Yes, boycotting the goods and services of six million Jews is certainly antisemitic.

An Australian named Antony Loewenstein penned a piece at ‘Comment is Free’ on Nov. 7 which not only endorsed the unfiltered hate of Max Blumenthal, but defended the claim that the BDS movement against Israel is not antisemitic – specifically justifying the boycott of (of all places) Hebrew University, the Israeli academic institution known for its history of promoting coexistence.

Loewenstein wrote the following:

Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center is an Israel-based organisation that claims to be a civil group “fighting for rights of hundreds of terror victims”. It is currently taking Jake Lynch, head of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), to the Australian federal court. They assert that Lynch has allegedly breached the 1975 racial discrimination act by refusing to sponsor a fellowship application by Israeli academic Dan Avnon. Lynch and CPACS support BDS, and since Avnon works at Hebrew University.

Of course, as anyone who’s been to either its Givat Ram campus or its main campus at Mount Scopus can attest to, Hebrew University is where Jews and Arabs (both Christian and Muslim) can be found mingling freely in the classroom, the cafeteria, and other common areas – sometimes encountering each other for the first time. Indeed, it was no coincidence that the university was the target of a Hamas terrorist attack in 2002, where a bomb packed with shrapnel was placed in a bag in a crowded cafeteria, killing nine people – four Israelis and five foreign nationals – and injuring 85.

Loewenstein addresses the issue of BDS and antisemitism in the following sentence:

The Australian which has been driving the debate on the issue, publishing countless stories that deliberately conflates antisemitism and support for the BDS movement.

Interestingly, Lowenstein doesn’t spend any further space attempting to back up his argument. Indeed, as his own one-state advocacy demonstrates, BDS advocates who target the entire country and all of its institutions are typically not trying to undermine the legitimacy of the settlements but, rather, the legitimacy of the state’s existence within any borders.

As a comprehensive survey published recently by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) indicates, campaigns which seek the economic, cultural and academic exclusion of Israeli Jews is viewed as racist by a large majority of Europe’s Jews. This survey of Jewish people’s experiences and perceptions of antisemitism in the EU (which covers the UK, France, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Italy Hungary, and Latvia) reported that 72 percent believed that the boycott of Israeli goods was antisemitic.

Perceptions of the moral implications of boycotting the only Jewish state should be contextualized within the overall results of the poll, which found that an increasing number of Jews in Europe fear for their safety, with nearly 30 percent of respondents having seriously considered emigrating due to antisemitism.  Additionally, 26 percent had experienced one or more incident of antisemitic harassment in the previous 12 months and, quite chillingly, nearly 70 percent “at least occasionally avoid wearing items in public that might identify them as Jewish”.

John-Paul Pagano, in his superb essay at The Tower on the legacy of Norman Geras, wrote the following on the moral double-standards at play which unite antisemitism and anti-Zionism:

Norm had little patience for the standard defense that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. “No, it isn’t,” he wrote, “unless it is.” He granted that the two are not necessarily the same, but he rejected the idea that simply announcing the difference grants immunity from charges of racism. “In the outpouring of hatred towards Israel today,” he wrote, “it scarcely matters what part of it is impelled by a pre-existing hostility towards Jews as such and what part by a groundless feeling that the Jewish state is especially vicious among the nations of the world…. Both are forms of anti-Semitism.”

Anti-Zionist activists like Loewenstein evidently wake up in the morning, glance at the news coming out of the Middle East, and react in righteous fury not at the medieval antisemitism codified in Hamas’s founding charter, or the sick spectacle of Palestinian children reciting lessons learned on the immutable evil of those “sons of monkeys and pigs”, but, perversely, at the Jewish target of this monstrous, consuming hate. 

The unsettling reality is that seventy-five years after Kristallnacht an increasing percentage of Europe’s tiny Jewish minority again feel the anxiety born of racism, exclusion and violence.  And, the fact that this beleaguered community interprets a campaign of boycotts targeting six million of their coreligionists as antisemitic should only offend those who fail to interpret the refrain “never again” as a moral imperative to safeguard the rights and safety of living Jews, not merely the memory of those who have long since perished.

 

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