This is likely to upset some people. I apologise in advance. It is also about Australian politics.
In Australia recently, the Greens have been making up a lot of ground, becoming in some electorates the second most popular party after the conservative Liberal Party. Consequently the two “major” (one now decidely less major) parties in Australian politics, the Liberals and the Labor Party recently devastated in a major electoral defeat in New South Wales, have been running a scare campaign against the Greens, accusing them of being a “grab bag of issues” and so on. One commentator from Labor referred to them as “lunatic” even as his party was being roundly rejected by the electorate.
Why is this? It is pretty obvious that the pre-existing major parties are worried about losing their dominance. They had a nice two-party system going there (the rural interest National Party is allied as a bloc with the Liberals) and they knew where the boundaries were. It also meant that a number of issues were not on the table despite massive popular support (for example, gay marriage). The Greens interrupted that cosy relationship. There is no presumption that political options must be restricted to the check boxes on the takeout menu that we got comfortable with after the second world war. Neither side has a divine right to be the sole parties.
So recently, the race card was played. In the NSW election, a lower house Green candidate has been elected, probably (preferential voting means results can take ages when close), one James Parker. The Murdoch owned and controlled Australian newspaper took no time in accusing him of anti-semitism by mentioning “claims” that he had accused the Jews of… something.
Greens policy is to divest of all Israel-produced goods until Israel grants full autonomy and human rights to Palestinians. According to New Matilda online magazine,
Jamie Parker revealed to New Matilda the extent of the hatred directed at him during the campaign due to the Greens BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel] policy. He had countless letters sent to him calling him a Nazi and Jew hater. His car was vandalised and campaign signs spray-painted with swastikas. He received death threats and some abusers said they knew where he lived. “One letter said I wanted to turn Balmain power station into a gas chamber and the light rail would take people there”, Parker tells me. “Lefty Jews told me that you can’t be surprised if extreme people do extreme things but they wouldn’t come out in public and condemn it.” He was appalled.
If this is true, it is appalling. But Parker denies having said these things to the writer, according to the Australian, and anyway, what is actually wrong with them? It is often the case that when people attack the human rights record of Israel, which is increasingly appalling in its own right, they are accused of antisemitism, and hatred for the Jews. No middle ground seems possible. Liking Jewish culture and people in general excludes reasoned criticism of the national policies and actions of Israel. But Jews and Israel are two different objects, and what is said of the one need not be said of the other, however much they overlap. Likewise, objection to the abuses of the state of Israel does not mean one is automatically on the “side” of “Arabs” including all terrorism committed in their, or in Islam’s, name.
Israel is a singular historical object that happens to be composed mostly of Jews, either cultural or religious. What Israel does no more extends to all Jews of either variety than what a small group of Muslims do in the name of their religion extends to all Muslims, nor should anyone making criticisms of either smaller object be thought to commit the fallacy of composition. Some do commit this, sure. But that doesn’t mean that discourse stops because some people make errors in reasoning. I can like and respect many aspects of Judaism and Islam without committing myself to unqualified support for all instantiations of it, and likewise I can criticise some of it and not attack the whole. So it is with the Greens.
Chaim Potok, one of my favourite authors, had one of his characters say in his book In the Beginning, “I will tell you about the goyim. They either hate us too much or love us too much.” This is true. A measured middle ground is needed for Jews as for all groups of human society. I am not a Greens supporter for various reasons (they are inconsistent in their commitment to individual liberty), but this policy is reasonable, even if you think it might be purely symbolic. One can object to what Israel does and still not be anti-semitic, just as one can hate what Hamas does and not be anti-Arab.