By JFLV Staff
The cease fire is holding. The rockets are grounded, the sirens quiet. It’s over.
Except it’s not.
The 50-day war in Gaza revealed something that has been building for much longer than 50 days, longer than 500 days. It didn’t start with the rockets and it didn’t end with the ceasefire.
Anti-Israel sentiment came to the fore during the Gaza war, often under the guise of pro-Palestinian sentiment. Sometimes it wears the seemingly-respectable guise of boycott-divest-sanction (BDS) activities that were so effective with South Africa in the past. In 2005, a pro-Palestinian group started a movement called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) that uses social media and other means to urge more people to join the movement. Although the majority of Israel’s exports are business-to-business sales of components that end up in consumer products so any financial impact is minimal, the BDS movement is finding supporters from diverse places and backgrounds, from anti-Semites to church groups who say they are concerned with social justice.
Occasionally the anti-Israel sentiment rises to the surface via the electoral process, as in the case of right wing, anti-Semitic parties that have gained formal political power in Hungary, Greece and Romania. But some may ask what difference these countries’ policies, when they have so few Jewish citizens, make in the context of the whole world. Or how a boycott that doesn’t affect the GDP of Israel matters.
Even the refusal of a grocery store chain in England to stock products made in the West Bank, or any kosher products, or the refusal to serve obviously Jewish customers in a shop in Belgium; the beating of a rabbi in Florida or a Jewish couple in New York could almost be “written off”: “It happens.” “Was it really because they were Jewish?” “The grocery store chain didn’t want to be attacked.”
The takeaway from the Gaza war is that there are elements, currently disparate, some organized yet not achieving their objectives, that warrant attention for two main reasons. First, this stew includes both anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism and the two are running together. It is one thing to disagree with Israel’s policies; it is quite another to physically attack a Jewish institution where people are peacefully attending services. Or to attack someone because he is wearing a yarmulke. For simply being Jewish.
The second reason has to do with the place where the BDS movement is finding a receptive audience: college campuses. Walking around on college campuses today are the people who tomorrow will fill the halls of Congress and sit in the Oval Office. The ideas and goals that they find on their college campuses will inform their beliefs, actions and future agendas.
Anti-Israel sentiment matters because sometimes it masks anti-Semitism. Fortunately and unlike in 1939 Europe, there are organizations in place to combat anti-Semitism. There are places where ordinary people can go to get help in dealing with anti-Semitism. There are government powers that, like the Jewish community at large, find anti-Semitism unacceptable and are willing to take a stand.
For more information about the BDS movement and anti-Semitism across the world, see pages 15-18 of the October edition of HAKOL.