BDS explained by one of its most virulent carriers

For no reason I can recall, I receive emails from a Rabbi Bruce Warshal which I sometimes read but usually delete. Today I read his words and will always from now on delete. Such people are political morons. Makes one understand how the Holocaust could have happened if the Jews in Germany during the 1930s were such fools as this. His political and historical understanding is so shallow that it completely foxes my ability to believe that he has been around for the past seventy years or so and is still more naive than a three year old.

For years the Israeli government declared that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) was inconsequential. It was, they said, the domain of anti-Semites, self-hating Jews and Arab extremists.

About five years ago the Israeli government realized that BDS was an effective tool against its Palestinian policies concerning the Palestinians and this past year began a ferocious counter-attack. The Knesset passed legislation barring entry to foreigners who call for a boycott of Israel, or the settlements or any Israeli institution.

A large percentage of Israelis as well as diaspora Jewish leaders support a boycott of the settlements, including myself. I was in Israel two years ago, but I hesitate to return if I face the prospect of being turned away or interrogated at Ben Gurion airport. It has gotten to the point that recently the prominent American-Jewish columnist Peter Beinart was almost refused entry.

The Israeli government wants to paint anyone who supports BDS as anti-Israel. At this point, I do support the boycott of the settlements, but not the full BDS movement. If Israel continues down the path toward a Greater Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, which means that it would become an apartheid state ruling over five million Palestinians, I believe that most diaspora Jews would be BDS supporters.

Some Jews support BDS as a tactic to avoid that outcome. Both the Israeli government and the American Jewish establishment brand them as either self-hating Jews or radical outliers. I disagree. Boycotts, divestments and sanctions played a crucial part in changing South Africa. They believe BDS can do so regarding Israel as well. I feel that a full-blown boycott-divestment-sanctions movement is premature but is certainly not a cardinal sin deserving cherem (expulsion) from our community.

A prime example: Rebecca Vilkomerson is the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, the most vocal American Jewish organization in support of BDS. Her response to the Israeli law: “My grandparents are buried in Israel, my husband and kids are citizens, and I lived there for three years, but this bill would bar me from visiting because of my work in support of Palestinian rights. I’m very proud to support the BDS movement, and hope that the response to this ban will hasten the day when anyone can travel there freely.” It’s hard for me to demonize her for her opinions or actions, even though I disagree with them.

Last summer a rabbi with Jewish Voice for Peace along with four other peace activists, including representatives of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and American Muslims for Palestine, were denied the right to board a Lufthansa flight out of Washington, D.C. to Tel Aviv because their names were on a blacklist provided to the airline by the Israeli government.
Another person, by luck, avoided the Washington blacklist by departing from New York City because as Haaretz reported, “she had to drop her kid at Jewish summer camp” and could not make the Washington departure. Here we have a committed Jewish woman raising her child in a Jewish culture. Yet, the Israeli propaganda machine would want us to believe that she is a self-hating Jew worthy of being denied entry to “the Jewish homeland.”

Peace Now said the ban is “neither Jewish nor democratic.” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said “the law violates basic democratic rules in that it sets a political position as a reason to prevent foreigners from entering Israel and occupied territories… Freedom of speech is not only about the right to speak, but also the right to be exposed to opinions, even opinions that outrage or anger the majority in Israel.”

That last sentence equally applies to the American Jewish establishment. The Jewish Federation in South Palm Beach County (of which I was the founding Executive Director) will not even allow J Street (a middle-of-the-road, liberal Jewish lobby whose masthead reads “Pro Israel, Pro Peace”) to sit on its Community Relations Board, since it is not kosher enough in its politics. Obviously, my Federation has its own blacklists.

I lived through the McCarthy era. I hate blacklists, whether by Israel or the American Jewish establishment. I prefer to accept the right of all committed Jews to speak out or to act on their opinions, and to accept them as a legitimate part of our community.

My goodness, he survived the McCarthy era! What a hero! Remind me where the memorial for those brave martyrs to McCarthyism can be found so that I can visit and pay my respects.

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