Anti-Israel bigotry and bias anti-Semitism Manfred Gerstenfeld



This is an essay by Dr.Manfred Gerstenfled “How double standards are used in the anti-Israel propaganda war.” A summarized version of an essay on this subject that appeared in the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism Volume 4, Issue 2, 2012.

How Double Standards are Used in the Anti-Israel Propaganda War

Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr.Manfred GerstenfeldThe use of different standards concerning Jews when compared to others has been a major element at the heart of anti-Semitic activities and incitement over many centuries. This occurred to the extreme when Jews were confined to live in certain parts of a town, were not free to wear the clothes they wanted, and could not work in most professions. It meant that double standards against them profoundly permeated most aspects of their lives. This discrimination of Jews was frequently accompanied by their demonization.

Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines a “double standard” succinctly: “A rule or standard of good behavior which, unfairly, some people are expected to follow or achieve but other people are not.”[1]

The definition of anti-Semitism set forth by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA, formerly the EUMC) — a body associated with the European Union — recognizes the important role double standards plays in the discrimination of Israel and their anti-Semitic character. The document which contains this definition mentions that manifestations of anti-Semitism “could also target the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”

It refers not only to matters such as calling for or justifying the killing of Jews, dehumanizing and demonizing them, accusing them of imagined wrongdoing, denying the Holocaust, and charging Jews with being like Nazis. The definition also includes denying Jews the right to self-determination and applying double standards by requiring behavior of Israel that is not expected of any other democratic country.[2] This definition thus distinguishes “regular” criticism of Israel from anti-Semitic expressions against it.

Categories of Double Standards

The number of instances where double standards are applied against Israel is almost unlimited. To demonstrate the various aspects of this phenomenon, one can best focus on showing examples from various categories of double standards used against Israel as compared to others.

One category of double standards applied against Israel is biased declarations or reporting. Such declarations or reporting can come from the United Nations and other international organizations, governments, parliaments, church leaders, media, trade unions, NGO’s, academic bodies, as well as individuals.

A typical case of biased declarations concerned condemnations from many countries of the killing by Israel of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004. The flurry of international reactions to the killing of Bin Laden by the U.S. Army could have provided Israel with a major opportunity to demonstrate the double standards applied against it by so many in the Western world and elsewhere. All one had to do is compare the reactions of various important leaders and institutions to this assassination with those after the killing of Sheikh Yassin. This terrorist leader was directly responsible for many lethal attacks on Israeli civilians including suicide bombings.[3]

The United Nations’ declarations in these cases illustrate the bias well. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that, “The death of Osama Bin Laden, announced by President [Barack] Obama last night, is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism.”[4] After the killing of Sheikh Yassin, then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “I do condemn the targeted assassination of Sheikh Yassin and the others who died with him. Such actions are not only contrary to international law, but they do not do anything to help the search for a peaceful solution.”[5]

After the Bin Laden killing, the leaders of the European Council and the European Commission stated that Bin Laden’s death, “made the world a safer place and showed that terrorist attacks do not remain unpunished.”[6]  Following the Yassin killing, then-E.U. Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana said, “This type of action does not contribute at all to create the conditions of peace. This is very, very bad news for the peace process. The policy of the European Union has been consistent condemnation of extra-judicial killing.”[7]

2) Omissions

A second type of double standard is the omission of relevant information. One way to omit is by deleting context. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times published — many years later — that Western correspondents stationed in Beirut before 1982 did not even offer a hint about the well-known corruption of the PLO leadership there. He also noted that these correspondents judged the PLO with much more largesse than they did the Phalangists, Israelis, or Americans.[8] One major reason was that they had to stay on good terms with the PLO because otherwise, when their Foreign Editor arrived, he would not get the much-coveted interview with Yasser Arafat.[9]

3) Disproportional Behavior

A third category of double standards involves disproportional behavior. One example of this is when media report in detail on negative news about Israel and barely mention far more important negative news about Muslim states.

NGO Monitor has exposed how Human Rights Watch in its publications uses disproportional behavior to demonize Israel. In 2008, it carried out a quantitative analysis of HRW’s publications. NGO Monitor found that this NGO portrayed Israel as the second worst abuser of human rights in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia, but ahead of Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

In that year, HRW condemned Israel for violations of “Human Rights Law,” “Humanitarian Law,” or “International Humanitarian Law” 33 times compared with 13 citations for the Palestinians, 6 for Hezbollah and 5 for Egypt. NGO Monitor pointed out that HRW in that year placed Israel on par with Sudan, and leaders from the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Uganda.[10]

4) Interference in Israel’s Internal Affairs

A fourth type of the use of double standards is interference in Israel’s internal affairs. An example of this is a resolution unanimously adopted by the German Parliament after the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010. It claimed that Israel’s action did not “serve the political and security interests of Israel.”

The German Social Democrat parliamentarian Gerd Weisskirchen wondered how the German Parliament could possibly decide what serves the interests of Israeli security. And even if it did, how could it make such a decision without an intense dialogue with the Israeli Knesset?[11]

5) Discriminatory Acts

A fifth category of double standards are discriminatory acts against Israel. These may overlap for instance with the earlier-mentioned category of biased declarations. Already a decade ago, Irwin Cotler, who later would become Canadian Minister of Justice, referred to the United Nations as a paradigm of double standards practiced against Israel. He said, “Despite the killing fields throughout the world, the UN Security Council sat from March to May 2002 in almost continuous sessions discussing a non-existent massacre in Jenin.”[12]

Yet another illustration of this phenomenon was when the British daily The Independent published a cartoon by Dave Brown depicting Sharon as a child-eater, a new mutation of the medieval blood libel. The vilification of Jews that they use the blood of Gentile children for religious purposes originated in England during the Middle Ages. In response to protests, the UK Press Complaints Commission cleared the cartoon.[13] Subsequently it won the Political Cartoon Society’s Political Cartoon of the Year Award for 2003.

The discriminatory character of this cartoon was emphasized by the then Israeli ambassador in the U.K. Zvi Shtauber. He asked the Independent’s Jewish editor, Simon Kelner, whether the paper had ever published a similar caricature of a public figure. Kelner had to go back eighteen years to find one.[14]

Another type of discriminatory acts which expresses double standards against Israel is the promotion of divestments and boycotts. One example among many is that of the Norwegian state pension fund which divested from shares of some Israeli companies, while keeping the shares of a number of highly unethical companies in its portfolio.[15]

6) Double Standards in Applying International Law

A sixth category concerns double standards in applying international law. International lawyer Meir Rosenne, former Israeli ambassador to the United States and France, expressed an even stronger opinion: “There are two types of international law. One is applied to Israel, the other to all other states. This comes to the fore when one looks at the way Israel is treated in international institutions…”

Rosenne mentions as a typical example of double standards in international law the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the Israeli security fence. “In its judgment The Hague court decided that the inherent right of self-defense is enforced only if one is confronted by a state. If this were true, that would mean that whatever the United States undertakes against Al-Qaeda is illegal. This cannot be considered self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because Al-Qaeda is not a state.”[16]

7) Humanitarian Racism     

A seventh category of double standard might be called ‘humanitarian racism.’ This is one of the least recognized forms of racism. It can be defined as attributing intrinsically reduced responsibility to people of certain ethnic or national groups for their criminal acts and intentions. These people judge misbehavior and crime differently according to the color and power of those who commit them. White people are held to different standards of responsibility than people of color are for example.[17] Israelis are blamed for whatever measures they take to defend themselves.

Humanitarian racism can appear combined with demonization. In 1984, Swedish Deputy Foreign Minister Pierre Schori, a Social Democrat visited Israel. At the time he praised Arafat and his ‘flexible policy.’ In an article he claimed that “the terrorist acts of the PLO were ‘meaningless,’ while Israel’s retaliatory acts were ‘despicable acts of terrorism.’” [18]

How to Combat Double Standards

The combating of double standards is a crucial issue in the fight against the delegitimization of Israel. In a fragmented post-modern society there are many such perpetrators of Israel-hate. A number employ more than one category of double standards.

Several individuals and organizations who apply double standards toward Israel do so frequently. Their statements and acts can be followed on the internet. One can choose a few such anti-Semites to be carefully monitored and exposed. Most people are cowards. Once it becomes clear that some will have to pay heavily for anti-Semitic many of Israel’s enemies will become more careful.

A greater role in combating double standards can be played by monitoring organizations which follow those responsible of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in specific areas. As they know the main perpetrators in these fields well, they can publish articles about their double standards, while also referring to earlier cases. In this way a fuller picture of misbehavior of specific organizations and individuals is created.

NGO Monitor, which monitors anti-Israel non-governmental organizations non has already been doing this on a number of occasions. It has frequently followed a ‘naming and shaming’ strategy. With regard to the United Nations for instance, much work has been done by two monitoring organizations, U.N. Watch and Eye on the U.N. Similarly, one could and should investigate a variety of church bodies. However, there is presently no monitoring organization in this area.

One typical example of another worthwhile target is large parts of the Norwegian cultural elite, including the current Norwegian government and two of the parties which support it – the Labor party and the Left Socialists. This government is in many ways an indirect supporter of anti-Israeli terrorism.[19]

Yet another way of combating double standards is public figures coming out against double standards and other phenomena of delegitimization. One example of a leader who did so is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who said in 2010:

“We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism. And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism – healthy, necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack – is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.  Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the three D’s, it is the responsibility of us all to stand up to them.”[20]

Legal means may also be used in some cases where double standards express themselves through discrimination of individuals. One should aim for increasing intensity and a more systematic approach in combating anti-Israeli double standards. That will also bring with it more sophisticated and efficient methods of combat in the future.


An analysis of double standards used against Israel shows that they appear in a large number of fields and have permeated many aspects of Western society. The application of such double standards against Israel has a cumulative effect of demonization and a slow buildup of support for its delegitimization.

It is a major failure that successive Israeli governments and their lead officials have understood far too little of the nature of this demonization and delegitimization process and how double standards are used in it. At the same time, following this process also gives many insights into the moral degradation of contemporary societies including Western ones. Jews have been a witness to the moral depravity of many societies and elements thereof throughout the ages. The same is now true as far as Israel


[1] Cambridge Dictionaries Online


[3] For a more detailed analysis, see: Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Bin Laden versus Yassin,” Ynet, 5 March, 2011.

[4] “U.N. chief Ban hails bin Laden death as ‘watershed’,” Reuters, 2 May 2011.

[5] “World leaders condemn Yassin assassination,” The Sunday Times, 22 March 2004.

[6] Lisa Bryant, “Europe Welcomes bin Laden’s Death,” Voice of America, 2 May 2011.

[7]  “World leaders condemn Yassin assassination,” The Sunday Times, 22 March 2004.

[8] Thomas L. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1990), 72-73.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Examining Human Rights Watch in 2008; Double Standards and Post-Colonial Ideology,” NGO Monitor, 13 January 2009.

[11] Gert Weisskirchen, “Anmassende Abgeordnete,” Jüedische Allgemeine, 8 July 2010.[German].

[12] Manfred Gerstenfeld, Interview with Irwin Cotler, “Discrimination Against Israel in the International Arena: Undermining the Cause of Human Rights at the United Nations,” in Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism, (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Yad Vashem, World Jewish Congress, 2003), 220.


[14] Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Zvi Shtauber, “British Attitudes on Israel and the Jews,” in Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? 188.

[15] “Israel: Billionaire with settlement links targeted in divestment campaign,”

[16] Personal communication Meir Rosenne in Manfred Gerstenfeld , “European Politics – Double Standards Toward Israel,” Jewish Political Studies Review, 17:3-4, Fall 2005.

[17] Manfred Gerstenfeld, Behind the Humanitarian Mask, (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies,) 2008, 22-23.

[18] Moshe Yegar, Neutral Policy—Theory versus Practice: Swedish-Israeli Relations (Jerusalem: Israel Council on Foreign Relations, 1993), 126-128.

[19] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Is Norway promoting terror,?” Ynet, 2 August 2011.

[20] Statement by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at Ottawa Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, November 2010. AFP and Ynetnews.  9 November 2010. Retrieved from,7340,L-3981757,00.html



2 Responses

  1. Thank you very much for this article, Dr.Manfred Gerstenfled. It has given me direction and strength to go on with explanations which I try, to the best of my poor abilities, to provide on different Internet sites and when just talking to people.

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