A Quick Test For the Anti-Semitism Virus

Fail this test, and you are an anti-Semite. No ands, ifs, or buts.

It’s important to realize that there are people who oppose many of Israel’s policies and activities who are not anti-Semites. (Lots of them sit in Knesset!) They may be right; they may be wrong. They may be misinformed or hopeless naïfs. It doesn’t matter. Those of us who spend serious time advocating for Israel know that it is a mistake to label any and all opposition to Israel as anti-Semitism. (I don’t know anyone who actually thinks that way, but the BDS people make good use of the canard that you cannot speak to Jews about Israel, because they will brand you an anti-Semite for the slightest criticism of their Jewish State. Their claim that we shut down all conversation is actually a clever way for them to shut down all conversation!)

It is also a mistake to underestimate the amount of old-fashioned, unvarnished Jew-hatred that is alive and well around the world and in high places of government, academia, and religion. Is there a litmus test to separate the legitimate criticism from the uglier kind?

For many years, I peddled Natan Sharansky’s Three D’s. He argued that criticism of Israel crossed a line into anti-Semitism when it violated any one of three touchstones: Delegitimization, Demonization, and Double-standard. Worked well for me. But it took time to get results. You had to wait to hear significant conversation. We needed something like the instant strep test you look for when one of the kids is under the weather.

I found it by spending a few days at Hadassah where my mother-in-law awaited (and is now recovering BEH from) surgery. (Please daven for Devorah Ita bas Rochel.) What struck me fast and and hard was the easy cooperation, the collegial atmosphere between Jewish and Arab staff. All levels. Physicians, nurses, support, maintenance. Talking to each other, working as teams. Not just a few examples here and there, but absolutely the rule. Casual, matter-of-fact, effective. Young hijab-bedecked nurses in pleasant animated discussion (in Hebrew) with haredi colleagues. Not what you see on MSNBC.

It was a shock to some people there, that after a while they had their favorite Arab physician or nurse, whom they preferred at times over some of the Jewish staff. (Happened to us a number of times. While the level of medical know-how is impressive, interactions with patients and families left much to be desired. I’ve seen far better in the US. There were many exceptions: young doctors, American-trained doctors, and frum doctors all were more sympathetic, more caring, and gave more of their time. They were several cuts above the rest. The culprit seemed to be the European “professor” system, where everyone bows to the leading medical eminence, who needs to bend to no one. I don’t remember who explains the gemara’s commentary on the medical profession טוב שברופאים לגהינום as referring specifically to the physician who holds himself to be the best of the bunch, but it certainly came alive for me last week.)

All of this is aside from the mix of patients at the hospital. Arab patients seemed to number about half. Jews and Arabs treated absolutely the same. Which led to families and visitors also mixing in the areas reserved for non-patients. I had a long conversation with a Muslim West Bank Arab who started speaking to me in English. He had spent much time in the US, where his kids were educated and still lived. He had voted for Trump (“America needed a change”). I asked him whether he feared Trump’s anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric. Absolutely not, he said. Americans were too fair to allow real harm to Muslim citizens. We took selfies with each other, and traded prescriptions for peace. (Palestinians, he said, need to understand that Israel is a reality, and that they were not going to push the Jews into the sea. Jews, he argued, needed to understand that they were not going to push the Palestinians into Jordan.)

So what’s the quick test for anti-Semitism? [Drum roll]

Bring the person to Hadassah for a half hour. If they can still get the words “Apartheid State!” out of their mouths after being hit with the huge counterexamples, they are nothing but contemptible, miserable anti-Semites.

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19 Responses


    The Maharsha on the Mishnah in Kiddushin says it refers to the “know-it-all” doctors who think so much of their knowledge that they refuse to consult with other doctors and as a result may make more potentially lethal errors.

  2. BY says:

    While the level of medical know-how is impressive, interactions with patients and families left much to be desired. I’ve seen far better in the US.

    I realize that this is not the main point of your piece, but since you mention it, may I suggest that, as a public service, you consider contacting the directorate of Hadassah and sharing your impressions? Perhaps even explain who you are and what you do, and share with them what kind of impression this leaves you with? (That is, if you have not already done this…) I’m wondering whether with more comments from us Anglos here, there might not be some miniscule but meaningful change.

  3. Ori Pomerantz says:

    <I>Bring the person to Hadassah for a half hour. If they can still get the words “Apartheid State!” out of their mouths after being hit with the huge counterexamples, they are nothing but contemptible, miserable anti-Semites.</I>

    I once asked friends who are apartheid experts (having grown up under that system), and while this makes sense it doesn’t work. Even under apartheid, hospitals were integrated, according to them.

  4. Raymond says:

    I actually do regard criticism of Israel to be antisemitic, simply because it is almost always given way out of proportion of what is deserved.  For example, critics of Israel will constantly point to Yigal Amir’s assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, or even more frequently, point to the USS Liberty being fired upon by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967, or endlessly discuss Menachem Begin bombing the King David Hotel back in the 1940’s, while completely ignoring the terrorist attacks being done against us Jews by the moslems on a continuous basis from the days of Mohammed until now.  Perhaps an even more dramatic example of such disproportional criticism of Israel, is how often Israel is condemned by the United Nations Security Council, so much so that I often wonder if the sole purpose of the United Nations is to represent the antisemites of our world.  Furthermore, the world does not seem to care whenever Jews are murdered in such terrorist attacks, as if we Jews somehow deserve it, while if Paris is similarly attacked, the whole world is outraged.  I have even heard of gentiles who resent us Jews for the success we have had in publicizing the nazi Holocaust against our people!  And then there are those Democrats who only supported Israel when Israel was perceived to be the underdog, but once that perception incorrectly changed with Israel’s miraculous victory during the Six Day War, the Democrats have, to a significant extent, turned against us, calling us Jews the oppressors, which makes no sense but making sense when it comes to judging us Jews does not seem to be a priority among too many gentiles in our world, particularly those on the Left side of the political spectrum.

    • Reb Yid says:

      Totally disagree.

      As proud Americans, we have always voiced our objections in a variety of ways when there are decisions made by our government that we believe are wrong, dangerous, etc for the future of the US.  That does not make us “disloyal” Americans–on the contrary, it is part and parcel of being active and proud US citizens.

      Same goes for Israel.


      • Steve Brizel says:

        Are you seriously contending that one can  simultaneously support BDS and support Israel?

      • Reb Yid says:

        I’m contending that one can be a critic of all kinds of things that go on in Israel while being a proud Zionist, Jew and Israeli (or American).  Protesting the war in Vietnam or Lebanon does not brand one as being “unpatriotic”–on the contrary.

      • Bob Miller says:

        The stench of hate emanating from the BDS movement, both its leaders and its rank and file, is undeniable.   Those who deny it anyway flunk the “can a liberal sense reality?” test.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Don’t conflate all criticism of Israel with one particular dimension of it.

        That’s like saying I shouldn’t care about Israel because if I spent time at the racist Beitar Jerusalem games with their racist fans, that I should judge a whole county based upon that (just like I shouldn’t judge a whole country based upon an experience at Hadassah Hospital, whatever extensive praise it might merit).

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Take a look at J Street’s website, as well as most of the post Zionist sites-I would challenge the notion that membership or support of the same is consistent with being a “proud Zionist, Jew and Israeli.”

      • Steve brizel says:

        When critics of Israel mourn the death of a butcher named Castro aare silent about abuses of human rights in China North Korea Africa and South America and invest more time and money criticizing Israel that is when anti Semitism and the perspectives of self hating Jews become rather blatantly apparent.

    • Natan Thaler says:

      While the people who criticize Israel might not personally hate Jews, they are often just mouthing the slogans of those who do. Perhaps they are not anti-Semites, but their positions are anti-Semitic.

  5. mb says:

    Good piece, but not sure it passes the test. This is just another version of”there are no atheists in fox holes”

  6. Hindy says:

    This test may work for November 2016. Not always. I will never forget the mood at Bikur Cholim hospital, maternity ward,  exactly 15 years ago when I gave birth in November 2001. This was the height of the intifada and in the lactation room near the nursery Arab and charedi women sat sy by side feeding their newborns. You cannot imagine the hateful communication  – both verbal and non-verbal in that room.

  7. Nachum says:

    The Tiferet Yisrael makes that point about doctors in the Mishna. It is, in fact, the same exact place he famously repeats the story of the portrait of Moshe. That story is edited out of some editions, but the point about doctors remains.



  8. Yossi says:

    I doubt this test works.  I lived in Israel long enough to be pretty sure that it doesn’t. The piece is sweet, a little naïve, and – I’m sorry about this but Dash sounds almost as naïve as liberal’s belief that if we were just all sit down and hang out together for a little while we could take away all the hatred.

  9. Great piece. Deserves wider distribution.

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