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BDS movement is clearly anti-Semitic

In response to Avram Sacks’ letter to the editor Sept. 6 I can say that I have known Avram for many years and attest to his sincere wish for peace in the Middle East. However, concerning Israel and his role as a leader of the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, I believe he is terribly wrong. He is being misled with distorted political analyses, false facts and half-truths promoted by the national JVP organization and the BDS movement to boycott, sanction, and divest from the State of Israel including an end to cultural, athletic and even scientific exchange programs.

Avram opens his letter with the statement that Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., “have come under attack for criticizing Israel .” This is a misrepresentation. Israel is not exempt from criticism, and criticism of Israel is, of course, not anti-Semitic. Israelis humorously call their own criticism of their government a “national sport.”

It is glaringly ironic that critics like Omar and Tlaib single out the only democracy in the Middle East for special sanctions while minimizing serious human rights violations in other Middle Eastern nations. Healthy debate, self-criticism, protest and free elections are welcomed in Israel, while self-criticism is dangerous or illegal in the Palestinian territories and all other non-democratic countries.

JVP supports the BDS movement, which by its nature is not just anti-Israel but clearly anti-Semitic. Does this mean that everyone who supports BDS is an anti-Semite? Of course not. But the leaders of BDS openly work toward the ultimate goal of a one-state solution — Palestine with no Israel. Omar Barghouti, the founder of BDS, has stated many times, “I am completely and categorically against bi-nationalism [the two state solution] because it assumes that there are two nations with equal moral claims to the land.”

Many of those who protest with JVP or who support BDS proudly chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” If calling for the dissolution of Israel is not anti-Semitic, I don’t know what is.

JVPs support for Tlaib’s and Omar’s positions about Israel are misguided. Omar, for example, has a long history of using bigoted tropes against Jews and Israel. She said that Israel has “hypnotized” the world, an accusation that leans on the stereotype of inordinate Jewish power. Her criticism of AIPAC (the Washington, D.C., lobby group for Israel) as being about the “Benjamins” leans on the stereotype of Jews and money. Finally, her more recent statement about Jewish American allegiance to a foreign power smacks of the age-old accusation of Jews having dual loyalties. For each of these comments she has apologized, and yet she does not seem able to restrain herself from continuing to dabble on the edges of anti-Semitic rhetoric with her justification of the BDS movement.

Do Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar level any criticism against the Palestinian Authority for corruption? For marginalizing its own LGBTQ citizens? For its refusal to accept or even counter-offer the many formal offers by Israel to trade land for peace? For its dissemination of frightfully anti-Semitic elementary school materials? For its financial support of the families of terrorists? For its almost absolute lack of anything resembling what we think of as a free press, the right to protest, and other democratic institutions? JVP singles out Israel for condemnation without asking the Palestinian leadership to take responsibility for its causal role in this conflict.

A good place to start the “respectful dialogue” that Avram says he wants is for him to study the statistics and educational materials offered by the ADL (www.adl.org) and Stand With Us (www.standwithus.com) and then sit down face to face with one of the many rabbis we are fortunate to have in Ashland.

Rabbi David Zaslow of Ashland is the spiritual leader of Havurah Shir Hadash.