Originally published in Tikkun Daily |
The Los Angeles Times editorial board has finally had enough. Enough of what, you ask?
Enough of exemplary American citizens being falsely smeared for the crime of being Muslim or the temerity to be critical of Israel. It's had enough of so-called 'pro-Israel' groups trying to sabotage the professional lives and personal aspirations of upstanding Americans by slanderously tarring them with the "anti-Semite" label.
The Times has expressed this opinion beautifully in an op-ed congratulating, and defending, the first Muslim student ever to serve on the University of California Board of Regents, whose resume is impressive:
Congratulations to Sadia Saifuddin, who will be the first Muslim to serve as student representative to the University of California Board of Regents. Her resume for the post is a strong one: Since arriving at Berkeley, she has worked to increase the amount of financial aid available to students, to secure funding for the UC Berkeley Food Pantry and, as head of the student Senate's finance committee, to allocate money to student groups.The Times goes on to detail how Saifuddin, because of her progressive political views, has been attacked by numerous 'pro-Israel' groups, which attempted to reverse her appointment. Conservative activist David Horowitz wrote in an open letter, "If she were confirmed, it would set a dangerous precedent to encourage anti-Semitism on campus, which is already a big problem in the UC system."
But there's one glitch. She is also a critic of Israel. Like many people, she opposes the occupation of the West Bank, the continued building of settlements and what she sees as the mistreatment of Palestinians. Earlier this year, she cosponsored a nonbinding resolution in the student Senate calling on the UC system to divest from companies that do business with the Israeli military.
Here is how the Times responded:
Oh, for goodness' sake, will this never stop? There's no indication that Saifuddin is an anti-Semite, despite her criticism of Israel, her involvement with the Muslim Students Assn. or her condemnation of anti-Islamic "hate speech." On the board, she says, she hopes to focus on financial aid reform and "bringing students together."We are finally reaching a point in which attempts by American 'pro-Israel' groups to slander Muslims (and Jews) who critique Israel are being called out for what they are: extremist and tiresome.
Last week, New York Jet Oday Aboushi – the first Palestinian American to be drafted in the NFL – was wrongly smeared as anti-Semitic by a host of publications (including Yahoo! Sports), which wondered aloud whether the Jets or the NFL should allow him to play. In response, Dave Zirin wrote a forceful defense of Aboushi in The Nation that went viral.
Right-leaning 'pro-Israel' groups have diluted and cheapened a very real prejudice that exists: anti-Semitism. The term has been so misused that all it really means at this stage, when flung by right-wingers, is this: I don't agree with your politics.
As one who has also been smeared as anti-Semitic in print, I echo the Times' when it asks, "Will this never stop?"
Fortunately, growing pushback in America against such smears indicates that it may stop, or slow to a crawl, sooner rather than later.