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Should criticism of Israel be considered a hate crime?

The term anti-Semitism conjures up lots of images of Nazi Germany and the concentration camps but lately the term might also be construed as a way to bully critics of Israel's illegal and colonial handling of Palestinians as second class citizens not worthy of human rights considerations into silencing their criticism.

For instance, at Northeastern University Students for Justice in Palestine was banned after the group posted reproductions of evictions notices placed on Palestinian homes set for demolition to build more settlements in violation of International law. Northeastern made SJP board members attend special trainings on diversity as well as threatening further disciplinary action.

In 2011 10 students at UC Irvine disrupted a speech by Israel Ambassador Michael Oren, who was later hired as a CNN commentator, and were found guilty and forced to perform community service and placed on informal probation. Oren has since called on the US Congress to blacklist supporters of the BDS Movement, and to prosecute anyone who protests at appearances of Israeli officials.

Students at Florida Atlantic were stripped of student leadership roles and were ordered to attend indoctrination classes prepared by Anti-Defamation League that were crude attempts to equate all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. The students had merely walked out of a talk given by an Israeli Army officer.

Benjamin Netanyahu has called on Americans to treat protesters as anti-Semites and bigots. Israel is currently lobbying for bills in state legislatures in New York, Maryland and Illinois that would impose financial sanctions on academic organizations that support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

These tactics seem to be designed to silence critics of Israeli policy towards the Palestinian population and to stifle free speech because Israel is losing the war of public opinion. The protests have all been peaceful and non violent and have been directed at governmental policies of Israel not the Jewish faith making it a stretch to claim the dissent stems from bigotry thus anti-Semitism.

Noam Sheizaf writing in response to an editorial in the Jerusalem Post titled "Yes, all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic," had this to say:

"Israel is currently engaged in the longest lasting military occupation on earth, a racist colonial project, which involves violence and human rights abuses on a structural, large scale basis. Perhaps it is not the worst regime on earth, and certainly is not the worst in history but it is bad enough to deserve all the attention it gets and more. Fighting it is not anti-Semitism. It is called having a conscience."

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