What is Delegitimization?

January 6, 2011

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n his predictions for 2011, Seth Cohen suggested that Jewish leaders will need to “search for ways to strike a balance between the passion for the idea of Israel and defense of the State of Israel.” His comments are all the more urgent in the light of recent events.

The Knesset has decided to establish a panel that will investigate the funding sources of Israeli NGO’s that seek to delegitimize the IDF.

Its proponents argue that organisations such as Adalah and Machsom Watch are aiding Israel’s enemies. The opponents of the panel cry McCarthyism.

Beyond the Knesset, throughout the Jewish world the fight against the delegitimization of Israel is stepping up, accompanied by complaints that this work is censoring honest critique.

Photo by: Nir Keidar



It would seem that “delegitimization” needs some clarification.


Natan Sharansky wrote a key document suggesting we view the new anti-semitism through 3D glasses: Demonization, Double Standards, and Delegitimization. Any critique of Israel that demonizes Israelis, or judges Israel according to standards not applied in the rest of the world, or questions the right of Israel to exist – is antisemitism in a new guise.


Yet an anarchist who does not believe in Nation States at all, may well be against the State of Israel without being an antisemite.


Indeed there are many Jews who proudly hold Israel to a higher moral standard than other States out of love and respect for Jewish traditions, not out of any antisemitic double standards.


May we suggest that of Sharansky’s 3 D’s, one needs to recognize at least two before crying antisemitism?


According to this “formula”, delegitimization of Israel would need to be accompanied by demonization or double standards to be deemed beyond the pale.

It is often very difficult to differentiate between those bettering and those battering Israel. Yet the effort must be made, for while we cannot afford to lose to the latter, we end up impoverished if we accidentally silence the former.


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