For some time, it appeared as if the afterglow of the Holocaust burned too bright. Overt anti-Semitism – the jackboots, brownshirts and sieg heils – were deemed intolerable by society. Undeterred, anti-Semites forged on with new and inventive ways to masquerade their disdain for Jews.
Today, we hear of North American counterculture protesters comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, progressive academics coming to the defence of Holocaust deniers, and accusations of Israel being the world’s “worst abuser of human rights.” Despite their purported commitment to the principles of tolerance and coexistence, a great deal of this hatred is being spewed at venues generally viewed as bastions of justice and virtue: college and university campuses.
Anti-Semitism has always been a malleable phenomenon, finding refuge on the fringes of both the political right and left. While neo-Nazis and white supremacists are seen as misanthropes worthy of condemnation and ridicule, there appears to be an excusing of radical left-wing anti-Semitism that provides cover for such sentiments under the guise of “legitimate criticism of Israel.” On campus, such radical voices have found their way into the mainstream, justifying violence against Jews as simply “anti-Israel,” and entertaining the most bizarre and archaic of conspiracy theories surrounding shadow Jewish control of the political system, media, banks and the like.
As Jewish students and members of B’nai Brith on Campus, which combats anti-Semitism at institutions of higher learning, we are the ones paying the price.
The most egregious example of such anti-Semitism is the slanderously titled Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). Once a year, IAW hijacks the halls of academia to indulge in gratuitous weeklong displays of anti-Semitic perversion across the United States, Canada and Europe. The event, founded in Toronto more than a decade ago, is an annual opportunity for those obsessed with Jews … er, Zionists … er, Israel to engage in anti-Semitic bullying under the guise of human rights.
Unsurprisingly, IAW activists insist that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. We ask that they consult the myriad of examples of where pro-Palestinian activism continues to target members of the Jewish community. We ask how anti-Israel activism can meaningfully be separated from the preponderance of anti-Semitism we see proliferating around the world.
IAW is focused on a simple, albeit deceitful, narrative: to delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel by castigating it with every slander possible and transform it into an international pariah. The operative “apartheid” slur, however, can automatically be dismissed by those who actually visit Israel and witness its colourful diversity.
Aside from IAW’s libellous propaganda, we can examine its actions. Take, for instance, the fact that IAW organizers have in the past commissioned Carlos Latuff, the award-winning recipient of the infamous, Iranian-sponsored International Holocaust Cartoon Competition, to design its 2009 event poster at Carleton University in Ottawa. Should this be dismissed as a merely unfortunate coincidence?
Or what of Steven Salaita, IAW’s featured speaker this year at the London School of Economics? Salaita has a long history of hurling incendiary invective towards the State of Israel that is outright anti-Semitic. He’s compared the IDF to Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, applied the age-old anti-Semitic blood libel trope to his “criticism” of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and said anyone who supports the Jewish state is an “awful human being.”
Last we checked, that includes the overwhelming majority of U.S. and Canadian Jews.
No IAW hatefest would be complete without ensuring its top ideologues are given platforms to muddle history and engage in intellectual chicanery. To this end, IAW counts Ilan Pappé among its notorious speakers. Pappé, “one of the world’s sloppiest historians,” is known for misinterpreting sources in order to malign the very notion of Jewish self-determination as it was historically sought out.
Such ignoble associations are part of a broader strategy to generate a totalizing rejectionist ideology that seeks the complete dismantling of the State of Israel. This aim is indeed an unequivocal axiom and IAW’s raison d’être. The strategy most popularized to accomplish this goal – the (poorly hidden) wolf in sheep’s clothing – is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
While BDS states its aim as seeking merely to force Israel to comply with international human rights law, the reality is that it is interested in establishing a one-state solution that would support the unsustainable influx of millions from neighbouring countries in order to shift Israel’s demographics.
Leading BDS members such as Omar Barghouti, Ali Abunimah and Joseph Massad have made their intention of replacing the Jewish state abundantly clear. Barghouti, the movement’s founder, has on several occasions rejected the existence of any Jewish state, as have numerous BDS activists.
Is it any surprise that, when BDS is paired with noble-sounding university groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the ideology of rejecting the State of Israel at all costs results in consistent expressions of anti-Semitism on campus? Let us begin by acknowledging the well-documented instances of SJP members expressing public and unabashed support for Adolf Hitler, Holocaust denial and incitement to violence.
Consider also SJP’s academic supervisor at Northeastern University, where he was recorded instructing students to “laugh away accusations of anti-Semitism” and to wear it as a badge of distinction. For good measure, let’s also examine the incident at UCLA, where a Jewish student was interrogated by an SJP member running for political office over her “dual loyalty.”
Here in Canada, at Ryerson University, BDS activists initiated a walkout when a Jewish student proposed creating a Holocaust Education Week. In this particular episode, leaked messages revealed these “human rights activists” deriding the student as a problematic “Zionist” and finding Holocaust commemoration to somehow be morally objectionable.
The anti-Semitism we have seen emanating from IAW and BDS, which clearly operate as a coalition, perverts the very idea of coming together in unity for a noble cause. That the proliferation of such dangerous views can gain succour in the vaunted halls of academia in the 21st century harks back to a darker age, and reminds us of the danger of not challenging such discrimination whenever it rears its head.
On the bright side, IAW can be turned into a powerful moment to rejoice over the robustness of Israeli society, and how absurd the accusation of apartheid actually is.
Israel – a small country surrounded by countries engaged in inhumane conflicts, ruled by dictatorships and afflicted by gut-wrenching social ills, including starvation, internecine warfare, the renewal of slavery and other horrors not seen since the Middle Ages – is a pillar of stability and fairness. It is a country where women can advocate for religious rights at Judaism’s holiest site, where LGBT Palestinians find refuge and where victims of the Syrian Civil War receive free health care. It is no wonder that, according to a 2014 poll, 77 per cent of Arab Israelis would prefer life in Israel than under the Palestinian Authority. A 2017 study found 60 per cent of Arab Israelis have a positive view of the country.
For activists concerned about basic principles such as democracy, sexual equality and freedom of expression, it is indeed bizarre that Israel is the focus of their ire, given that the pursuit of human rights for Palestinians would be better served by advocating for greater accountability from the murderous Hamas government and the indefatigably corrupt Palestinian Authority. Yet during Israel Apartheid Week, and as reports of Hamas’ despicable treatment of its own citizens continue to trickle out, no critique seems to be mustered, as all energy is expended on the Jews … er, Zionists … er, Israel. How convenient.
Let no one be fooled. Actions speak louder than words. But in the case of BDS and its proponents – as well as its deviant dog and pony show, IAW – their actions and their words betray their true anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. All obfuscations aside, BDS and IAW are all too transparent in their bigotry.
Let this be an example to the rest of us who care about true human rights, and proudly expose this farce for what it is: anti-Semitism in the 21st century.