Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, authored a commentary published today in the Argus Leader responding to an anti-Israel speaking tour in South Dakota.
The Longest Hatred: Alison Weir's Speaking Tour in South Dakota
By Steve Hunegs
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, anti-Semitism - that is prejudice or hatred against Jews - may indeed be "the longest hatred." While this 2,000-year plague has many forms, common elements are the perpetuation of the most fantastic lies about Jews and Judaism, including, the belief in pernicious "blood libels;" the espousing of conspiracy theories of Jewish domination; and the attribution of the most vile qualities to Jews.
Within this context, enter Alison Weir from "If Americans Knew," which describes itself as "a clear-sighted view of the [Israeli-Palestinian Conflict] that is free of partisan perspectives or preconceptions and that relies exclusively on facts-based analysis." Though Ms. Weir presents a mild mannered persona in her current South Dakota speaking tour, which included a fair and challenging interview with the Argus Leader's Patrick Lalley, her conspiracy minded belief that Israel is at the heart of all that is wrong with the Middle East quickly reveals her hateful bias. No wonder, the ADL has noted that "Alison Weir's criticism of Israel has, at times, crossed the line into distortions customarily found in the literature of anti-Semites."
For example, in her Argus Leader interview, Ms. Weir claimed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "the core issue of the Middle East. Everything that happens in the Middle East is very related to this core Israel-Palestine issue." This is a preposterous statement as evidenced by the violent struggle between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, or between secular and Islamist Egyptians. Yet, this malicious distortion is nothing compared to Ms. Weir's fantastic claims in articles titled "The New Blood Libel? Israeli Organ Harvesting" and "Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine," which she repeated in her September 23rd interview. From her belief in coordinated American media cover-ups; to her debunked theories about the sinking of the U.S.S. Liberty; to the bizarre claim that Israel was responsible for the drowning death of a Texas-based Palestinian activist, Ms. Weir is an enthusiastic proponent of outlandish anti-Israel conspiracy theories. And while it is indeed true that being anti-Israel does not make one an anti-Semite, Ms. Weir's notorious claim on the "If Americans Knew" website that Judaism is "a ruthless and supremacist faith" should resolve any doubt about her contempt for the Jewish people.
Given Ms. Weir's obsessive hatred for and caricature of Israel, it is no surprise she has a contorted view of reality. For example, whereas Ms. Weir incorrectly maintains that in contrast to our government, "surveys show that the majority, the large majority, it's usually 2/3 to 3/4 in surveys say that they don't want to take sides on Israel-Palestine," recent Gallup polling indicates that "Americans' sympathies lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64% vs. 12%." Furthermore, where Ms. Weir portrays Israel as a ward of American taxpayers, she blatantly disregards the reality of modern Israel, a thriving democracy with a $100 billion economy, which has the highest living standards in the Middle East, including the third lowest Arab infant mortality rate; produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a significant margin; and is responsible for a spectacular number of inventions and technical breakthroughs including, but by no means limited to, the cell phone, voice mail, and Nobel Prize winning research and treatments for cancer.
While Ms. Weir is certainly entitled to her opinions, we believe that the antidote for damaging lies is not the suppression of hateful rhetoric, but the truth. Moreover, Ms. Weir's dead-ender demonization of Israel, if not Judaism itself, reminds us of the importance of listening to those on both sides who seek a more peaceful and secure future for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and not those who lurk in the shadow of the "longest of hatreds."
Steve Hunegs is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.