Tag Archives: Jews

Anti-BDS Campaigners Liken Movement to Nazi Germany Policies

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.


Werner Cohn Smears Academic Critic of Israel Again

Werner Cohn, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of British Columbia, has been making quite a name for himself this year as someone who wants to shut down academic critics of Israel.

He was among the academics leading the smear campaign against Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi, the editor of a book highly critical of the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.  Bayoumi’s other book about Arab-Americans in Brooklyn was assigned as reading for incoming freshmen at Brooklyn College, which prompted Cohn and others to create an uproar.

Now, Cohn is attacking a self-described anti-Zionist Jew named Jennifer Peto who recently published a thesis on Jewish identity, victim hood and Israel.

Via Mondoweiss, the Canadian Jewish News reports:

The University of Toronto is coming under fire for granting its “imprimatur” to a master’s thesis that critics say is an allegation of “Jewish racism” and is of low academic standards.

In a letter to University of Toronto president David Naylor, retired sociology professor Werner Cohn said the thesis posits that “the Jews of the world, most particularly those of Canada and the United States, are racist and seek to oppress people of colour everywhere.”

The thesis, Cohen goes on, is averse to empirical data, and its author, Jennifer Peto, “makes wild… charges against her fellow Jews without a shred of evidence. . . “

Summarizing her thesis, Peto stated that it “focuses on issues of Jewish identity, whiteness and victimhood within hegemonic Holocaust education. I argue that today, Jewish people of European descent enjoy white privilege and are among the most socio-economically advantaged groups in the West. Despite this privilege, the organized Jewish community makes claims about Jewish victimhood that are widely accepted within that community and within popular discourse in the West…”

To give you an idea on where Cohn is coming from, he has written on “Jews who hate Israel,” links to documents that supposedly show Noam Chomsky’s “links to the neo-Nazis” and recently wrote a blog post that compared the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to the Nazi campaign of boycotting Jewish-owned businesses in Germany.

It appears Cohn has somewhat of an obsession with members of the Jewish community who are critical of Israeli policy.  But instead of interrogating why such members exist–the occupation, massacres in Gaza, the colonization of the West Bank–he simply denounces them as “haters” of Israel.

New York’s Muslims, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Israel

Protesters throw shoes at a portrait of Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the mayor's trip to Israel while Operation Cast Lead raged on. PHOTO: Zahra Hankir

Ever since Lawrence Swaim of the California-based Interfaith Freedom Foundation articulated his valuable insight to me that the question of Israel courses through Jewish-Muslim relations, I’ve been coming across stories that fit into that theme.  In general, strong support for Israel correlates with an aversion to understanding legitimate Palestinian, Arab and Muslim grievances about the United States and Israel, and given the dehumanization of Palestinians (the majority of them Muslims) that pervades Israeli and U.S. society, it’s no surprise that Israel is a big roadblock in Jewish-Muslim relations.  You have to place the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s opposition to Park 51 in lower Manhattan in that context.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been busy reporting on how Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City is perceived by the Muslim community here–which is at about 800,000 strong–in the wake of Bloomberg’s admirable defense of the mosque and community center near Ground Zero.  (The fruits of my labor are here at the Gotham Gazette.)  A lot of different issues came up in my discussions with Muslim community leaders in New York City, but Bloomberg’s staunch support for Israel came up in a number of interviews.  Bloomberg’s role in not standing up for Debbie Almontaser, the founding and former principal of the city’s first dual-language Arabic school who was felled by a right-wing smear campaign, also had something to do with Israel, as Kiera Feldman points out in this excellent article. Bloomberg’s relationship with the Muslim community is one prominent symbol of the role Israel plays in the challenge of forging strong Jewish-Muslim solidarity, all the more important in a time of rising Islamophobia that bears many of the same hallmarks that characterized anti-Semitism.

In early 2009, around the same time that the massacre of the al-Samouni family occurred in Gaza, Mayor Bloomberg flew in to Israel on his private jet along with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelley and Representative Gary Ackerman.  Bloomberg went to Sderot, the Israeli town that saw many rockets from Gaza rain down, and laid the blame for the Israeli assault on Hamas: “That they are putting people at risk is an outrage. If Hamas would focus on building a country instead of trying to destroy another one, then those people would not be getting injured or killed.”

This trip enraged the Arab and Muslim community in New York City.  Shortly after Bloomberg’s trip, Palestine solidarity activists organized a rally outside of City Hall, throwing shoes at a portrait of Bloomberg.

“His relationship with Israel, supporting Israel with no limits, hurts us,” Zein Rimawi, a member of the New York City-based Arab Muslim American Federation, recently told me. “Don’t forget: We are Arabs, we are Muslims, and the people in Gaza are Arabs and Muslims and we support them.”

Bloomberg made many New York Muslims happy with his defense of Park 51.  But Israel looms large, and it’s obvious that his disregard for the suffering of the people in Gaza dealt substantial damage to his relationship with the New York City Muslim community.  Take the relationship between Bloomberg and Muslims as a lesson that those interested in forming stronger Jewish-Muslim coalitions must deal with the question of Israel.  Fighting Islamophobia and the right-wing Zionist project of expelling Palestinians from their historic homeland depends on strong Jewish-Muslim solidarity.

House Republicans Pal Around with anti-Muslim, anti-Black racist David Yerushalmi

It should come as no surprise that elected officials are aiding and
abetting anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., especially with mid-term elections nearby.  But it was still a little shocking to read Think Progress national security blogger Matt Duss’ post on a newly released report titled “Sharia: The Threat to America.”

Duss writes that the report, authored by the neoconservative Center for Security Policy, was presented to Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI).  Here’s the slightly shocking part:  also attending the event Duss reported on was David Yerushalmi, the general counsel for the Center for Security Policy.

So just who is this Yerushalmi fellow that Republican politicians were palling around with?

Yerushalmi has been aptly described as a “Jewish fascist” by blogger Richard Silverstein.  As Silverstein highlighted in August 2007, Yerushalmi has said:

One must admit readily that the radical liberal Jew is a fact of the West and a destructive one…Indeed, Jews in the main have turned their backs on the belief in G-d and His commandments as a book of laws for a particular and chosen people…What interest does America have in a strong Israel? If your answer is democracy in a liberal or western sense, know you have sided with the Palestinians of Hamas.

Yerushalmi was a member of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, which was instrumental in the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim smear campaign that brought down Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual-language Arabic school in Brooklyn.  He has followed his Islamophobic buddies Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer in joining in their war against the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, and is an attorney with the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is run by Geller and Spencer.

That’s not even the worst part.  Charles Johnson, the blogger at the formerly right-wing, hawkish website Little Green Footballs who “parted ways with the right” for, in part, its “Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.),” has the rundown on Yerushalmi:

This is a good time for some background information on Pamela Geller’s associate David Yerushalmi, who is an advocate for criminalizing Islam itself and imposing 20-year sentences on practicing Muslims. Yes, really.

He’s not simply anti-Muslim, though; Yerushalmi also wrote a now-infamous article titled “On Race: A Tentative Discussion, Part II,” in which he advocated a return to a pre-Bill of Rights Constitution, and the restriction of voting rights to white male land-owners. Again … yes, really.

Here’s a lengthy article at Talk To Action on the bizarre views and causes of David Yerushalmi: Anti-Semitic White-Supremacist Orthodox Jew Tries To Ban Islam In US.

Yerushalmi has deleted as much evidence of the “On Race” article as he could; he removed it from the Internet Archive and the Google cache, and put his entire website behind a registration wall. But here’s a PDF that contains the full article, and it’s as ugly and twisted a piece of racism as anything I’ve ever seen. Yerushalmi opens by calling Islam “an evil religion,” and “blacks … the most murderous of peoples.”

A quote:

“There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote. You might not agree or like the idea but this country’s founders, otherwise held in the highest esteem for their understanding of human nature and its affect on political society, certainly took it seriously. Why is that? Were they so flawed in their political reckonings that they manhandled the most important aspect of a free society – the vote? If the vote counts for so much in a free and liberal democracy as we ‘know’ it today, why did they limit the vote so dramatically?”

So there you have it: House Republicans are openly associating themselves with a “Jewish fascist” who has called “blacks…the most murderous of peoples” and advocates for the criminalization of Islam.

A depressing statistic: 71 percent of NYC Jews oppose Islamic community center

Tablet Magazine‘s Marc Tracy picks up a depressing statistic out of a new Marist poll:  71 percent of New York City Jews who are registered voters oppose the building of the Islamic community center two blocks away from Ground Zero.

Given that Jewish-Americans are a reliably liberal group on most issues, that statistic says a lot about the nature of the mainstream discourse about Islam and how Islamophobia is accepted in this country.  It’s a big problem, and one that needs to be combated.

Also–and I don’t think this is just me connecting Israel to every single issue–there’s a Zionist angle to analyzing that statistic.  Many Jewish-Americans, especially older ones, still have a deep, emotional connection to the State of Israel.  They see Israel has being besieged by those terrible, genocidal Arabs and Muslims.  Just look at Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest piece in the Atlantic, where he points out that Israel sees the Islamic Republic of Iran as “a threat to Israel’s very existence.”  That notion glosses over the complexity of Iranian society and the fact that, as Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett point out in Foreign Policy, “roughly 25,000-30,000 Jews continue living in Iran, with civil status equal to other Iranians and a constitutionally guaranteed parliamentary seat.”  And in the United States, Arabs and Muslims are often lumped in to one big, giant mass of people who are anti-Semites.  That misses the diversity of the Arab and Muslim worlds, the distinction between the likes of al-Qaeda (who only represent a tiny sliver of Muslims) and Hamas and Hezbollah, and contributes to a complete misreading of the Israel/Palestine conflict.