Jun 26

Anti-Semitism, BDS and the First Amendment

In Brief—This is a discussion of unacceptable anti-Jewish prejudice but also efforts by pro-Israeli government supporters to tar legitimate groups urging boycotts (BDS) to oppose Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

Policies Not People—

“Kike,” “Heeb,” and “Christ Killer” are just a few of the offensive racial slurs relating to Jews. Such slurs are not as commonly found today as they were a century ago, but they are appearing again as ignorant people feel free to express their prejudices openly.

Such slurs are not only offensive, they are indicative of the ignorance of the sources using them. But while such slurs are evidence of the persistence of myths and prejudices, this piece is not only about obvious anti-Semitism but about how anti-Semitism is expanding into realms not originally intended. Now “anti-Semitism” is being used to attack any person or group deemed in opposition to Israeli government policies. Such attacks also threaten the First Amendment.

Semitic and Anti-Semitic—

israel:Palestinian on IsraelWhat is Semitic? Originally it referred to a family of Middle Eastern languages. It later came to refer to the people speaking those languages, especially to the Jews and Arabs. More recently, the word came to refer to the Jewish people. Expansion was taking place.

When did the term ”anti-Semitic” originate? If you are interested in the history of the term ”anti-Semitism,” I invite you to read what I wrote in 2014 regarding Israel and Palestine. Suffice it to say, ”anti-Semitism” is a relatively recent concept, originating just over a century ago. Unfortunately, the term is now being used to denigrate any person or group opposing Israeli government policies toward the Palestinians.

The Origin of Israel—

How did Israel come about? After centuries of Jewish persecution and the 20th century Nazi Holocaust, the Europeans, British and Americans saw a way to salve their consciences for doing nothing to help the fleeing Jews and simultaneously solve their own ”Jewish problem.” In 1948, they created the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jews on land the British declared was ”empty land.”

What about the the terroristic Zionists? Zion refers to the hill on which the city of Jerusalem stands. Secondarily, the word refers to the ancient Israelites and more recently to the modern Jewish nation. Significantly, it has a religious basis as the place chosen by God for the Jewish people and under his special protection. It is this last reference that drives the Zionists. It must be noted that many Jews are anti-Zionists and are considered by some to be anti-Semitic though they are supportive of Israel.

The Palestinians—

Although the forebears of Jews, Palestinians and others had inhabited the area for millennia, what about the Palestinians who had the ”empty land” they inhabited given to the Jews? They were understandably angry, particularly when the Israeli government expelled masses of Palestinians from their own land.

Israel grew through war and and deliberate expansionist policies that continue. At best, Palestinians are repressed and treated as second-class citizens. Any retaliatory efforts on their part have resulted in arrests, killings and collective punishment by the Israeli military. ”Apartheid” is often used to describe Israel’s Palestinian policy.

Supported by many citizens, the hard-line Israeli government uses any excuse to send in the military to ”mow the grass” (kill) Palestinians by the hundreds. Contrary to the evidence, the Israeli government asserts that this will bring peace. What it accomplishes instead is increasing the anger Palestinians feel toward Israel.

The Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement—

Now that we have seen the background to today’s Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, let’s take a look at how the label ”anti-Semitic” has expanded to tar the movement and threatens the First Amendment.

BDS is a global movement focused on applying economic and political pressure on Israel to end Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land. The BDS movement demands total equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and acceptance of the right of expelled Palestinian refugees to return.

The campaign is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee. Additionally, groups both within and outside of Israel support the effort despite Israeli government efforts to ban the organization. In the United States, a number of university student organizations, performing artists, academics and renowned individuals support the BDS goals.

Predictably, both the Israeli government, the American political establishment and pro-Israeli organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC are attacking the movement. Their cry is—you guessed it—BDS is ”anti-Semitic.” As a result, laws against BDS are popping up like poison mushrooms.

Examples of the Israeli government’s high-pressure tactics are Sen. Diane Feinstein’s extortionate threats to the California university regents, and New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent pandering to hard-line American Jewish organizations. Dangerously, these efforts are trampling on the American constitution’s First Amendment. This does not bode well for America.

It must be said that a few reported anti-Semitic slurs from individuals within the BDS movement contribute to the charge of anti-Semitism. If true, then such individuals are damaging a worthwhile movement.

Nelson Mandela, revered South African hero, credited the international boycott effort with helping bring down South African apartheid. The Israeli government’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinians in contravention of United Nations’ resolutions as well as Israel’s brutal actions are similarly deserving of international boycotts and condemnation.

BDS is deserving of widespread support, but they must eliminate any genuine anti-Semitic behavior in their midst. The BDS is a movement that deserves to exist and spread its message.

Don’t be deceived by the Israeli goverment and its allies’ well-coordinated false charge of anti-Semitism. Don’t be a party to destroying the First Amendment, Free Expression and political activism in the West. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath.

Help BDS succeed against the repressive Israeli government and its allies.






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  1. I think you’ve said it all. Israel is one of the world’s worst examples of state terrorism. That statement has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. I honor and respect Jewish people. I can’t abide Israeli terrorism. Two absolutely separate issues.

      • Don Bay on June 27, 2016 at 07:01

      I agree! You hit the nail on the head in a few words. Although the Palestinians are not blameless, the Israeli government’s response is always grossly disproportionate and counterproductive. Then they loudly proclaim it’s anti-Semitism to oppose their expansion and persecution of the Palestinians. It’s the old story of telling a bigger lie to cover the truth.

    • Donna on June 27, 2016 at 00:49

    Other groups are opposing Israel’s oppressive tactics against the Palestinian people, among them, the Jewish Voices for Peace. You don’t have to be Jewish to join, but I like it that they are observing Jewish people (based in California) that oppose Israel’s policies. How could you call Jewish people anti-semetic? Also participating in the BDS movement are many church denominations – UMC, Presbyterian, UU, Church of Christ, etc. because they recognize the injustice against the Palestinians.
    AIPAC has been lobbying Congress for years. When I worked there in the 80s, a delegation from AIPAC made a routine visit to our congressman – one reason they are so effective.

      • Don Bay on June 27, 2016 at 07:16

      As you point out, the pro-Israeli government groups like AIPAC are always working to make it appear that the Israeli government is the victim rather than the oppressor it is.

      It’s encouraging to see the PDS supporters aren’t being cowed by the Israeli government’s massive propaganda campaign. With California Sen. Diane Feinstein”s coercive pressure against the University of California regents and New York governor Cuomo’s unconstitutional action’s, the Israeli government is having some measure of success in the USA. It’s important that we turn the light of truth on these regressive efforts. Thanks for your important encouragement.

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