If you can’t beat ‘em, smear ‘em.
As the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement continues full-steam ahead in its efforts to force Israel to comply with international law, pro-Israel hawks are increasingly attempting to link the movement to anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany-era policies.
The latest person to do so is Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, who has been described as “one of the most influential Jewish journalists working in mainstream media.”
Goldberg–who, ironically, recently wrote that “people reaching for insults should find something better than Nazi”–applauds today the New Israel Fund for, as he terms it, leaving the “BDS swamp.” Goldberg writes:
Because I’m running a campaign on this blog against the cheap deployment of Nazi imagery in argument-making, I am going to resist the urge to point out that the European-centered campaign to launch an economic boycott of the world’s only majority-Jewish country smacks of something historically unpleasant, except now I didn’t resist the urge. But I do actually think it’s a fair analogy, and the BDS movement, like no other anti-Israel propaganda campaign, has sent chills down the collective Jewish spine precisely because economic boycotts have been, throughout history, used to hurt Jews. This is why I was slightly taken aback by Sokatch’s statemen that, “segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel.” I would say that undermining the existence of the state of Israel is this movement’s raison d’etre.
First off: the BDS movement is not a “European-centered campaign.” It is a Palestinian-led civil society movement that has spread to the Western world. Europe may have a strong Palestine solidarity movement which is increasingly racking up BDS victories, but attempting to invoke the history of European anti-Semitism by labeling the BDS movement a “European-centered campaign” falls apart because the movement is not, in fact, Europe-centric.
Goldberg, and others like him, are guilty of conflating Israel with Judaism, and Jews with Israelis. The BDS movement is not an economic boycott directed against Jews; it is a boycott movement directed against the State of Israel, which labels itself the Jewish State, because of its flagrant violations of international law and its continued occupation of Palestinian land. As Alisa Solomon, co-editor of Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, told me in 2009, “it’s a very dubious and dangerous collapse when ‘Jew’ and ‘Israel’ are conflated. Anti-Semites do it a lot, and unfortunately, powers of the Israeli state do it as well.”
Invoking Nazi Germany’s policy of boycotting Jewish-owned businesses as a way to smear the BDS movement is a cheap trick that has no merit. Nazi Germany instituted a blanket boycott, with no end in sight, that was directed at a persecuted minority just because of their religious faith. The BDS movement is targeting a state, asking Israel to comply with their obligations under international law, because of their unjust and oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people. There are many Jewish organizations that support the movement, including inside Israel.
Ali Abunimah, the founder of the Electronic Intifada, had this to say in response to “a cartoon [found in a local Jewish group's paper] from the Israeli strip Dry Bones in which Hitler asks Satan if he believes that BDS is a replay of the Nazi program to economically strange the Jews. ‘Yup,’ Satan replies. ‘It has everything but the swastikas'”:
This ugly defamation is an insult to those who died in the Holocaust. It cheapens their memory. It cheapens their suffering.