Last week, I pointed out: “Some pro-Israel activists try to undermine their opposition by calling them anti-Semites, even when it’s not justified. Some who are unsympathetic to Israel try to undermine their opposition by claiming that perfectly legitimate criticism of their views is the work of pro-Israel hysterics” who claim all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.”
When I post about anything vaguely Israel-related, and sometimes even when I don’t, various commentators often write [and I often delete] or even email to me something to the effect of, “watch out, next thing you know Bernstein will call you an anti-Semite” for criticizing Israel. This made me wonder whether there was any empirical justification for the charge that I frequently call critics of Israel anti-Semites.
So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s get the facts straight. I searched the Volokh Conspiracy archives for any instance in which I used the term anti-Semite. It’s possible I missed something, but near as I can tell, I have called three individuals “anti-Semites”: Mel Gibson’s father, Justice James McReynolds, and Karl Marx. And having checked the vast majority of my uses of “anti-Semitic,” I noticed that have referred to the Nation of Islam as an “anti-Semtitic organization,” Al Sharpton as an “anti-Semitic demagogue,” and I implied that Mikis Theodorakis is anti-Semitic. [I’ve also referred to some obviously anti-Semitic writings, such as an email calling Eugene and me “dumb Likudnik monkeys” for taking a position that had nothing to do with Israel or Jews, and speeches as anti-Semitic, without calling the authors anti-Semites.] All six of these references have two things in common: first, the individuals or organizations in questions are indisputably anti-Semitic; and two, none of the references have anything to do with Israel.
Now, I don’t expect every reader to share my interest in Israel, or in anti-Semitism. But I do expect a little care and honesty in portraying how, why, and when I refer to individuals as anti-Semites.