The Israeli boycott movement is motivated by a desire for justice, not anti-Semitism.(Ryan Rodrick Beiler)
On 24 April, The New York Times featured a large ad in which David Horowitz smeared the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
According to Horowitz, BDS represents a Nazi-like boycott of Jewish businesses, bears indirect responsibility for the recent murder of a rabbi and three Jewish children in France, and contributes to “calls for a new Holocaust throughout the Middle East and Europe.”
To a growing number of Jewish BDS supporters like myself, these charges are a cynical exploitation of our ancestors’ suffering in Europe meant to distract from Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
The truth is, the Palestinian BDS campaign targets neither Jews nor Judaism, but rather individuals and institutions — regardless of ethnicity — that maintain the Israeli apartheid state. In this, BDS resembles numerous social justice boycotts, including those against Nazi Germany, segregated buses in Alabama and apartheid South Africa.
No response necessary
As for the hysterical claim that BDS contributed to the barbaric murders in Toulouse, no response is necessary; the movement explicitly condemns all forms of bigotry and racism — including anti-Semitism.
Moreover, Jews do not face widespread threats of ”a new Holocaust” in Europe, the Middle East, or anywhere else. Indeed, it is not Jews, but Arabs, Muslims and other immigrants who are targeted by systemic racism and repression in the US and Europe: the “new anti-Semitism” is Islamophobia.
Desperate attempt to prop up Israeli myths
There is, however, method to Horowitz’s madness. It reflects a desperate attempt to prop up the myth that Israel is a benevolent democratic haven for a persecuted people, a victim whose efforts for peace are frustrated by irrationally violent neighbors motivated by age-old anti-Semitic hatred.
Zionism’s crimes have taught the world otherwise.
We now know, thanks to unflagging Palestinian resistance, more honest scholarship and social justice movements like BDS, about more than six decades of Israeli ethnic cleansing, racism, dispossession, murder and occupation — all designed to achieve and preserve a “Jewish state.”
We know that Israel was founded through the forced dispossession of 750,000 indigenous Palestinians, and erasure of more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages.
We know that Palestinians who managed to remain within the areas of historic Palestine upon which the State of Israel was declared — today, numbering 1.2 million (or 20 percent of the population in Israel) — are permanently separated from their families in exile, subject to more than 20 racist and discriminatory laws affecting all phases of life, treated as a “demographic threat” and threatened with mass expulsion on the basis they are not Jewish.
We know Israel’s illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — including the destruction of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, checkpoints and pass system in the West Bank, massacres of civilians in Gaza — is not an exception to some fictional Israeli “democracy,” but the logical extension of dispossession and oppression of Palestinians without which, as Zionists themselves frequently point out, the “Jewish state” could not exist.
“Was Auschwitz their fault?”
We know Palestinian resistance is motivated not by anti-Semitism, but by this ongoing colonization and ethnic cleansing. As David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, freely admitted, “If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. … There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?” (Nahum Goldman, The Jewish Paradox, p. 99).
We know that veteran South African freedom fighters have declared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “worse than apartheid.”
We know that just as the United States once armed apartheid South Africa, in the past ten years alone, it has — with overwhelming bipartisan support — armed Israel with $17 billion in military aid; over the next decade, it will give another $30 billion.
We know that contemporary anti-Jewish sentiment — however indefensible — is often a predictable response to Zionist insistence that Israel’s crimes speak for, and are embraced by, all Jews.
We know it is the injustices of the Israeli regime — what the Russell Tribunal on Palestine calls “a single integrated regime of apartheid” — that defines the BDS movement’s holistic demands: an end to the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and country, and full equality throughout historic Palestine.
Above all else, we know none of these rights can be realized until the “Jewish state” is dismantled and replaced by the only just, sustainable alternative: “a community,” in the words of a recent Palestinian declaration of opposition to anti-Semitism, “where all are free, all are equal and all are welcome.”
Horowitz concludes his attack with a thinly-veiled threat against anti-apartheid professors who dare speak their conscience. But he will discover, like many have before him, that such witch-hunting tends to invigorate rather than intimidate.
In that spirit, I thank David Horowitz for the opportunity to reaffirm my support for the cause of Palestinian freedom and its campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
David Letwin is a Palestine solidarity activist in New York.