I am writing in response to Joey Tartakovsky’s Feb. 23 Daily Nexus column, “Israeli Struggle Inspires the U.S.”

Joey begins his article by complaining about the special attention given to the Israel-Palestine conflict in the news. Although I agree with his observation about the extent of the attention focused on the conflict, it’s with the spirit and intent of the article that I disagree.

Joey’s complaint appears to be based on the loss of lives in conflicts in other parts of the globe, such as the Caucasus and the Congo. Although there is no question that we should never lose sight of the victims, other considerations make it both reasonable and necessary for the Israel-Palestine conflict to retain public attention.

As a contributor of an annual $5 billion of foreign aid to the United States, Israel should be of interest to every American tax-payer and should be held accountable to review by the American people and the media. Furthermore, as our foremost strategic ally in the Middle East, Israel is particularly newsworthy considering the thrust of Washington’s foreign policy at the moment.

It is striking that Joey’s article is less concerned with the plight of the ignored victims around the globe and more concerned with what he considers the unfair focus on Israel. Because he takes little time to remind us of those forgotten victims of history, it appears that his main purpose is to discourage criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, particularly the well-known Israeli government’s collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.

Joey’s piece appears to have been “inspired” by a Los Angeles Times article, “Jews and Israelis Can Start to Turn the Tide of Hatred,” that ran in the Feb. 25 opinion section. Does he assume that UCSB students don’t read the paper? What the two articles have in common is the conflation of anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel; in other words, they both equate one with the other. This is a dangerous argument for several reasons:

First, it silences the kind of criticism that is every American citizen’s right and responsibility.

Second, it frees Israel from political accountability and moral responsibility – a dangerous step in a world already made dangerous by those who flouted all responsibility in the name of a higher principle in 9/11.

Third, it obscures attention from real instances of anti-Semitism, both in the Middle East and beyond. Most importantly, to call all criticism directed against Israel “anti-Semitic” is morally reprehensible. It is an argument based not on evidence and argument, but on scare-tactics and blackmail. According to what kind of logic is (a) the criticism of Israeli military violence against a primitively armed civilian population under occupation the same as (b) the vicious discrimination against and murder of Jews?

Unlike Joey, I am not one of those “Americans [who] watch [Israel] with admiration.” Instead, like many other Americans, I watch in horror as our ally in the Middle East tries to fence out an indigenous population under occupation. Like many Americans, I find our unquestioning of Israel’s colonial apartheid plans tragic as I sit down to pay my taxes. I call on all moral people, Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and otherwise, to stand up for human rights and participate in civil dialogue and criticism.

Ali Kattan-Wright is a senior global studies major.