Published On: Thu, Aug 26th, 2021

The Thin Line Between Support for Palestinians and Antisemitism Has Been Crossed

Israel’s relationship with the world has been “complicated” from the day the small Mediterranean nation was established, basically. Many disapprove of Israel’s actions and policies, especially regarding its relationship with the Palestinian population living under its control. However, Israel’s lack of public approval is sadly not only a result of that.

Israel has been dealing with a biased approach from the global community from the day it was established, as well. The fact that other countries are not finding themselves under the same intense scrutiny for similar policies, is proof of that. Take the Spanish control of the Basque country as one example, or the numerous human rights violations claims against China as another. What, therefore, could be the reason for this different approach?

The answer here is probably a mix of several factors. One of them is the enhanced media focus on what goes on in the West Bank. At the end of the day, it is much more accessible to report live from Ramallah or Nablus than it is, for example, from Inner Mongolia (where the Uygur population lives under Chinese control) or the war-torn Crimean Peninsula. Another important factor is that Israel is a relatively small country, in terms of size and influence. Criticism of China, Russia, Spain, or the US for human rights violations is much more complex for international organizations, often reliant on fundings from these countries.

By Feydzhet Shabanov

The new antisemitism

The third factor, and probably the most disturbing one, is the antisemitism still rooted in a large part of the world’s population. While antisemitism isn’t a new phenomenon, it took on different shapes and essences throughout history. From the days of the Crusades to Nazi Germany, there always seems to be a reason for negative feelings toward Jews.

This is where opposition to Israel’s policy, in the form of solidarity with the Palestinian people, meets at a dangerous crossroads with pure antisemitism. Take the Boycott, Divert and Sanction (BDS) movement for example. Many nations have already passed laws targeted at the BDS, recognizing its antisemitic approach, including the US, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and obviously Israel. In many other nations, the BDS has already been condemned for their antisemitic modus operandi.

The BDS, however, is just the tip of the iceberg here. Since it is an organization, it is easier to monitor. What Jews all over the world are especially concerned about is the dramatic rise in supposed sporadic  hate crimes against them, and many of these crimes occur right after (and as a result of) anti-Israel protests. That’s where this connection can be seen, and that’s exactly the stem that needs to be cut, before it is too late.

Educate against hate

The most important aspect of dealing with this troubling phenomenon is educating people to separate between Israel and Judaism. While Israel is the country of Jews, not all Jews are representatives of it and its actions – and many do not even agree with Israel’s leadership and policies. There needs to be a clear distinction between ‘anti-Israel’ demonstrations, and those aimed against Jews. “People are entitled to express antisemitic views in the US, but aren’t entitled to evade the label of antisemitism,” commented Mark Mellman, CEO of The Mellman Group and President of the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) organization.

This won’t be easy, keeping in mind the rooted antisemitism mentioned earlier, but it must be done through education from a young age. The Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies focuses on countering antisemitism with education. “We cannot afford to let the world forget what hatred can lead to – not only against Jews,” said Alex Shnaider, a board member and a long time supporter of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) organization. “This must be  a part of the curriculum in schools across the world.”

“Surveys show that Holocaust education has an enormous positive impact on young people’s attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and actions,” stated Jolie Brislin, Nevada Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in a recent panel regarding the vital need for Holocaust education throughout the country. “When you see other things happening in society that you’re able to reference back, something sparks in you and says ‘this is not OK’.”

Stop before the line is crossed

While long term solutions are important, immediate ones are also vital. That’s why police forces need to be there, at every anti-Israel rally, to make sure it does not escalate to antisemitic violence. In the past few months, these protests resulted in smashing of synagogue windows, calls justifying Adolf Hitler, physical and verbal attacks against Jewish passerbys, and other horrendous acts. These could have all been prevented, had there been cops on the spot.

There seems to be hope on this front, as politicians and community leaders are starting to speak up and demand that this surge of violence be dealt with, using an iron fist. “This is an outrage, we have got to combat antisemitism,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, a Jew and a prominent critic of Israel over the past few years. “These people do not represent any of our organizations, and they definitely do not represent the Palestinian cause that we feel is just” added Sala Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Afffairs Council. “It’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor,” tweeted President Joe Biden on the matter.

Author: Lee Sadawski


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