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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Truth And Opportunism In Associating BDS With Anti-Semitism

For those who do not know what BDS is, it refers to the use of boycotts, divestments, and sanctions to pressure Israel into ending its brutal occupation against the Palestinians. The person who first explained this strategy to me was an Israeli activist who opposes the Occupation. 

In yesterday's ONIM post (click here), I listed 5 links that referred to stories about equating either opposing today's Zionism or supporting BDS with anti-Semitism. Why is there such an association? One reason could be because acts of anti-Semitism have been increasing on college campuses. But there is a problem with some of the reports on anti-Semitism. The problem has to do with the definition of anti-Semitism itself. For some have listed support for BDS as an act of anti-Semitism. The article about anti-Semitism on the UC Davis campus provides such an example as it lists support for BDS with the drawing of swastikas on buildings. BTW, swastikas have also been drawn on vehicles as well and, as a result, some Jewish students feel intimidated from fully expressing their Jewish identity and heritage.

So there is real anti-Semitism being expressed on at least some campuses and that must not be tolerated. However, why would supporting BDS and opposing Zionism be counted with acts intended to strike fear into people? Perhaps it is because talk that explains opposition to Zionism and support for BDS might stir up so much anger at the Israeli government in some that their anger spills over and causes them to target people including those who have nothing to do with Israel's policies. 

But the above is not the only reason for the association of anti-Zionism and support for BDS with anti-Semitism. That pairing can also be the result of political opportunism by those who defend Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State. In other words, the pairing of anti-Zionism and BDS with anti-Semitism is a way of intimidating and even silencing those who hold to various sets of objectionable political views. And with the latter group, what we find is that it is politically advantageous to associate anti-Zionism and BDS with anti-Semitism. 

Personally, I oppose today's version of Modern Zionism and I support BDS. But I do so with this caveat, that I do must do all I can to avoid the tribalism trap that comes with standing against what I believe are grave injustices practiced by a particular group. The tribalism trap causes people who are very incensed over a given set of injustices to judge the morality of actions by who does what to whom. So here, injustices practiced against Israel or actual acts of anti-Semitism against individual or groups of Jewish people are condoned while legitimate acts of justice practiced by Israel against Palestinians are condemned because of the anger one might have for policies of Israel's government. Again, tribalism causes us to judge the morality of actions by the criteria of who does what to whom. Thus, tribalism passionately embraces moral relativism.

If those of us who oppose today's verion of modern Zionism and support BDS are going to successufully fight off the conflation of opposing Israeli policies with anti-Semitism, then we have to start doing something that we didn't originally think was part of the package we bought into. We have to fervantly speak out against both terrorist acts performed against Israel and anti-Semitic acts and words directed and Jewish individuals and groups. And we have to do so as much as we oppose agaisnt todays Modern Zionism and Israel's brutal occupation. Why? It is because we must see that the valid complaints we raise about today's version of Zionism and Israel's brutal occupation can easily be misconstrued by some so that they build up too much anger and that they direct it at the wrong parties. Again, the purpose of BDS was to end the Occupation, not to punish and seek revenge. 

In addition, we have to speak out against real anti-Semitism by laying the blame for the Israeli government's sins at the feet of the proper party. For Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is not due to the Israeli leaders being Jewish. Rather, when those who have been oppressed oppress others, their oppression of others, as wrong as it may be, must be considered to be a human reaction. History demands this of us. And we can see another illustration of this point from our own American history. For what did many American colonists who came here seeking freedom of religion first do? They banned the religion of others. Oppression and violence leads to oppression and violence. It is a human trait, not the trait of a particular group or set of groups.

Unless enough  of us speak out against both Palestinian terrorism and real anti-Semitism exercised in our hearing, we will have chosen to be silently complicit not just with those political opportunists who zealously seek to discredit us by conflating opposition Israel's acts of injustice against the Palestinians with hatred of Jews, but with those who practice terrorism or exercise real anti-Semitism as they threaten, seek to intimidate, and actually attack people because of their Jewish heritage or ties as well. And in being silently complicit with them, we will have become just as guilty as they are.





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