BDS sinks to lowest-level on peace-plan debate

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
It was to be expected that the newly-released United States peace plan for the Middle East would elicit vociferous opposition in certain quarters. Regrettably, it was also probably inevitable that at least occasionally, this would spill over into overt expressions of anti-Semitism.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Feb 06, 2020

One glaring instance of this was an appalling cartoon that was posted on the Facebook site of the local BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. The image portrayed Israelis as rats greedily feeding on a piece of cheese representing the West Bank while a dispossessed Palestinian looked on helplessly. Details such as a label reading kosher cheese, stereotypical hooked noses, and the fact that one of the “rats” wore a kippah, made it obvious that Jews were being targeted. Even without such indications, however, such depictions of Jews unavoidably have viciously anti-Semitic overtones. As our statement in response to the cartoon pointed out, the depiction of Jews as rats and therefore as vermin that should be exterminated was a classical Nazi trope. It’s this kind of dehumanisation that has led to genocide in the past, not just against Jews, but against the Tutsi people in Rwanda, who prior to the genocide against them were continually referred to as cockroaches.

We accept that people who hold viewpoints – whether on the Mid-East question or on any other issue that differs from our own – have every right to express their opinions. That’s what living in a democracy is all about. What we cannot and will not accept is when such discourse spills over into overt anti-Jewish racism. Predictably, BDS has responded by accusing us of “playing the anti-Semitism card” in order to silence legitimate criticism of Israel. The reality, of course, is that BDS has a long and dishonourable track record of propagating anti-Jewish bigotry as part of its campaign to demonise, defame, and delegitimise the nation state of the Jewish people, this cartoon being just the latest instance in which it crossed the line. As on previous occasions, we made sure to bring to wider attention what this self-styled “human-rights organisation” is actually saying.

It’s a truism that the Israeli-Palestinian issue elicits strong emotions on all sides of the spectrum. We further understand the outrage and frustration that Jewish community members sometimes feel when they believe that Israel is being unjustly denigrated and misrepresented. That, however, isn’t a license to indulge in hate speech ourselves, including against members of our own community whose views, whether on Israel or any other issue, one might disagree with.

People wishing to post comments online should make sure always to stick to the issues, and refrain from making personal attacks. Those who administer publicly accessible online platforms have a special responsibility to monitor those sites, remove obviously offensive posts and, where appropriate, block repeat offenders. This isn’t censorship. Freedom of expression is not a “free for all”, but also includes the right to decide what not to allow to be expressed on media platforms one is responsible for. Through this, we can at least ensure a level of basic civility in the way we engage with one another and with those beyond the confines of our own community.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.


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