Anti-Semitism beyond Mel Gibson

The frenzy around a celebrity’s words should illuminate the larger problem.

There is a clear line between objective criticizism of the state of Israel’s policies and practices of anti-Semitism. It’s obvious to many the statements by Mel Gibson fall into the latter category, and while the actor has apologized for the comments he made, the recent fuss over this debacle begs us to question what other acts of anti-Semitism are taking place. Most of these acts fly by with little public notice, while a situation involving a celebrity has sparked a media frenzy that has lasted for weeks.

Anti-Semitism is growing in Europe. This trend is very similar to the existence of anti-Americanism abroad. And just as it is unjust to judge all Americans by the policies of the U.S. government, it’s equally an injustice to do this to all Israelis. More importantly, Jews are part of a religious group, so they belong to various nations. Many people ignorantly fail to recognize the distinction between Israelis and Jewish people everywhere. Not all Jewish people identify with Israel; to assume Jews are a monolithic bloc whether they live in Morocco, the United States or Russia is a racist and inaccurate notion.

It is crucial to not mistake legitimate political dissent over the state policies of Israel as anti-Semitism. No state government should be exempt from criticism on the supposed basis of racism, and this notion is critical for the sustainability of democratic societies and objective political discourse. At the same time, political expression is not the same as plain racism, and any conscious and competent adult recognizes this boundary.

People should not have to live in fear or experience discrimination because others are outraged at politicians and policymakers. This anger is merely misdirected hate and should be viewed as such.

Jewish people continue to be a minority, and like many other populations, they are a target for racist actions. Hopefully people can see the larger problems of anti-Semitism in the world beyond the passion of Mel Gibson.