Hate crimes shouldn’t be lumped together with legitimate protest
Jeff Jacoby (“From left and right, anti-Semitism on rise,” Opinion, March 12) distorts the issue of the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. By equating the unprecedented rise in physical and verbal attacks on Jewish institutions since the elections with criticism of Israel, he sows confusion and distracts from the real threats facing American Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and people of color.
By attacking the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, Jacoby implies that attacks on people based on their religious affiliation are equivalent to criticisms of a nation’s policies, practices, and laws.
As Joseph Levine, professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, wrote recently in response to anti-BDS legislation: “Israel is a state, not an ethnic or religious category, while being Jewish is precisely an ethnic-religious category. . . . States that violate rights can be legitimately targeted by boycotts and sanctions, while ethnic-religious identities cannot. That was the principle underlying the BDS movement against apartheid South Africa . . . and underlies the legitimacy of the BDS movement to defend Palestinians against the actions of the Israeli state.”
Yes, the desecration of cemeteries and the threats to synagogues and schools is egregious anti-Semitism. No, challenging Israel’s violations of international law and human rights is not anti-Semitism.
The writer is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Boston.
Jeff Jacoby points his pen at both the traditional anti-Semitism of right-wing bigots and what he describes as more recent anti-Semitism from the “hard left,” which he implies is the result of an “anti-Zionist boycott campaign,” “Israel ‘apartheid’ slander,” and some undefined “ominous atmosphere in academia.”
Jacoby offers nothing to indicate which portion of the hate crimes is attributable to these hard-lefties. Without any supporting statistics, he is lumping hate crimes against Jews with the very legitimate boycotts of companies that profit from the land, labor, and colonization of the occupied West Bank and the very accurate use of the term apartheid for the segregation and second-class citizenship to which Israel subjects its Arab citizens.
An anti-Zionist’s appeal to the right: Do not commit hatred in my name
I am one of those anti-Zionists Jeff Jacoby deplores. I find the actions of the government of Israel toward Palestinians horrific, and I advocate boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as tools to support Palestinian rights.
But I am not an anti-Semite. I abhor the painting of swastikas, the calling in of bomb threats, and the desecration of cemeteries. I urge others: Do not do these things in my name or in the name of anti-Zionism. If you oppose the actions of Israel, speak up against them. But do not resort to violence or threats. The Jews you hurt by such acts are not your enemies.
I call on those on the right to join me in a clear condemnation of anti-Semitism.