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Between legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Israel

Between legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Israel

Dr. Dave Rich, Prof. Michael Walzer

As the anti-Zionist vehement rhetoric is most commonly leveled at the Israeli state, and targets “Zionists” without clearly defining who these Zionists actually are, it is often presented as a legitimate form of criticism, and it even garners a level of respectability. However we have seen how this anti-Zionism goes beyond rational and reality-based criticism. This of course does not mean that any criticism of the Israeli government or policy is illegitimate and antisemitic. The ability to criticize any government’s policy or stance, including an Israeli government, lies at the foundation of a healthy democratic society.

How can we differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate criticism toward Israel?


  • Herf, Jeffrey, ed., Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Historical Perspective: Convergence and Divergence (London: Routledge, 2007).

  • Hirsh, David, “Struggles over the Boundaries of Legitimate Discourse: Antisemitism and Bad-Faith Allegations,” in Charles Asher Small, ed., Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity (New York: ISGAP, 2013), pp. 89 – 94.

  • Marcus, Kenneth L., The Definition of Anti-Semitism (New York : Oxford University Press, 2015).

  • Rich, Dave, The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism (London: Biteback Publishing, 2016).

  • Rosenfeld, Alvin H., Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: The Dynamics of Delegitimization (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018).

  • Walzer, Michael, “The Four Wars of Israel/Palestine,” Dissent (Fall, 2006), pp. 26 – 33.

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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