Bill Fletcher Jr.Op-EdOpinion

FLETCHER: Is Criticism of Israel Forbidden?

It may seem like a strange question, but after CNN’s termination of Marc Lamont Hill, I have to ask that question. Let me go further: If criticism of Israel is not forbidden, is there a booklet somewhere with appropriate guidelines on what can be criticized and how criticism is supposed to be offered? And, while I am at it, is there any preface to these guidelines that explains why this only applies to Israel?

I was outraged by the termination of Marc Lamont Hill. Coinciding with the bogus charges of anti-Semitism against Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, one gets the growing feeling that allegations of anti-Semitism are primarily being used against anyone who supports Palestinians’ rights.

Hill offered a presentation to the United Nations in which he was calling for the respecting of Palestinian rights by the Israeli government. He made reference to a phrase “from the river to the sea” which some pundits have suggested refers to an alleged support for eliminating Jews from Israel. How anyone can draw that conclusion is far from clear, particularly when one looks at the larger context of Hill’s speech.

Hill spoke out in favor of Palestinian rights and also called for nonviolence. His position was very clear. He was also calling for the respect of Palestinian rights in the total territory controlled by Israel, whether it was the Occupied Territories—which go to the Jordan River—or the state of Israel—which goes to the Mediterranean Sea. There is nothing surprising in these comments particularly in light of the apartheid conditions that Palestinians face in both Israel and the Occupied Territories.

The attack on Hill and on Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour are an attempt to divert attention away from the real sources of contemporary anti-Semitism, i.e., the emerging right-wing populist movement in the USA. Rather than focusing on the right-wing populists, including the neofascists, who regularly call for marginalizing or exterminating Jews, pro-Israeli hawks are using the term as a way of stifling criticism of the barbaric treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government and their supporters.

The suggestion that criticisms of Israel are anti-Semitic is as ridiculous as suggesting that a criticism of the Russian government is anti-Slavic or an attack on Morocco for occupying the Western Sahara is anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. Israel’s internal and external policies should be as subject to criticism as those of ANY other country on this planet. If they are not, then I, for one, want to know why.

Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at

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