Is being anti-Israel, antisemitism?

By Rodney Mazinter, Vice Chair, SAZF Cape Council

Antisemitism has been around for a long time and did not disappear after World War II when 6-million European Jews were slaughtered in 6 years.

The world was horrified. Yet nothing prepared us for today’s misinformation, demonisation, and the gut-wrenching, anti-Israel, antisemitic hostility supported by many students, professors, churches, and even erstwhile ‘liberal’ newspapers.

Is the Jewish community paying sufficient attention to this bigotry and ‘new antisemitism’ with the word ‘Israel’ replacing ‘Jew’ in traditional antisemitic imagery and canards? Where singling out and discriminating against the Jewish State, denies the Jewish people alone the right to self-determination? The new antisemitism is packaged in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign which claims to champion Palestinian rights though its real goal is to erode support for Israel, discredit Jews who back Israel, and pave the way for eliminating Israel.

It is surprising that an extremist group like BDS is ever taken seriously, but BDS advocates have found receptive audiences. Their campaigns are wellorganised and well-financed. They lobby parliamentarians, universities, labour unions, and other organisations seeking to boycott Israel and companies that do business with it. BDS activists manage to spread their anti-Israel misinformation, lies and prejudice into the highest echelons of our country. Those who fall for this in the spirit of freedom of speech find themselves in a trap of having to debate a lie thereby lending credibility to it.

Such irrational accusations are symptomatic of dangerous antisemitism. Yet, alarmingly, many Jews are completely oblivious to this ugly movement and the threat it poses; unaware that this anti-Jewish bigotry is peddled on university campuses, by speakers in schools, churches and mosques and is often deceptively camouflaged in the rhetoric of human rights. Ignored is China’s persecution of the Muslim Uighurs, Christians being butchered in northern African countries, British women being held hostage in Iranian jails, or thousands of Palestinians being slaughtered by Syrians in their civil war.

Our leaders in the Jewish community must provide a united front to combat this latest threat. Unfortunately, there is a pattern among Jews of failing to unite in a timely way to counter threats against us individually and collectively.

A small but very vocal number of Jews actively support BDS. They often belong to organisations that prominently include ‘Jewish’ in their names giving cover to BDS and the antisemitism that animates it. A question that the Jewish community must ask itself, is whether it is ever appropriate on the altar of freedom of speech to accept any advocation for the ultimate elimination of Israel.

We never expected to encounter such hatred and lies. We never believed that such antisemitism still existed. We never knew that the battlefield was not only Gaza, the West Bank, and hostile Middle Eastern countries wanting to destroy Israel and kill its citizens.

Israel cannot fight this battle alone. As a member of an important Jewish community we should actively, openly and unequivocally oppose the BDS campaign and those who support it. We should visit websites and blogs of organisations like StandWithUs, PMW, Solar Plexus, Lay of the Land, Jewish Virtual Library, CAMERA, Honest Reporting, UN Watch and others that provide information about BDS and antisemitism.

We should not give antisemites a platform and a voice on the false premise of hearing them out. When called for, our Jewish community has a proud record for standing up for the Jewish State of Israel, for all it represents, and for what it works to achieve. Such a time is now.

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