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Boycotting Israel is not anti-Semitism

posted on: Jun 20, 2015


In the June 13 news article “In Israel, concerns rising over boycott movement,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the movement to boycott Israel or disinvest from those doing business in the occupied territories as “anti-Semitic.” Similarly, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who recently presided over a meeting that raised more than $20 million to fight this movement, referred to it as “anti-Semitic.” Whether one agrees with this movement or not, and many Jews are leading participants, the fact is that it is in no way “anti-Semitic.”

Judaism is a religion of universal values. Israel is a sovereign state. It has violated international law by occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The boycott movement is a nonviolent effort to show opposition to this occupation, similar, its advocates argue, to the sanctions movement against South Africa to show opposition to apartheid. Hatred of Judaism or Jews, which is what constitutes anti-Semitism, appears to be absent from these boycott efforts.

Only by redefining “anti-Semitism” to mean criticism of Israel can such a charge be sustained. Israel’s policies in the occupied territories should be debated on their merits, and defenders of the occupation should not hide behind false charges of “anti-Semitism.”

Allan C. Brownfeld, Alexandria

The writer is publications editor for the American Council for Judaism.

The recent news article about the movement to boycott Israel failed to highlight an interesting aspect of the burgeoning boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement, namely the increasing number of Jews in the United States and elsewhere who support some form of boycott. The liberal American Jewish Americans for Peace Now supports the boycott of products made in Israeli settlements. The progressive Jewish Voice for Peace, which this year fully embraced the Palestinian call for BDS, has grown to 65 chapters.

Given their support for the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s and the proud Jewish tradition of nonviolent resistance against injustice, it makes perfect sense that more American Jews are choosing to join the peaceful Palestinian call for BDS.