Dear Rabbi and Susan,
I’m not sure if you’ve heard what’s going on in Ireland, and I’m trying to figure it out. [In Ireland and in many other places, attempts are made—often under the banner of the Palestinian led BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement to isolate Israel, especially when it comes to products made in the disputed territories.]
What I’m trying to understand is if there is any truth to this or if it’s a new form of ant-Semitism. But I also respect everyone’s right to disagree and to speak out when it comes to their beliefs even when I have a hard time with it.
I believe in standing for everyone’s freedoms and rights. I want to see no one hurt or rights suppressed. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on if that makes sense. Is this good or bad; is this a new form of anti-Semitism?
In general, we are not fans of accusations of “isms”. By that, we mean sexism, anti-Semitism, racism and the like. We dislike these accusations because the terms are often undefined and used as cudgels with which to bludgeon and destroy people. Too often, there is absolutely no way in which to defend oneself against an “ism” allegation.
Having said that, we are also not fans of the double standard. When a double standard exists, two entities are treated differently based on a factor that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. If a professor demanded a 90% on a multiple-choice exam from all students in order to earn an A but demanded that those of a certain color, religion or nationality earn 95% to earn the same A, that would be an example of a double standard.
There is no question in our minds that Israel is continually held to a standard in a way that no other nation in the world is. For example, it is constantly condemned in the United Nation by nations who regularly commit egregious abuses of human rights with no censure.
There are dozens of land disputes in the world, including many hostile occupations. In none of those (Russia-Crimea, Turkey-N. Cyprus, Morocco-Western Sahara, etc) do we find accusations or attacks on the occupying power from countries all around the globe. In fact in just about every case, (including all of those mentioned above) the governments that condemn/sanction Israel are actually engaged financially through state-owned companies, literally building the infrastructure for the belligerent occupier.
We also know that much of the information shared about Israel is based on lies. The history of the Jewish State, the Palestinians and the neighboring Moslem-controlled Arab countries is complex and the story goes back centuries. There are grievances on all sides, many sinners and no saints—we are talking about people after all. There is also an entire story of different groups living together and flourishing in modern Israel today that is under-reported and ignored.
Anger stoked by the BDS movement is leading to attacks on Jews in many countries. Whether this is anti-Semitism or disseminating and encouraging hatred to achieve a political result, the bottom line is that in today’s world the separation between criticism of Israel and hatred of all Jews is becoming invisible. This disappearing dividing line means that, whatever the motivation, the BDS movement walks hand-in-hand with a desire to rid the world of a Jewish people. The fact that many of Jewish descent, and organizations that label themselves as Jewish, are among the biggest haters of Israel and Judaism adds to the complexity but doesn’t change the reality.
Do your own research. Don’t limit your understanding by allowing yourself to be manipulated by newspapers and articles published by those who used to pride themselves on being unbiased. On this as on so many other issues today, it takes a great deal of effort to reach the truth.
Finally, we want to add that as admirable as it may be to “believe in standing for everyone’s freedoms and rights” as you do, in the real world that is not possible. Trying to stand for everybody’s rights often means standing for nobody’s rights. This is because in an imperfect world, imperfect humans often have different and incompatible ideas of their rights. As hard as it is, being a morally responsible adult means making a decision about whose rights you will support even if it does necessarily mean not supporting those of someone else.
Hope this helps,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin