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Insults and apologies over Israel

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The Sunday Times issues an apology to Jewish community leaders for it publishing the cartoon depicting Netanyahu building the Israel wall with the blood of Palestinians. (Incidentally, even Rupert Murdoch gave press interview and personally apologised).

Two observations come to mind.

First, the media sprang into action to defend the Danish newspaper that published cartoons denigrating the Muslim prophet Mohammed, exclaiming that principles of free speech needed to be upheld. That cartoon was aimed directly at the heart of Islam, its founding prophet. The Sunday Times cartoon targeted neither Moses, nor Abraham, nor any great Jewish prophet, but rather Netanyahu, a political leader, and his policies. Will we now have an uproar in the press to protect The Sunday Times right to free speech? I suspect not, but I hope to be proved wrong.

Second, countless Jews world over are critical of Israel’s flagrant abuses of human rights and its apartheid regime, just as countless Whites the world over were critical of South Africa’s apartheid regime. Criticism of South African apartheid was not criticism of whiteness any more than criticism of Israeli policy is anti-Semitism. Both are criticism of political systems, not of races or religions.

Many Jews recognise that Israel’s values, much as most Muslims recognise that al-Qaida is not representative of Islam’s. To criticise Netanyahu for his policies is not anti-Semitism. I would suggest it is actually more offensive to Judaism to equate it with his flagrant racism and supremacist policies – Judaism espouses no such thing.

(The above was written by Iyas AlQasem, Twickenham, Middlesex, UK and was published by The Independent on 31 January 2013, in the letter to the editor column).

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