a large proportion of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, who oppose Zionism for religious reasons) are guilty of antisemitism because they want Jews and Palestinians to continue living in Palestine but not within a Jewish state….The second D, demonisation, includes ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ – as the Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff did during a Holocaust remembrance day speech in 2016, likening the ‘revolting trends’ in Europe and Germany in the 1930s and 40s to tendencies visible in Israel today. The last of the three Ds, applying double standards, holds that singling Israel out for criticism is ‘the new antisemitism’. Yet practically every earlier divestment and boycott initiative around the world could be accused of double standards, including the campaign against apartheid South Africa, most of whose proponents ignored graver transgressions elsewhere, such as the concurrent genocides in Cambodia, Iraqi Kurdistan and East Timor.”

-Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic “when it conflates Zionism with Judaism or when it portrays Zionism as a major factor in the rise to power of white supremacy.” Similarly, it is anti-Semitic when people “conflate Jews with Israelis and Zionists, or extend their criticism of Israel and its policies to Jews in general…” (Essentially, regardless of one’s politics, it’s anti-Semitic to imply that “the ‘Jews are the problem’.”) (Gili Getz, Facebook post, 24 April 2019) (Prof. Ran Greenstein, Facebook post, 7 Dec. 2019)

-In December 2019, President Trump issued an executive order to essentially apply a “working definition of antisemitism” — which “was created primarily so that European data collectors could know what to include and exclude” — “to be a campus hate speech code”. According to the lead drafter of the “working definition”, the “order is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates, but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.”

   The “working definition” includes some examples about Israel, such as “denying Jews the right to self-determination”. While this example may be considered antisemitic, it is also an example of free speech. (It’s worth noting that if a Likudnik “had been born into a Palestinian family displaced in 1948, [he] might have a different view of Zionism, and that need not be because [he] vilif[ies] Jews or think they conspire to harm humanity. Further, there’s a debate inside the Jewish community whether being Jewish requires one to be a Zionist. [Many doubt] if this question can be resolved, but it should frighten all Jews that the government is essentially defining the answer for [them].”)

  “As proponents of the executive order like the Zionist Organization of America make clear, they see the application of the definition as ‘cover[ing] many of the anti-Jewish outrages…frequently led by…Students for Justice in Palestine, including…calls for intifada [and] demonizing Israel’. [Even if someone disagrees] with SJP, it has the right to make ‘calls’. That’s called free speech.”

   “The real purpose of the executive order isn’t to tip the scales in a few title VI [civil rights] cases, but rather the chilling effect. [Likudnik-like] groups will hunt political speech with which they disagree, and threaten to bring legal cases. [As a result, college] administrators will now have a strong motivation to suppress, or at least condemn, political speech for fear of litigation.”

   “Antisemitism is a real issue, but too often people, both on the political right and political left, give it a pass if a person has the ‘right’ view on Israel. Historically, antisemitism thrives best when leaders stoke the human capacity to define an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, and where the integrity of democratic institutions and norms (such as free speech) are under assault. Rather than champion the chilling of expressions that [Likudniks] find disturbing, or give the mildest criticism (if any) of a president who repeatedly uses antisemitic tropes, why weren’t those Jewish officials who were present when Trump signed the executive order reminding him that [in 2018], when he demonized immigrants and called them ‘invaders’, Robert Bowers walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue because he believed Jews were behind this ‘invasion’ of brown people as part of a plot to harm white people, and killed 11 [Jews]?”

-The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism — which has been adopted by over 30 countries as well as hundreds of other governmental bodies, organizations and NGOs — follows: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” “Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to: … Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions. … Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust). … Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor. …”

-In December 2020, “Americans for Peace Now, a nonprofit whose stated aim is to help find a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is refusing a request from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. [T]he nonprofit’s leaders told the umbrella organization representing 51 national Jewish groups that while they support ‘joint action to confront antisemitism,’ they ‘strongly believe that the IHRA Working Definition is the wrong vehicle for such action.’” (APN is “the only Conference of Presidents group to [refuse the request].”)

   APN’s objections, which were written in a letter to COP, relate specifically to the ‘examples’…used to ‘illustrate’ antisemitism…’ [W]e are witnessing how [the examples are] already being abused…to quash legitimate criticism and activism directed at Israeli government policies by tarnishing individuals and organizations as antisemitic.’ These examples ‘cross the line into the realm of politics and are already being used to score political points…to quash legitimate criticism of deplorable Israeli government policies,’ [APN] wrote. ‘Proudly pro-Israel, we denounce Israeli government policies that we believe are detrimental to Israel’s future and well-being….’”

   “One example points to those who are ‘applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.’ The APN letter points out that ‘most of the behaviors that Israel is criticized for are related to its occupation of the West Bank. Other democratic nations do not hold a disenfranchised civilian population under military occupation for 53 years, with no horizon of freedom and independence, while escalating the process of settlement construction in that occupied territory. Branding criticism of Israeli actions associated with the occupation as antisemitism on the grounds that they apply a double standard is unacceptable.’”

   “Another unacceptable example included in the IHRA definition, according to APN, brands those who would ‘deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,’ as antisemitic. While admitting that some anti-Zionism is rooted in antisemitism, APN leaders said that ‘to depict any and all anti-Zionist views as antisemitic is wrong…While we strongly disagree with those who state that the pursuit of a national home for the Jews in historic Palestine is illegitimate or even racist, we also strongly disagree with depicting this attitude as antisemitic.’ In particular…many Palestinians with ‘grievance-rooted attitudes, even if historically baseless, are not antisemitic. Typically, such attitudes do not stem from hatred of Jews but rather from a bitter conflict over a disputed piece of land.’”

   “[APN] pointed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s equating all boycotts against Israel with antisemitism – including those targeting the settlements – as being connected to the definition. On college campuses…the IHRA document ‘is used to shut down groups…’”

-“Was Albert Einstein an anti-Semite? Was Hannah Arendt? [A]ccording to the [IHRA] definition of anti-Semitism…these two leading intellectuals could very well be labeled as such. This is due to an open letter they sent on Dec. 4, 1948, to The New York Times, claiming that the right-wing Herut Party in the newly formed State of Israel was ‘closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.’ The list of potential anti-Semites goes on. Take the British American Jewish historian Tony Judt, who not long before his death…in 2010 described Israel as ‘autistic’ after it had put Gaza ‘under a punishment regime comparable to nothing else in the world.’ The late Hebrew University philosopher and biochemist Yeshayahu Leibowitz would not have fared much better given his criticism of the growing ‘phenomena of Judeo-Nazism’ following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Finally, Israel’s most prominent human rights organization, B’tselem, would also fit the anti-Semitic bill, as it has recently published a report entitled ‘A Regime of Jewish Supremacy From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This Is Apartheid.’”

-“In 2016, the ADL gauged antisemitism by asking Americans whether they agreed with statements such as ‘Jews have too much power’…It found that antisemitism was highest among the elderly and poorly educated, saying: ‘The most well educated Americans are remarkably free of prejudicial views, while less educated Americans are more likely to hold antisemitic views. Age is also a strong predictor of antisemitic propensities. Younger Americans – under 39 – are also remarkably free of prejudicial views.'”

   “In 2018, however, when the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans’ attitudes about Israel, it discovered the reverse pattern: Americans over the age of 65 – the very cohort that expressed the most antisemitism – also expressed the most sympathy for Israel. By contrast, Americans under 30, who according to the ADL harboured the least antisemitism, were least sympathetic to Israel. It was the same with education. Americans who possessed a high school degree or less – the most antisemitic educational cohort – were the most pro-Israel. Americans with ‘postgraduate degrees’ – the least antisemitic – were the least pro-Israel.”

   “[The surveys seem to confirm that] younger progressives are highly universalistic. They’re suspicious of any form of nationalism that seems exclusive. That universalism makes them suspicious of both Zionism and the white Christian nationalism that in the US sometimes shades into antisemitism. By contrast, some older Trump supporters, who fear a homogenising globalism, admire Israel for preserving Jewish identity while yearning to preserve America’s Christian identity in ways that exclude Jews.”

5. It is a fundamental moral principle that we are responsible for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of our actions. Therefore, while it may be satisfying for an American to criticize China for its appalling human rights abuses, Americans are not responsible for those abuses. However, Americans, due to their country’s extensive financial, diplomatic and military support of Israel, are responsible for Israel’s human rights abuses. While every abused person is a tragedy, Americans have the responsibility and power to prevent or mitigate some of those tragedies.

   There are brave Chinese dissidents who lauded President Trump for his rhetoric and policies toward China. While many Americans profoundly disagreed with these dissidents for supporting Trump, those same Americans likely considered them as heroes because the place “in which [Chinese dissidents] face their true moral test is not the US, but China.” Likewise, Israelis respect Iranian dissidents who protest Iran’s abuses, not Israel’s. (Naturally, China’s and Iran’s rulers will attack their respective dissidents for not focusing on the much worse abuses of the US and Israel.)

   Accordingly, the US’ primary “obligation is to combat those human rights abuses for which [it] bears the greatest responsibility.” For example, war crimes by its special forces and the “people killed and wounded by the US military. [I]n 2019 US airstrikes killed 700 civilians in Afghanistan alone….After [addressing] people the US harms directly[, the government should] look at the people America harms indirectly through its weapons sales….[For example,] The largest recipient of US ‘foreign military financing’ [is] Israel, whose blockade has helped make Gaza ‘unlivable,’ according to the UN.”

   “[T]he harsh truth is that…America doesn’t have much influence over what happens in China or Russia. [Sanctions are] most effective when they enjoy broad multilateral support, when they impose serious economic costs and when they’re directed against allies rather than adversaries. Given China’s economic clout, it’s extremely unlikely the US could assemble a global coalition willing to impose sanctions comprehensive enough to change Beijing’s behavior in Xinjiang. The European Union, America’s most natural partner for such an effort, signed a massive trade deal with the Chinese government [in 2021]. When it comes to Russia, the Europeans have proved willing to impose sanctions on Putin for seizing Crimea. But those sanctions haven’t forced him to give it back to Ukraine. And it’s even less likely that sanctions would change Russian or Chinese behavior at home, where both Putin and Xi see political dissent as a threat to their control. [S]anctions aimed at toppling regimes are even less effective than those aimed at changing policies.”

   “What this logic suggests is that while the US government should support [Russian and Chinese dissidents], it should devote even more attention to dissidents like Bobi Wine in Uganda, Ahmed Mansour in the UAE and Issa Amro in Israel—whose oppression the US is helping to underwrite. The US should also acknowledge the way our human rights violations embolden our adversaries to carry out abuses of their own. [For example,] China has borrowed from America’s post-9/11 rhetoric about Islamic radicalization to justify putting Uighurs in concentration camps. The New York Times in 2019 obtained secret Chinese Communist Party documents, which reveal that Xi ‘urged the party to emulate aspects of America’s war on terror’ in Xinjiang.”

   “[L]ecturing Russia and China about [their abuses] while overlooking America’s role in horrors like Yemen and Gaza simply confirms the perception that US policymakers are hypocrites. Hawks have spent the last forty years mocking Jimmy Carter, but there’s reason to believe that his concern for human rights abuses by US allies as well as adversaries played a role in the eventual fall of the Soviet empire.”

   “In foreign policy, as in life, moral purity and moral consistency are impossible. Human rights will always compete with, and often lose out to, other concerns. But in foreign policy, as in life, while it’s often easier to lecture others on their failings, we usually achieve the greatest progress when we confront our own.”
(Noam Chomsky, Global Discontents: Conversations On The Rising Threats To Democracy, Metropolitan Books, New York: 2017, 53.) (1 Feb. 2021)

-“[T]here were two horrible atrocities in 1982 in the Middle East: Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and Syria’s massacre in the city of Hama. But Israel was significantly armed by the United States. It was given diplomatic backing by the US. So it’s appropriate for Americans to be critical of crimes for which they bear some significant responsibility and which they could stop. Syria, on the other hand, was not armed by Washington. The artillery shells that fell on Hama, unlike the cluster bombs that fell on Lebanon, were not made in the United States. The US did not run interference for Syria in the UN. Americans bore little responsibility for the destruction of Hama and could do little to stop it.”

-“In the wake of Israel’s massive assault on heavily populated civilian areas of the Gaza Strip [in 2008-9], Amnesty International called for the United States to suspend military aid to Israel on human rights grounds. Amnesty has also called for the United Nations to impose a mandatory arms embargo on both Hamas and the Israeli government….[A]mnesty documented Israeli forces engaging in ‘direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate.’ ‘Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the US to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.’ [And] fragments of US-made munitions [were found on] ‘school playgrounds, in hospitals and in people’s homes.’” (It should be noted that it is illegal under international law to transfer certain weapons to a consistent violator of human rights.)

-Despite Israel’s ongoing, US-enabled abuses and its increasing dominance in the region, US military aid to Israel only keeps rising. In 2016, the US and Israel “signed a new 10-year military-assistance deal [totaling $38 billion which represents] the single largest pledge of its kind in American history.”

   “To condition American aid on Israeli behavior would not single Israel out. In theory, the Foreign Assistance Act…prohibits the US from providing aid or training to any foreign military units that have committed ‘gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.’ Congress also places additional human rights conditions on American aid to numerous specific governments, including Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Columbia, El Salvador, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Before Trump ended American assistance to the Palestinian Authority, its aid was among the most heavily conditioned of all.”

   “What distinguishes American aid to Israel is precisely its exemption from the rules and limitations that govern assistance to other nations. While the United States phased out economic assistance to the Jewish state a decade ago, Israel receives far more military aid than any country where the US is not currently at war. Outside of active American combat zones like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, the US gives most of its military aid through something called Foreign Military Financing: a line of credit through which governments can buy American weapons. In Trump’s 2019 budget request, 61 percent of that foreign military financing goes to Israel. Israel also receives its financing in a more advantageous way than other countries. Every other foreign government receives a set amount of money per year, which it can spend on American weapons. Seth Binder of the Project on Middle East Democracy compares it to a debit card: You can only spend what America has already given you. Israel, by contrast, enjoys something called ‘cash-flow financing.’ Binder compares it to a credit card: Israel can buy American weapons merely by committing to spend money America will give it in the future. Under the Memorandum of Understanding Obama announced in 2016, Israel is due to receive $3.8 billion per year until 2028. And because of cash-flow financing Israel can spend some of that future money now. That helps it buy expensive items — as it did in 2017 when it purchased 17 F-35 fighters at close to $100 million per plane — which would be hard to afford using America’s aid for only one particular year.” (20 May 2019)

6. Israel does attract disproportionate attention from the United Nations for its many contraventions of international law. In fact, Israel has been condemned and censured by the Security Council more than any other country for its occupation, annexations, military actions, etc. However, Israel has not received disproportionate sanction, because “every time Israel has been singled out for censure by the UN,…Israel has also been singled out by the protection of US vetoes in the UN Security Council.” Therefore, while countries such as Portugal, South Africa, Iraq, Serbia and Iran have had UN sanctions imposed on them for breaching international law, Israel has benefited from a double standard. Indeed, the international community has permitted Israel to conduct aggressive military actions, ignore UN resolutions, and continue policies that wouldn’t be tolerated for other countries.

   “When Saddam Hussein flouted UN resolutions and international laws [by invading and occupying Kuwait in 1990/1, US-led coalition forces responded militarily] with full UN support.” When Iran was suspected of breaking the NPT, it suffered harsh international sanctions.

   Furthermore, the West has bypassed the UN to punish offending countries. Economic sanctions were imposed on Russia because of its 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea. (And while the majority of Crimeans welcomed Russia’s illegal action, virtually no Palestinians support Israel’s illegal occupation.) When Slobodan Milosevic and Serbia carried out ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Muslims in the late 1990s, the US and NATO bombed Serbia and sent troops to the region. (Larry Derfner, Facebook post, 5 July 2016)

   There are currently many countries under various types of sanctions imposed by the US, EU, individual European countries and the UN Security Council. One country, however, is conspicuously absent from those sanctioned–Israel.
(US Treasury Department Sanctions Programs and Country Information:;
EU Sanctions, Countries List:;
UN Security Council Sanctions Committees:

   On 27 April 2017, a “strongly worded letter” signed by all 100 US senators was delivered to “United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres…demanding an end to the ‘unacceptable’ anti-Israel bias in the international body….The letter urged several concrete steps to improve Israel’s treatment by the organization, singling out for criticism UNRWA, which deals with Palestinian refugees; the UN Human Rights Council for its singular focus on the Jewish state; and UNESCO, for denying Jewish ties to holy sites in Jerusalem.”  (28 April 2017)

-“Israelis and their supporters view the United Nations as particularly hostile to Israel. But…the international community [has been] generous to Israel from the beginning. The 1947 partition plan (Security Council Resolution 181) gave 56 percent of the land to the one-third of the population that was Jewish. After Israel took half of the remaining territory allotted to an Arab state and expelled 90 percent of the indigenous population, the UN still admitted Israel as a member state and did not enforce the Palestinian Right of Return (Security Council Resolution 194). Following the 1967 war, which [many consider] an Israeli act of aggression, the UN demanded an Israeli withdrawal not to the partition line but to the Green Line, and made it conditional upon Arab states renouncing aggression. The international community did not allow South Africa to get away with black Bantustans, but has accepted a similar solution for Israel.”

7. In March 2021, the International Criminal Court’s then chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, “opened a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories. Bensouda said the probe would cover events in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip since June 2014.”

   “The state of Palestine brought the motion to the ICC in 2018 after having tried for three years to get the…government of Netanyahu to stop colonizing Palestinian land and resources. The state of Palestine was recognized as a permanent observer state by the UN General Assembly in 2012, giving it the same status that the Vatican enjoys. That status allowed Palestine to join the ICC in 2015.”

   “Following the preliminary examination, Bensouda said there was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed in the context of the [2014 Gaza] war, and that charges could be filed against Israel Defense Forces personnel and members of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups. The prosecutor also concluded that there was a reasonable basis to believe that in the context of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, members of the Israeli authorities had committed war crimes.”

-“The ICC cannot investigate Israel proper, since Tel Aviv is not a signatory to the [2002] Rome Statute and the court only has jurisdiction over [parties to the statute].” However, as Palestine joined the ICC in 2015, and since Palestine brought a complaint in 2018, the court has decided that it now has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories.”

   The ICC doesn’t investigate Iran, or Syria, or some other regimes whose crimes may exceed Israel’s because those regimes don’t commit crimes in a state that has granted the ICC jurisdiction over it by signing the Rome Statute. Syria’s officials, for example, “commit war crimes against their own citizens, who live in [a country] that [has] not signed the statute…In some cases, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran’s actions in Yemen, [the war crimes are] taking place in a…state [that] has not granted jurisdiction to The Hague…”

   “Palestine – recognized by the UN General Assembly as the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza – is where Israel’s persecution has been taking place. It was the government of Palestine, the Palestinian Authority, that asked the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes.”

   (The only other way the ICC can “intervene is if the UN Security Council forwards a case to it, as happened when Moammar Gaddafi began shooting down Libyans in February 2011. Because the US generally wields its veto to protect Israel, the Court is unlikely to get a referral regarding Israel.” Sudan, also a non-signatory to the Rome Statute, was referred to the ICC by the UNSC for committing genocide in its Darfur region.)

-The ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, grants the ICC jurisdiction over four main crimes. “First, the crime of genocide is characterised by the specific intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Second, “crimes against humanity, which are serious violations committed as part of a large-scale attack against any civilian population. The 15 forms of crimes against humanity listed in the Rome Statute include offences such as murder, rape, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, enslavement – particularly of women and children, sexual slavery, torture, apartheid and deportation.” “Third, war crimes which are grave breaches of the Geneva conventions in the context of armed conflict and include, for instance, the use of child soldiers; the killing or torture of persons such as civilians or prisoners of war; intentionally directing attacks against hospitals, historic monuments, or buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes.” Fourth, “the crime of aggression [which] is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, integrity or independence of another State.”

   “The ultimate Israeli argument against a war crimes investigation is, of course, that Israel isn’t committing any war crimes against the Palestinians. All Israel is doing, said Netanyahu, is ‘defend[ing] itself against terrorists who murder our children and rocket our cities.’”

   “Let’s see. The Hague defines war crimes mainly as ‘grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions, which are: ‘i) willful killing; ii) torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments; iii) willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; iv) extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; v) compelling a prisoner of war or other protected person [civilian] to serve in the forces of a hostile Power; vi) willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person [civilian] of the rights of fair and regular trial; vii) unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement; vii) taking of hostages.’ Also under the heading of war crimes, the ICC lists ‘serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict.’ They include this one [which resembles Israel’s West Bank settlement policy]: ‘The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies …’”

   “So if you throw out the (ii) biological experiments and (v) forced conscription…is it really so outrageous to investigate Israel for war crimes against the Palestinians?”

-“[J]ust because the ICC…can’t go after all the world’s war criminals,…does [not] mean it should [ignore Israel’s]. In addition to Israel, the court is now investigating Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic, Kenya, Libya, Ivory Coast, Mali, Georgia, Burundi, Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan. Should it drop those cases because there may be…even worse war criminals in Syria, Nigeria, Eritrea, China or other countries that are beyond The Hague’s reach?”

   In any event, “while Israel is by no means the world’s worst malefactor, it is definitely the world’s most lavishly indulged one. Netanyahu complains that the ICC doesn’t investigate Syria and Iran – but would he like the world to treat Israel like it treats those countries? Israel gets $3.8 billion a year and boundless political protection from the world’s No. 1 power, including laws against BDS; it has free trade agreements with Europe; and its borders are respected. Iran and Syria are pariah states, economically cut off by the world, and they get bombed every now and then by or with the full support of the world’s No. 1 power. The US imposes sanctions on 24 countries, the EU on 31 – and not just on African and Asian dictatorships, but on Belarus, Bosnia and Herzgovina, Moldova, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Russia, Serbia, Venezuela. The closest thing to a Western ‘sanction’ on Israel is the EU requirement that it label exports made in the settlements, which isn’t enforced anyway.” (Russia, for example, has lost “billions of dollars due to Western sanctions since it annexed Crimea, which used to belong to Russia and was a popular move, at least at first, with masses of Crimeans. Israel imposed a colonial military dictatorship on Palestine in 1967, which it has steadily expanded in the West Bank while ‘scaling back’ to a siege on Gaza, it has destroyed any realistic Palestinian hope for freedom and independence – and the pro-Israel perks from the West just keep coming.”)

-“Although it may itself be under scrutiny,…Hamas [s]pokesman Hazim Qasim said, ‘Hamas welcomes the decision of the ICC to investigate the crimes of the Israeli Occupation against our people.’ He added, ‘Our resistance is a legitimate resistance and comes within the framework of defense on our people.’”

   “The [Biden administration] expressed disappointment and opposition to the move.” “[Netanyahu said] the probe was an anti-Semitic attack on the only Jewish state….Behind the scenes though, concerned [Israeli] officials are working to offset, delay and limit its impact. They will try to show that Israel can investigate itself…They will roll out a plan…to minimise the chance of any future arrest of officers or politicians abroad.”

-“The ICC defers to a country’s internal investigations, where they exist and are genuine, under the principle of complementarity which holds that ‘states have the first responsibility and right to prosecute international crimes.’ [However,] ‘The Israeli military and Palestinian authorities have a long track record of failing to investigate laws of war violations committed in or from Gaza,’ Human Rights Watch states.” (4 Aug. 2021)

-In June 2021, Haaretz “published shocking video of Israeli prison guards brutally kicking, punching and beating shackled Palestinians inside a prison in the Negev Desert in 2019. The video shows guards throwing dozens of men into a large pile on a concrete floor; 15 were later hospitalized. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said [that], ‘The case proves, yet again, that Palestinian victims of violence by Israeli security forces cannot achieve justice via Israeli systems and can hope to do so only in an international court.’ No Israeli guards faced charges over the assault. The warden on duty was later promoted.”

8. “Government sanctions are far more effective than individual or institutional actions to change the behavior of governments. For example, in 1986 Congress overturned President Reagan’s veto to adopt the Comprehensive anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. It resulted in the US government imposing dozens of tough sanctions on South Africa that soon played a major role in ending legal apartheid in that country.” (US government sanctions also played an important part in persuading Iran to agree to the July 2015 nuclear deal.)

   Accordingly, “US government sanctions directed at Israel would dramatically change the political dynamic of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Once implemented, the United States would scale back the diplomatic, financial, military, and intelligence support that has enabled [five decades] of Israeli military occupation…It would also end the US government’s resupplying of Israel with arms used against civilians in the midst of war and shielding Israel from political and humanitarian accountability at international forums.”

   It is worth remembering that it was President Eisenhower’s serious diplomatic pressure and threats of economic sanctions that finally forced Israel to withdraw from Gaza in 1957, following the Suez War.

-“The US and most of Europe draw a sharp distinction between Israel and the occupied territories, refusing to recognise Israeli sovereignty beyond the pre-1967 lines….US officials must obtain special permission to meet Israelis at the IDF’s central command headquarters in the Jerusalem settlement of Neve Yaakov or at the Justice Ministry in the heart of downtown East Jerusalem. And US regulations, not consistently enforced, stipulate that products from the settlements should not bear a made-in-Israel label.”

   “Israel vehemently protests against this policy of so-called differentiation between Israel and the occupied territories, believing that it delegitimises the settlements and the state, and could lead to boycotts and sanctions of the country. But the policy does precisely the opposite: it acts not as a complement to punitive measures against Israel, but as an alternative to them.”

   “Differentiation creates an illusion of US castigation, but in reality it insulates Israel from answering for its actions in the occupied territories, by assuring that only settlements and not the government that creates them will suffer consequences for repeated violations of international law.”

   “Support for the policy of differentiation is widespread, from governments to numerous self-identified liberal Zionists… Differentiation allows them to thread the needle of being both pro-Israel and anti-occupation…There are of course variations among these opponents of the settlements, but all agree that Israeli products that are created in the West Bank should be treated differently, whether through labelling or even some sort of boycott.”

   “What supporters of differentiation commonly reject, however, is no less important. Not one of these groups or governments calls for penalising the Israeli financial institutions, real estate businesses, construction companies, communications firms, and, above all, government ministries that profit from operations in the occupied territories but are not headquartered in them. Sanctions on those institutions could change Israeli policy overnight. But the possibility of imposing them has been delayed if not thwarted by the fact that critics of occupation have instead advocated for a reasonable-sounding yet ineffective alternative.”

   “Supporters of differentiation hold the view that while it may be justifiable to do more than label the products of West Bank settlements, it is inconceivable that sanctions might be imposed on the democratically elected government that established the settlements, legalised the outposts, confiscated Palestinian land, provided its citizens with financial incentives to move to the occupied territories, connected the illegally built houses to roads, water, electricity and sanitation, and provided settlers with heavy army protection.”

   “US policymakers debate how to influence Israel, but without using almost any of the power at their disposal, including placing aid under conditions of changes in Israeli behaviour, a standard tool of diplomacy that officials deem unthinkable in this case.”

   “Until the US and Europe formulate a strategy to make Israel’s circumstances less desirable than the concessions it would make in a peace agreement, they will shoulder responsibility for the oppressive military regime they continue to preserve and fund. When peaceful opposition to Israel’s policies is squelched and those with the capacity to dismantle the occupation don’t raise a finger against it, violence invariably becomes more attractive to those who have few other means of upsetting the status quo.”

9. “[A] legitimate basis for criticism of Israel is the contradiction between its stated values as a democratic society and its oppressive policies, much in the same way that the United States was rightly criticized for racist and hypocritical policies against its African American population in the past. [As Israel benefits in many ways by being considered part of the “democratic West,”] international critics are holding Israel accountable for not abiding by the very values it claims to stand for. Even Israel’s own High Court has rejected many of its government’s policies as illegal.”

10. “Everybody involved in US foreign policy and security knows that aggressive Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank and siege of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip is a major cause of terrorism against the United States, since Washington is blamed for it, and is a major security problem because it makes the US a pariah in the Muslim world. One of the reasons Usama Bin Laden gave for attacking the US was the Israeli mistreatment of stateless Palestinians…”

   The following are the 2013 words of Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, former head of US Central Command: “We have got to find a way to make the two-state-solution [a reality]. And the chances for it…are starting to ebb because the settlements and where they’re at are going to make it impossible…And I paid a military-security price every day as the commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and…all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us…can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the…Palestinians.”

11. “Anti-Semitism is one of the world’s foulest ideologies. But if we want to minimize it, then instead of attacking those who criticize Israel’s abuses, it would be far more effective to join those critics in urging Israel — which calls itself the state of the Jewish people — to end its abusive policies.”

   In October 2019 Ami Ayalon, a Navy commander and former head of the Shin Bet, publicly “urged American Jews to restrain Israel’s ‘unjust’ war in Palestine because it fuels anti-Semitism around the world. The statement is remarkable because that view is generally seen as anathema: saying that Israel’s actions have any role in the growth of anti-Semitism.” According to Ayalon, Israel’s 1948-49 war was a just war as it was fought “‘to establish Israel within the 1967 borders based on international resolutions….[However,] We continue to fight a second war, a war in order to expand our border to the east, to build more settlements, and to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state next door. That second war is not a just war. It denies the Palestinians the right to self determination, which was recognized by the international community.’”

   As painful as it is for “Jews to admit that race hatred can take root among a people that has suffered so profoundly from it, the ground truth is this: occupying another people requires racism, and breeds it. It is very difficult to work day after day at a checkpoint, making miserable people bake in the sun, or to blow up a family’s house as they watch, or to cut off water to a village in the Jordan Valley because Palestinians are barred from living in most of that section of the West Bank, and still see the people you are dominating as fully human.” Jews and others should not hesitate to denounce such racist behavior as people should “distinguish between supporting the State of Israel and supporting whoever happens to be in the current, transitory government of Israel.”

Additional Information for Point 4.
-Political Zionism, Zion, Hate Speech, Anti-Semitism, and Judgement: “Zionism is a political ideology that emerged in late 19th century Eastern Europe. It is based on the notion that Jews are a national group entitled to self-determination in what they traditionally regard as their historical homeland, the Land of Israel (also known as Palestine). It gave rise to a settlement project that saw the Jewish population in the country growing, over a period of 60 years, from 15,000 to 600,000 in 1948, when the State of Israel was established.”
   “Although initially a minority movement among Jews, Zionism became a major force following the Second World War and the Holocaust. Globally, many Jews today regard Zionism as representing important aspects of Jewish identity and history, even if they do not necessarily identify themselves as its adherents. Most Jews in [Israel] define themselves as Zionists. The Israeli mainstream and state institutions are officially committed to furthering Zionist goals, and in particular Jewish immigration into the country and settlement on the land.”
   “From its inception, the Zionist settlement project faced resistance by local Palestinian-Arabs, who felt that the project proceeded against their wishes and at their expense. Their opposition took the form of an alternative national movement that sought to put an end to the takeover of the country by the Zionist movement. It called for majority rule, along the same lines that saw other people in the region gaining their own national independence and statehood.”
   “Conflict between the Zionist and the Palestinian-Arab movements increasingly took the shape of mutually exclusive quests for political and territorial control. Eventually, in 1948, this resulted in Israeli statehood on the one hand, and Palestinian political fragmentation and physical dispersal on the other. Since then, the conflict has focused on Palestinian attempts to reverse dispossession and regain independence, and Israeli attempts to maintain and extend their dominance. The centrality of Zionism – as ideology and, more importantly, a set of practices – to the Israeli position meant that opposition to Zionism became central to the Palestinian side and those in solidarity with it.”
   “In essence, then, Zionism and anti-Zionism are expressions of support for one side or another in a political conflict. As such, they do not constitute forms of religious, ethnic, racial, or national hatred, bigotry, and prejudice. This is the case since ‘Zionist’ is both a term of self-reference and a term of reference to others, with no inherent invidious implications.”
   “There is another dimension to consider here. Zion is a Biblical name for Jerusalem and the Land of Israel/Palestine. It was invoked in antisemitic discourse to refer to a Jewish conspiracy to exercise global domination. The notorious early 20th century forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, advanced the notion that a secret group of Jewish bankers and diplomats seeks to take over the world. In this discourse, ‘Zionists’ may serve as code for ‘Jews’, who use their supposed control of financial and media networks to influence governments and shape global institutions, to undermine morality, and to corrupt religion and culture.”
   “The two meanings of Zionism, in the Israeli-Palestinian context, and in antisemitic discourse, emerged in different circumstances and have different political aims. It is important not to conflate them and to make a clear distinction between their uses.”
   “How can these points help shape our understanding of free speech on- and off-line?”
   “Context is crucial: referring to Zionism and Zionists when talking about Israel/Palestine, and in particular in relation to issues of immigration, land, settlement construction, citizenship rights, political domination, and social inclusion and exclusion, is perfectly legitimate, whether this is done in support of or opposition to specific policies in these areas.”
   “With that said, it is best to identify clearly who the active agents in the field are: those who maintain the 1967 occupation are the Israeli state and its civilian and military agencies. Those who enable Israeli state policies through diplomatic means are pro-Israeli (or pro-Israeli government) politicians and governments overseas. Those who defend and legitimize their actions are the Israel Lobby and pro-Israeli (or pro-Israeli government) intellectuals and media. To refer to them as ‘the Zionists’ is inaccurate. Such vague terminology is not helpful for informed discussion but does not constitute hate speech.”
   “On the other hand, when ‘Zionism’ is used in connection with notions of global domination, media control by elites, underhanded financial manipulation, illegitimate political influence by secret cabals, and so on, this may appeal – intentionally or otherwise – to antisemitic sentiments. Obviously, there is room for criticism of media and politicians and their attitudes towards Israel/Palestine. But, we should be wary of such language when it veers dangerously close to discourses that advance conspiracy theories. It is best avoided.”
   “This note of caution is not meant to curtail the critical content of speech but rather to shape the specific language chosen in formulating it. While it is impossible to specify in advance under what circumstances speech critical of Zionism may acquire antisemitic tones, this rule of thumb should apply: the more directly it addresses concrete agents and actions (Israeli settlers, state officials, legislative acts, government policies, statements of principles, and so on), the less need there is for any intervention in the free flow of ideas and debate. The more vague, remote in time and space, and obscure it is (referring to ‘the international Zionist media’ or to ‘Zionism as a mode of domination in the global arena’), the more suspect such speech is. Whether intervention is called for, and of what kind, would depend on the concrete context.” (Ran Greenstein, Facebook post, 23 Nov. 2020)

-According to Derek Penslar, the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History at Harvard University, “The IHRA definition’s limitations have been made clear to me in work I have done in Canada as an expert witness in prosecutions for ‘willful promotion of hate,’ which is a criminal offense. The antisemitic discourse I have been asked to assess invariably contains references to Israel. I have found it difficult to invoke the IHRA definition because of its strong implication that highly critical but factually accurate statements about Israel are antisemitic. A clear distinction between conspiratorial fantasy and demonstrable reality, between unhinged and fact-based (even if intemperate) language about Israel, would make it easier for me to demonstrate the presence of the former, which is actionable, and to set aside the latter, which is not.”
   “I find it particularly strange that a well-grounded, evidence-based argument regarding Israel would be construed as antisemitic. Legitimate scholarship has demonstrated that Israel bears its share of responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948 and for subsequent Arab-Israeli wars. Claiming that IDF soldiers harvest Palestinian organs is antisemitic; claiming that Israel denies West Bank Palestinians basic human rights is not.”

-The abstract statement regarding the “Jewish right for self determination” ignores “the historical process in which Jewish self determination was secured in Palestine — at the expense of Palestinians.” Therefore, it isn’t antisemitic to speak of that historical injustice.
   Regarding “Israel’s right to exist,” it must be noted that “Israel has not defined its borders nor its population, and therefore has not defined the meaning of its existence. In Israel…as it has existed for more than half a century, millions of people do not have basic civic rights, and for them ‘Jewish self determination’ takes the form of continuous dispossession through settlement expansion.”
   It’s banal to note that the Jewish State exists: “it is a constitutional, military, political reality. [However, it isn’t] a static, stable reality, but a ‘movement’, a historical trajectory… Israel is an ongoing process of settlement and expansion that is over a century old, and whose limits and ultimate shape are still undecided.”
   “Palestinians find themselves in an impossible position. In Israel/Palestine they face Jews as an oppressive hegemonic group. But when they make their case abroad, they meet Jews as a racialized minority, for many of whom antisemitism is not a distant memory but also a lived experience, and for many of whom Israel is a positive and reassuring anchor. It is difficult to think of another occupied and colonized people in similar circumstances.” (Prof. Joshua Shanes, Facebook post, 9 Dec. 2020)

-“[In 2021,] Netanyahu called ‘anti-Semitic’ the ICC’s decision to proceed with investigations into possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas. [On 6 April 2021], Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Erdan, called ‘anti-Semitic’ the resumption of US humanitarian aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. These absurd calls make a mockery out of the struggle against anti-Semitism — indeed, make the very word ‘anti-Semitism’ an object of ridicule. Which of the definitions being debated…will help restore some semblance of meaning to the term ‘anti-Semitism’? Which, on the contrary, will abet the cheapening and delegitimization of the term by people like Netanyahu and Erdan? That might be one test for the efficacy of the definitions.” (Nathaniel Berman, Facebook comment on James Loeffler’s post, 7 April 2021)

-There is “a growing international body of what are called ‘memory laws’: government actions designed to guide public interpretation of the past. Such measures [–normally coming from authoritarian-leaning governments–] work by asserting a mandatory view of historical events, by forbidding the discussion of historical facts or interpretations or by providing vague guidelines that lead to self-censorship. Early memory laws were generally designed to protect the truth about victim groups. The most important example, passed in West Germany in 1985, criminalized Holocaust denial….[Such] early laws could be defended as attempts to protect the weaker against the stronger, and an endangered history against propaganda.”
   However, recent memory laws serve the strong. Russia, for example, “turned the original logic of memory laws upside down. It is not the facts about the vulnerable but the feelings of the powerful that are to be protected….[Accordingly,] [d]uring Russia’s [2014] invasion of Ukraine, Putin signed into law the misleadingly named ‘Law Against Rehabilitation of Nazism.’…The law specifically banned, with criminal penalties, ‘false information on the activities of the Soviet Union during the Second World War.” (“[A] Russian citizen who mentioned in a social media post [the fact] that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union both invaded Poland [in 1939] was prosecuted.”)
   In 2021, “memory laws arrived in America. Republican state legislators proposed dozens of bills designed to guide and control American understanding of the past. [As of June 2021,] five states (Idaho, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma) have passed laws that direct and restrict discussions of history in classrooms….The Idaho law…affirms freedom of speech and then bans divisive speech….In Tennessee teachers must not teach that the rule of law is ‘a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups.’…The Texas law forbids teachers from requiring students to understand the 1619 Project[,] [which places the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the US’ national narrative]. [T]he most common feature among the laws, and the one most familiar to a student of repressive memory laws elsewhere in the world, is their attention to feelings. Four of five of them, in almost identical language, proscribe any curricular activities that would give rise to ‘discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.’” (It’s quite likely that some white students would feel discomfort upon learning “the history of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression” or that “Hitler admired Jim Crow and the myth of the Wild West.”) (The New York Times Magazine, 4 July 2021, 40-2)
   (“Along with trying to roll back voting rights, the [Texas] Legislature and the governor have already passed into law measures that require public school history teachers to tell ‘both sides’ of the story of racism. Abortions will be banned if there is a fetal heartbeat, usually around six weeks…[T]hese bills are unpopular, even wildly so, not just with Texans in general, or Democrats in particular, but even with [meaningful numbers of] Republicans….This is what happens when democracy breaks down. A weak [Democratic] party allows the other party to quit worrying about [losing] elections.” Accordingly, Texas Republicans are responding to a narrow, Trump-loving, politically-engaged (most importantly during primaries) segment. (The New York Times, 18 July 2021, SR 4))

-“Among democracies, the US stands out for its faith that free speech is the right from which all other freedoms flow. European countries are more apt to fight destabilizing lies by balancing free speech with other rights. It’s an approach informed by the history of fascism and the memory of how propaganda, lies and the scapegoating of minorities can sweep authoritarian leaders to power. Many nations shield themselves from such anti-pluralistic ideas. In Canada, it’s a criminal offense to publicly incite hatred ‘against any identifiable group.’ South Africa prosecutes people for uttering certain racial slurs. A number of countries in Europe treat Nazism as a unique evil, making it a crime to deny the Holocaust.”
   “In the US, laws like these surely wouldn’t survive Supreme Court review, given the current understanding of the First Amendment — an understanding that comes out of [the] country’s history and [its] own brushes with suppressing dissent. The First Amendment did not prevent the administration of John Adams from prosecuting more than a dozen newspaper editors for seditious libel or the Socialist and labor leader Eugene V. Debs from being convicted of sedition over a speech, before a peaceful crowd, opposing involvement in World War I. In 1951, the Supreme Court upheld the convictions of Communist Party leaders for ‘conspiring’ to advocate the overthrow of the government, though the evidence showed only that they had met to discuss their ideological beliefs.”
   “It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Supreme Court enduringly embraced the vision of the First Amendment expressed, decades earlier, in a dissent by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: ‘The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas.’ In Brandenburg v. Ohio, that meant protecting the speech of a Ku Klux Klan leader at a 1964 rally, setting a high bar for punishing inflammatory words….‘[T]he court learned from experience to guard against a worse evil: the government using its power to silence its enemies.’” (The New York Times Magazine, 31 Jan. 2021, 36-7)

Western Sahara: Additional Information for Point 3.
-“[In December 2020], President Trump formally recognized Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara as part of a deal to get Morocco to [formally] normalize relations with Israel. But Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara is rejected by the United Nations, the World Court, the African Union and a broad consensus of international legal scholars that consider the region a non-self-governing territory that must be allowed an act of self-determination.”
   “The Trump administration’s move does nothing for the people of the Western Sahara, nothing for the cause of self-determination, and nothing for efforts to resolve the Western Sahara dispute. It can only make resolution of the conflict less, not more, likely than before…It also increases US isolation on yet another international issue, identifying the United States with a might-makes-right approach to territorial control. And what did the administration get in return for incurring these costs? Nothing for the US. Instead, the deal reached with the Moroccan regime of King Mohammed VI was part of the administration’s campaign on behalf of the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu to get Arab states to upgrade their relations with Israel. It is transactional dealing in support of Likud.”
-“Morocco has not deprived the people of the Western Sahara of citizenship in a state. It has bestowed on them a citizenship they do not want. That is an issue for the two parties to work out in history. What makes the situation in Gaza and the West Bank so egregious is that people are being kept stateless. [Accordingly, for example,] They cannot be sure they own the property they think they do, since Israeli squatters can take it at will.” Nevertheless, Morocco’s occupation is even more abusive than Israel’s. “[E]ven nonviolent Sahrawi resistance—of peaceful protests, sit-ins, occupations, strikes, and boycotts—has been met with severe repression. Opportunities for dissent—much less sustained guerilla activity—is thus limited. Western Sahara, which Freedom House considers one of the dozen least free nations in the world, featuring (a lack of) rights on par with…Tibet, Uzbekistan, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.”
-“Don’t believe for a moment that US support for the Israeli occupation is out of concern about Palestinian terrorism or a need to defend Israel’s right to exist. The Polisario Front, the Western Sahara nationalist movement, has never engaged in terrorism and has never questioned Morocco’s right to exist, but the United States supports the Moroccan occupation anyway.” (Stephen Zunes, Facebook post, 27 May 2021)


Jeffrey Rudolph, a college professor, was a regional representative of the East Timor Alert Network and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He was awarded the prestigious Cheryl Rosa Teresa Doran Prize upon graduation from McGill University’s faculty of law; has worked at one of the world’s largest public accounting firms; and, has taught at McGill University. He has prepared widely distributed quizzes on Israel-Palestine, Iran, Hamas, Terrorism, Saudi Arabia, US Inequality, the US Christian Right, Hezbollah, the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox, Qatar, China, and Egypt. These quizzes are available at,

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