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Op-Ed: Anti-Israel Boycotts Are Not Against 'Apartheid'

The liberal left is not truly angered by alleged human rights deprivations, but by the existence of a sovereign Jewish nation.
Published: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:44 PM



Liberal Democrats do not seem to care that there was no demand for a Palestinian state when Jordan and Egypt illegally occupied Judea, Samaria and Gaza for nearly twenty years. Or that a country called Palestine never existed.
Politically-motivated boycotts are ubiquitous these days, promoted by a doctrinaire left-wing that has no tolerance for dissenting opinions.  Though progressives claim to support the liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, they have little regard for speech, expression or religious beliefs that conflict with their political and social agenda.  They disparage any deviation from their rigid views as extremism, even though data from Gallup and other reputable pollsters show that only twenty-percent of Americans identify as liberal, compared to forty-percent who identify as conservative and thirty-five percent as moderate. 

Statistically, then, it’s the left that occupies the fringes, despite its portrayal as normative by a partisan media that often spins news instead of reporting it – particularly when the subject is progressive treatment of Israel.

The American Studies Association’s recent decision to boycott Israeli universities offers a telling example.  An affront to the intellectual integrity of U.S. academia, the ASA’s boycott has nevertheless been treated by liberal pundits as legitimate political expression in response to supposed Israeli abuses.  Alas, its defenders include many progressive Jews who excuse efforts to delegitimize Israel and dismiss Jewish self-interest as archaic and chauvinistic. 

The tired refrain from the left is that boycotts are justified because Israel abuses human rights and enforces apartheid – fictions that are enabled by Jewish progressives who downplay the anti-Semitism inherent in such fatuous claims.  However, when Israel is singled out based on demonstrably false allegations, and real abuses occurring throughout the Arab-Muslim world (including religious discrimination, female genital mutilation and ethnic cleansing) are ignored, hatred of Jews suggests itself as the fuel driving the engine.  

If the ASA and its fellow travelers truly cared about human rights in the Mideast, they would target Egypt, where Coptic Christians are harassed and murdered; or Iran, where homosexuals are put to death; or Saudi Arabia, where religious freedom is denied and women are repressed; or any other Islamic state that punishes rape victims as adulterers, discriminates against minorities, and promotes global anti-Semitism. 

They would also condemn campus groups operating under the umbrella of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization premised on Islamist supremacism and jihad.  Their failure to do so suggests they are not truly angered by human rights deprivations, but by the existence of a sovereign Jewish nation.

Their singular focus on Israel – the only free and open democracy in the region – and their malicious slanders against her, expose their rationalizations as mere subterfuge.  Sadly, progressive efforts to tarnish Israel would not be so successful without the complicity of the Jewish left.

Jews on the left routinely excoriate Israel for imagined offenses and defend those who challenge her right to exist.  They endorse a Palestinian national myth that denies Jewish history, and find common cause with Islamist organizations that preach jihad and genocide.  These kneejerk impulses stem from either: (a) their commitment to a progressive agenda that includes the Palestinian cause as an essential plank, despite its lack of historicity; or (b) their rejection of traditional Jewish values in favor of progressive – even radical – ideals.  If this behavior arises from the former inclination, it may only be fueled by naiveté or ignorance; but if it flows from the latter, it may well reflect pathological Jewish self-loathing.

There are certainly principled liberals who support Israel’s right to exist, but who nevertheless champion Palestinian nationalism because it is part of the progressive agenda.  If they had any grasp of history, they would realize that Palestinian national identity is a modern political contrivance predicated on a repudiation of historical Jewish claims; and if they paid attention to reliable opinion polls, they would know that the Palestinian majority does not want permanent peace with a Jewish State. 

Because the Democratic Party today caters to the left, however, its agenda includes all sorts of pet causes, including Palestinian rights, which serve as creeds for the party faithful.  Loyalty to the party may be questioned if one disagrees with any of its core beliefs regarding, among other things, global warming, universal health care, or Mideast policy. 

Democrats obfuscate their own party’s tolerance for political extremism by claiming that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the right-wing.  If that were true, however, Mitt Romney – who as governor presided over the institution of state-mandated health care in Massachusetts – would not have been the party’s candidate for president in 2012. 

In contrast, the Democratic Party’s leftward tilt was evidenced way back in 2008 by its selection of Barack Obama – a candidate with no record of discernible accomplishments, skills or experience, but with connections to people and organizations associated with anti-Semitic, anti-Israel or radical viewpoints, including Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of more than twenty years, and the Nation of Islam. 

Despite such associations, Mr. Obama was never called out by the media, and any serious attempts to analyze his social and political connections were minimized or dismissed.  It is doubtful that any Republican with ties to radicals or extremists would likewise have received a pass.

The Democrats’ immoderate orientation regarding Mideast policy was illustrated by the expressions of political anti-Semitism at their 2012 national convention, when the party’s platform regarding Israel came up for discussion.  Rather than use the opportunity to condemn anti-Jewish bigotry, party wonks attempted to construe inflammatory comments as political discourse.  They also endeavored to distance Mr. Obama from those remarks, although they mirrored the shoddy and duplicitous treatment of Israel during his first term.  Many Jewish Democrats were disturbed, but not enough for them to call to account those whose convention-floor comments invoked anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.

The kerfuffle regarding Israel at the convention illustrated the difference between a political party that is alleged to be extreme and one that has actually become so.  Republicans may disagree to the point of paralyzing dysfunction over differing approaches for dealing with the disastrous Obamacare rollout, the debt ceiling, and so-called moral and family issues, but their verbal jousting at least shows some diversity of opinion within the party fold.  That Republican moderates are more accepting with respect to such hot button issues as same-sex marriage shows that the threat of censure is not wielded to quell dissent. 

The same cannot be said of the Democrats, who resist introspection regarding their facilitation of disastrous domestic policies – particularly Obamacare – although politicians concerned about their reelection prospects are breaking ranks and attempting to distance themselves from their own voting records.  Those facing tough electoral challenges are tolerated for dissociating from Mr. Obama; but regular citizens and private businesses who disagree with his policies are increasingly subjected to governmental intimidation and intrusion.  Moreover, those guided by faith in the way they conduct business are often targeted by progressives for economic coercion, which is encouraged, or at least tolerated, by politicians who display little respect for religious expression.

If the owners of small companies express religious views that conflict with mandates regarding the subsidization of abortion services, for example, they are derided and subjected to bullying in the marketplace.  One can certainly disagree with their position on abortion, but not with their Constitutional right to their beliefs.

Interestingly, progressives who chastise Catholic hospitals for following church doctrine generally do not criticize Muslim groups that lobby for legislation aimed at requiring civil courts to recognize Sharia, or which promote anti-Israel policies that are really anti-Semitic.  It is quite ironic that many liberals who claim to believe in secular values have supported Muslim advocates in promoting Sharia-friendly legislation. 

Whether the issue is sexual politics, domestic economics, environmental regulation or foreign policy, dissent regarding key aspects of the progressive agenda is often scorned as heresy.  And so it is with the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is seen by many liberals as being perpetuated by settlements in Judea and Samaria, even though these lands were recognized as Jewish for thousands of years, and although Arab-Muslim rejectionism existed long before their liberation from Jordanian occupation in 1967.  Liberal Democrats do not seem to care that there was no demand for a Palestinian state when Jordan and Egypt illegally occupied Judea, Samaria and Gaza for nearly twenty years.  Or that a country called Palestine never existed.

Their faulty presumptions devalue Israeli sovereignty and ignore the reality that Jewish claims are historical while Palestinian claims are not.  Some Jewish progressives toe the line out of partisan loyalty or ignorance.  But others advocate the Palestinian cause and encourage political alliances with Islamist organizations out of rejection of their heritage, history and ancestral values.  One cannot be a secular, post-nationalist citizen of the world if one continues to embrace a religious and national identity that is grounded in divine inspiration and historical truth rather than social determinism. 

Jewish self-rejection is driven by assimilationist aspirations and is not limited to progressive society.  Indeed, some Jews on the right have advocated assimilation as a way of ameliorating their status as perpetual strangers.  The difference, however, is that the Jewish left often adopts anti-Semitic stereotypes to disparage strongly-identified Jews who cling to their heritage.  Few Jews in Germany were so deluded as to believe that Nazism offered any humanistic truths.  In contrast, Jewish progressives endorsed communism despite its disdain for Jews and Judaism, and lauded the Soviet Union in spite of its repression, discrimination and murder of millions.  Likewise, many secular Jews in nineteenth century Europe flocked to liberal and socialist movements that despised Jewish religion and nationality.

Today, many Jews on the left support the BDS and Israel Apartheid Week movements, the ASA boycott, and Islamist groups that subsidize or engage in terrorism, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Progressive organizations such as J Street glibly proclaim support for Israel, but in reality shill for Arab-Muslim interests opposed to the very existence of a Jewish state.    

The complicity of many Reform and Conservative rabbis in this charade is a reflection of their elevation of secular political priorities over traditional values.  The nontraditional movements might argue that supporting a Palestinian state is consistent with Jewish values and Torah justice, but this premise is unfounded.  The Reform movement long ago rejected the authority of halakha from which these values arise; and despite claiming its continuing fealty to Jewish law, today’s Conservative movement (in America at least) appears to be post-halakhic. 

There is nothing within normative Judaism that justifies validating a Palestinian narrative that denies Jewish history and puts Jewish lives at risk.

Despite nearly two centuries of attempting to redefine Jewish values as synonymous with socialism, liberalism, the New Deal, secular progressivism and radical chic, the Jewish left has consistently ignored the critical inconsistencies.  If progressivism were truly compatible with traditional Judaism it would not see assimilation as a virtue or adopt attitudes and positions that threaten Jewish continuity and foster anti-Semitism. 

The same twisted dynamic has played out for generations, with Jews forsaking traditional observance and looking to fill the void with secular political beliefs and icons.  Many Jews on the left were apologists for Stalin despite his purging and execution of Jewish leaders and intellectuals.  Still others considered Roosevelt their savior in spite of his refusal to save Jews during the Holocaust.  (To his shame, Roosevelt found it more important to dedicate military resources to rescuing works of art than to saving Jewish lives.)  Today they support Barack Obama, regardless of his long-standing relationships with radicals and anti-Semites, his bullying treatment of Israel, and his appeasement of Islamists. 

When Mr. Obama’s troubling relationships or hostility towards Israel are questioned, his boosters point to Jewish friends and associates as proof of his affinity for Jews and Judaism.  However, associating with progressive Jews who disparage Israel and reject traditional values proves nothing of the kind – any more than an old-time racist could deny his prejudice simply because he had cordial relations with African-Americans who accepted their status under the old Jim Crow laws.  

Those who cling to the fiction that liberals are the only true friends of Israel should check out Congressional voting patterns over the last thirty years.  Only a rube could fail to notice that Republicans have a far stronger record of support for the Jewish State.  Or that only Democrats signed the infamous “Gaza 54” letter, which falsely accused Israel of creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza by her naval blockade to stop the flow of weapons to Hamas.  Or that J Street’s Congressional supporters are primarily liberal Democrats.  Or that John Kerry invoked the threat of boycotts in attempting to cajole Israel to accept his suicidal negotiating framework. 

Though Democrats are fond of claiming that they “have Israel’s back,” the actions of their party tell a different story, as does their support for a hostile administration that treats Israel like a vassal state while appeasing her enemies.  The reality is that progressives are far more likely than conservatives or independents to support immoral boycotts against Israel, falsely accuse her of apartheid, and defend her leftist haters against accusations of anti-Semitism.  This should concern all principled liberals and moderates who identify as Democrats, and it should motivate them to stanch and reverse their party’s slide to the left.