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‘Washington Post’ runs letters explaining why BDS is not anti-Semitic

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In yet another sign of the crumbling pro-Israel orthodoxy in the United States, the Washington Post today has run two letters to the editor stating that boycotting Israel is not anti-Semitic. The articles respond to a piece in the Post last week citing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s belief  that BDS “is anti-Semitic at its core” and quoting Tzipi Hotovely, the deputy foreign minister, calling BDS a tactic of “diplomatic terrorism” and an “existential threat” to Israel.

The first letter is from Allan C. Brownfeld, of the American Council for Judaism.

In the June 13 news article “In Israel, concerns rising over boycott movement,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the movement to boycott Israel or disinvest from those doing business in the occupied territories as “anti-Semitic.” Similarly, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who recently presided over a meeting that raised more than $20 million to fight this movement, referred to it as “anti-Semitic.” Whether one agrees with this movement or not, and many Jews are leading participants, the fact is that it is in no way “anti-Semitic.”

Judaism is a religion of universal values. Israel is a sovereign state. It has violated international law by occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The boycott movement is a nonviolent effort to show opposition to this occupation, similar, its advocates argue, to the movement of sanctions against South Africa to show opposition to apartheid. Hatred of Judaism or Jews, which is what constitutes anti-Semitism, appears to be absent from these boycott efforts.

Only by redefining “anti-Semitism” to mean criticism of Israel can such a charge be sustained. Israel’s policies in the occupied territories should be debated on their merits, and defenders of the occupation should not hide behind false charges of “anti-Semitism.”

The second letter is from William Simonds of Potomac, MD, and emphasizes something the Post story left out: the Jewish presence in the movement.

The recent news article about the movement to boycott Israel failed to highlight an interesting aspect of the burgeoning boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement, namely the increasing number of Jews in the United States and elsewhere who support some form of boycott. The liberal American Jewish Americans for Peace Now supports the boycott of products made in Israeli settlements. The progressive Jewish Voice for Peace, which this year fully embraced the Palestinian call for BDS, has grown to 65 chapters.

Given their support for the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s and the proud Jewish tradition of nonviolent resistance against injustice, it makes perfect sense that more American Jews are choosing to join the peaceful Palestinian call for BDS.

These are important letters because Americans will not abandon their support for the religious nationalist ideology of Zionism without a go-ahead from Jews. After all, the U.S. embraced Zionism because it was thought to provide Jews with safety in the wake of the Holocaust. Americans can only step away from the ideology with assurances of Jewish safety. That’s why Israeli leaders have led an assault on BDS as anti-Semitic; and why it is extremely important to focus on the number of Jews in the BDS movement (Sam Molnar and I say 20 percent; Peter Beinart says more than half in one recent BDS campus meeting). As well as point out that Israel’s conduct is exposing European Jews to attack, as Tony Judt, Norman Finkelstein and Bruce Shipman have all observed.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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6 Responses

  1. MRW on June 16, 2015, 2:06 pm

    Good one, Phil. One I can send to my Izzy-crazy relatives.

    • on June 17, 2015, 8:19 am

      “..Americans will not abandon their support for the religious nationalist ideology of Zionism without a go-ahead from Jews. After all, the U.S. embraced Zionism because it was thought to provide Jews with safety in the wake of the Holocaust. Americans can only step away from the ideology with assurances of Jewish safety. ”

      This is absurd and dangerous. To think that less than 2% of the American population will be allowed to indefinitely direct American foreign policy in such a dangerous and evil manner

  2. lysias on June 16, 2015, 2:49 pm

    Highly significant column by Walter Pincus in today’s Washington Post, calling for a nuclear-free Middle East. A nuclear-free Middle East is worth imagining, even if it’s fantasy.

    Pincus usually reflects the views of his sources in the U.S. military and intelligence communities. If this is really what the Pentagon and the CIA think, that is highly significant.

  3. ckg on June 16, 2015, 9:29 pm


  4. for-peace on June 17, 2015, 2:55 am

    Regarding contemporary antisemitism, Anti Defamation League (ADL) recently issued a report of an extensive survey they conducted across the world in more than one hundred countries. Details of the survey and the results can be found at the ADL website here:
    Many MW readers and contributors may contest whether the ADL concept of antisemitism, as framed by the survey questions, is appropriate or misguided. I would like to point out some observations from the data that is largely independent of that debate.

    Starting from the ADL findings above, I plot the percentage of of the population that is not antisemitic ( according to ADL ) as a function of the distance of that population from Tel Aviv in this chart:
    There are two clear trends in this chart. One set of countries whose populations strongly identify with Palestinians, i.e. countries where arabic identity is strong, are highly “antisemitic” (according to ADL) regardless of their distance from Tel Aviv. This is the horizontal trend line. The other set of countries whose populations have no identification with arabs or palestinians, follow the diagonal line. In other words, the closer you are to Tel Aviv, the more likely you are to be “antisemitic” (according to ADL). These two lines intersect in Palestine/Israel. With this data from ADL, I would like to leave the conclusion of the source of modern “antisemitism” to the intelligent reader.

    To complete the picture, if the population is more than 4,000 km from Tel Aviv, then it is “safe” from “antisemitic” tendencies. The distribution is independent of distance as can be seen here:

    Another way to look at this data is a heat map overlayed on the world map which points one to the same conclusion:

  5. mtorres on June 18, 2015, 11:10 am

    Remembering Mark Braverman’s response at a Sabeel conference, when someone asked him “how do we get the Jewish community to work with us”. He said “You must not wait for us. We will only hold you back.”

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