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But Is It Anti-Semitism?

on Friday, April 20 2012. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
The organized effort to delegitimize and demonize Israel recently arrived right here in our local Boca Raton backyard. Two weeks ago, students at FAU opened their dormitory doors to find a mock eviction notice posted, complete with an illegally placed seal from the Palm Beach County Commission. An insidious group called Students for Justice in Palestine was responsible for the flyers, which accuses Israel of evicting Palestinians from their homes, violating human rights and essentially, of practicing apartheid. Most offensive was the perpetuation of the blatantly false claim that Israel brutally murdered an American peace activist working in Gaza and indeed ran her over multiple times to make sure she was dead.

Remarkably, these notices were hung with the approval of FAU’s housing department and a University employee accompanied the anti-Israel activists as they hung their libelous and hate filled message around the dorm. FAU has since acknowledged the mistake, but has fallen pathetically short of both condemning the activity and creating consequences for the group and their employee who coordinated it.

ADL, AJC, JCRC, ZOA and a number of our local community Rabbis have been unified in our vow to confront Students for Justice in Palestine and our commitment to continue to place pressure on the administration of FAU. We all agree that efforts to delegitimize and demonize Israel are unacceptable, reprehensible and intolerable, but there is one aspect that we are not all in agreement on. Some feel that while the methodology and behavior of Students for Justice in Palestine is wrong and immoral, it is not anti-Semitic. I disagree strongly, and here is why.

In May of 1960, Israeli agents in Argentina captured SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann and brought him back to Israel to stand trial and be brought to justice by the State of Israel. Not surprisingly, much of the world condemned Israel’s violation of international law and extra judicial practice and objected to Eichmann’s trial taking place in Israel.

What is shocking though, at least to me, was the protest and disapproval by members of the Jewish community and prominent Jewish organizations. Joseph Proskauer, a former AJC president, contacted Ben-Gurion urging him to turn Eichmann over to Germany or an international tribunal. When Ben-Gurion wasn’t moved, AJC leaders met with Golda Meir telling her that an Israeli trial would obscure the fact that Nazism was the enemy of mankind, and that Eichmann had committed “unspeakable crimes against humanity, not only against the Jews.”

You see, AJC took exception to Israel’s right to speak for the Jewish people and therefore rejected the claim that Israel would be trying Eichmann on behalf of Jews everywhere. Indeed, earlier in 1948, when AJC leaders saw a proposed draft of the Israeli declaration of independence, they urged that references to “the Jewish State” be replaced by “the State of Israel.”

Ben-Gurion stood his ground and it was concluded that Eichmann’s trial would take place in Jerusalem, but AJC leaders didn’t relent. They told Government leaders that public comments about the trial should stress not only Jews, but also Germans who suffered. They intentionally described bombed Synagogues in broader terms such as houses of worship and told Israel bluntly to stop “harping constantly on the identity of deceased Jews.” The Jewish establishment’s reaction at that time is almost unbelievable to me and I encourage you to read Deborah Lipstadt’s excellent book, “The Eichmann Trial,” to learn more about it.

In my opinion, those who tried to obscure the Holocaust from being portrayed as a uniquely Jewish atrocity were profoundly misguided and thank God, Ben-Gurion was not influenced by them. Throughout history, anti-Semitism has taken different forms and hidden behind varied guises and costumes, but it nevertheless at its core is always the same – a hatred, disdain and intolerance of Jews and the desire to exterminate and eliminate us.

Let me be clear – in my opinion, it is absolutely legitimate and valid to appropriately criticize Israel. Moreover, America is about free speech and the right to express diverse and divergent opinions. Those with different point of view about the Palestinians or what should happen in the Middle East should not be silenced.

However, the flyers distributed at FAU and the greater agenda of Students for Justice in Palestine is something altogether different, and needs to be called out for what it is – unadulterated anti-Semitism, plain and simple. Malicious distortions, hateful campaigns, calls for an intifada all delivered using threatening and intimidating tactics directed at Jewish students on campus, is pure anti-Semitism under the disguise of anti-Israel and human rights efforts.

If we hesitate to expose our enemies and their nefarious goals for what they are, we have little chance of winning allies in the academic world or of defeating them altogether. Students for Justice in Palestine wants to see an end to the Jewish State, our people’s homeland, by driving the Jews into the sea. If that is not anti-Semitism, I don’t know what is.

Once again, I am grateful and proud that the local Jewish community is unified in recognizing that we must respond to the events at FAU and that we cannot be apathetic or complacent at this time. However, I believe that our willingness to call this anti-Semitism will be the defining factor determining our success. If we refrain from labeling it anti-Semitism, the FAU Administration will likely remain bystanders to this conflict, dismissing it as a political difference and defending the right to free speech. But, if we have the courage to identify it as anti-Semitism, as I believe it is, we stand a greater likelihood of eliciting a vigorous and forceful response from the University who will not tolerate or accept anti-Semitism on their campus.

I implore you to join us this Monday evening at 8:00 pm to learn more about what happened locally on the FAU campus, how the community is responding, and the broader anti-Israel and anti-Semitic campaign taking place on campuses across the country.

If our recent observance of Yom Ha’Shoah is to have meaning, “Never Again” cannot just be a slogan, but must be a call to action and to respond to the anti-Semitism of every generation.

Shabbat Shalom

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