Home Featured Jewish Learning BACKSTORY: Jews have faced BDS movement before

BACKSTORY: Jews have faced BDS movement before

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Berlin store with sign that reads
Berlin store with sign that reads "Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!" WIKI COMMONS PHOTO

“Judea Declares War on Germany” was the banner headline splashed across the front page of the British Daily Express on Friday, March 24, 1933. This is how the paper characterized the response of sensible Jews who decided to act against the Nazi movement singling out Jews for economic annihilation.

But other Jews took a different track: The Central Jewish Association of Germany rejected the notion that the Reich government was deliberately provoking anti-Jewish sentiments and even issued a statement of support on the grounds that the Hitler regime was “unaware” of the threatening situation emerging in Germany. The Board of Deputies of British Jews also opposed any attempt to boycott German goods on the basis that such policies were, quaintly stated, “unhelpful.”

The idea behind the reticence of certain Jewish quarters over confronting Nazism also constituted the main platform of governments’ minimalist approach to dealing with the gathering storms in Europe.

While Judea’s war on German goods fizzled out in Europe, the Nazi anti-Jewish movement forged ahead: the SA (Nazi storm troopers) paraded in front of Jewish-owned stores lambasting shoppers; the yellow and black Star of David was painted on the windows, walls and doors of Jewish establishments and institutions; placards were placed and leaflets distributed urging shoppers not to “buy from Jews,” as they were Germany’s “misfortune,” “occupying” the professions, “controlling the media and capital” and “enslaving” the German working class.

READ: Has the BDS movement been effective?

The Hitler regime also forced both private and public financial institutions to disinvest from Jewish-owned enterprises, withdrew research grants from Jewish university professors, prohibited scientists and academics from attending conferences, annulled their licences to practice their vocations and eventually removed them from German society, first professionally and later physically. In short, the Third Reich gave us the prototype of the current boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Josef Goebbels made no secret of what was behind the Nazi BDS movement. It was nothing less than the economic dismemberment of German Jewry as prelude to “cleansing” the new Reich from the venomous Juden.

Given this history of boycott, divestment and sanctions directed at Jews in fascist or fascist-occupied Europe, one would think that singling out Israeli products made in contested territories for special labelling would resonate as an odious reminder of BDS’s past. What makes the lamentable recent decision of the European Parliament and Commission to specially label products made in disputed lands particularly racist and discriminatory is the fact that Brussels does not impose similar restrictions on products from other occupied and disputed territories.

There are 189 territorial disputes worldwide where the occupation-liberation conundrum plays out with devastating consequences, including genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape, slavery and torture. From the smallest inhabited territorial dispute, the autonomous city of Ceuta between Spain and Morocco, to the largest, Tibet’s occupation by China, we have many global jurisdictional disputes that have not been resolved.

Certain geographic conflicts have the potential for going nuclear, as in the case of Kashmir, where Pakistan and India face each other in an uneasy stalemate. On the genteel side of territorial disagreements, we have the dispute over Hans Island, an uninhabited barren knoll between Denmark and Canada, which remains unresolved today. Betwixt these two, the global breakdown of territorial disputes is as follows: in Africa there are 47; in Asia and Pacific, 58; in Europe, 23; in North America, 9; in South America and the Caribbean, 22; and 30 between UN-recognized member states and non-state actors.

The only territorial conflict among these 189 where ceding of territory, resulting in the restoration of the status quo ante, might pose a serious threat to the very existence of the relinquishing party is the case of Israel and the West Bank. That the distance from Qualqilla to the Mediterranean Sea is nine miles says everything that can be said as to why the UN Security Council did not consider the Armistice Lines of 1949 “defensible and recognized.”

And that leaves one to wonder whether the day when Europe will place small yellow stars on Israeli avocados produced in Rosh Hanikra is not so far away.