Activism

On equating BDS and anti-Semitism: a letter to the German government

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

To the Members of the German Government:

I write to you regarding the motion recently passed by the Bundestag that equated BDS with anti-Semitism. I also write to you as Jew, a child of Holocaust survivors and as a scholar of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

My mother, Taube, and father, Abraham, survived Auschwitz among other horrors. My father was the only survivor in his family of six children and my mother survived with only one sister in a family that was larger than my father’s. I know, without question, that if they were alive today, the motion you are being asked to endorse would terrify them given the repression of tolerance and witness that it clearly embraces. I shall not restate what others have already written protesting your action, but I do have some thoughts I would like to share.

In September 2014 I was invited to speak on Gaza at the Heinrich Boll Stiftung after the terrible events of that summer. During the question period, a gentleman stood up who was quite agitated. He argued quite strongly that given Germany’s history, it is difficult if not impossible for Germans to criticize Israel. Embedded in his statement was the belief that Germans should never engage in such criticism. He seemed to insist that I accept this. I do not. Nor would my parents.

My response to him, then, is the same as my response to you now: If your history has imposed a burden and an obligation upon you, it is to defend justice not Israel. This is what Judaism, not Zionism, demands. Your obligation does not lie in making Israel or the Jewish people special or selectively excusing injustice because Jews happen to be committing it; it lies in holding Israel and Jews to the same ethical and moral standards that you would demand of any people, including yourselves. If you think that by refusing to criticize Israel’s brutal occupation—and punishing those who do—you are protecting and securing the State of Israel or the place of the Jewish people in the world, you are terribly misguided. Your approach achieves the exact opposite—by insisting on treating Jews as an exception, you are weakening us by again making us a kind of anomaly, an intruder, a negation of Europe. It makes us more vulnerable to and unsheltered from the racism and the true anti-Semitism now resurgent throughout the world.

Your sense of guilt, if that is the correct word, should not derive from criticizing Israel. It should reside in remaining silent in the face of injustice as so many of your forebears did before, during and after the Holocaust.

I lost a large extended family to fascism and racism. By endorsing the motion that alleges that BDS is anti-Semitic—regardless of one’s position on BDS—you are criminalizing the right to free speech and dissent and those who choose to exercise it, which is exactly how fascism takes root. You also trivialize and dishonor the real meaning of anti-Semitism. How would you explain that to Taube and Abraham?

Sincerely,

Dr. Sara Roy

This piece appeared first on Counterpunch last week.

9 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

RE: “If you think that by refusing to criticize Israel’s brutal occupation—and punishing those who do—you are protecting and securing the State of Israel or the place of the Jewish people in the world, you are terribly misguided. Your approach achieves the exact opposite . . .” ~ Dr. Roy SEE: “Gunter the Terrible” | By Uri Avnery | counterpunch.com | April 13, 2012 [EXCERPT] Stop me if I have told you this joke before:… Read more »

The fact that only Israel and the promoting of bds even had to be debated in Germany is an indication that Israel is being held to a higher standard then any other nation in the region. E.g. Syrian Assad with Russian help just killed dozens of civilian women and children in western Syria bombing runs yesterday. Germans arent debating about that. Germans have transcended, more then any other western European nation, their history as a… Read more »

@DaBakr “The fact that only Israel and the promoting of bds even had to be debated in Germany is an indication that Israel is being held to a higher standard then any other nation in the region. ” Your phony, baseless “argument” has been used before: https://www.juancole.com/2019/04/israels-tactics-apartheid.html “How Israel’s anti-BDS Tactics Mirror White South Africa’s Defense of Apartheid” MIDDLE EAST MONITOR – 04/25/2019 By Michael Bueckert “The Israeli state and its supporters frequently accuse its… Read more »

Sara Roy – Your interpretation is that the Bundestag’s position on BDS is based on their sense of guilt. Part of your “proof” is the debate you had with a German who commented at one of your lectures about German guilt. It really is quite strange that a university professor builds a case on such a childish logic. Perhaps the Bundestag has determined that the BDS is antisemitic simply because they actually think that the… Read more »