Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes: Cape Town, South Africa – The global center of the world BDS movement is, when you think about it, South Africa. BDS, in an attempt to sound more reasonable and less hateful, rarely compares Israel to Nazi, Germany, the way, say, arch-anti-Semite Roger Waters of Pink Floyd does. No, BDS argues that Israel practices apartheid the way that pre-Nelson Mandela South Africa did.
You can imagine, therefore, that it’s not all that easy being a proud lover of Israel in South Africa. That the Jewish community here pulls it off, remaining staunch Zionists, is impressive. But there are fissures in the support. Israel is under constant assault by some ANC ministers who make the false and erroneous comparison of Israel’s existential war against Islamic terrorists to the ANC’s struggle against white apartheid rule. Last week I responded to this ridiculous comparison. This week I want to focus on what it’s like to be subject to it.
It’s impossible for world Jewry to be the brunt of so much hatred, and to constantly be on the defensive about Israel, without some of that bile and poison seeping in. The constant attacks start playing with your head. Maybe there is something wrong with us Jews.
With Christianity saying for 2000 years that Jesus is loving while the God of the Old Testament is vengeful, maybe Judaism is too rigid. Maybe in Israel we’re overdoing it. With the Palestinians saying they’re humiliated by checkpoints, perhaps Israel is purposely trying to degrade them as opposed to instituting security measures to stop buses filled with children from being blown up. And maybe, just maybe, we Jews who live outside of Israel are simply giving Israel too much mindless support.
I remember twice visiting Dakar, Senegal, one of the poorest countries on earth, and being struck by the advertisements all over the city for skin bleaching agents.
But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. Gorie island in the city is where millions of African slaves departed through ‘the gate of no return’ to a life of chains in the Americas and Caribbean. When you’re brutalized with that kind of hatred just for the color of your skin you don’t always see beauty when you peer in the mirror.
The gradual trickle of self-hatred into the Jewish soul is evidencing itself in the growing American Jewish call for Israel-hating speakers to be hosted by Jewish organizations at Jewish venues in order to demonstrate our open-mindedness.
We first saw this with Swarthmore Hillel when it bizarrely announced its “Open Hillel” policy, opening their doors to anti-Zionist speakers. Asking people who wish to destroy Israel to come and address Jewish audiences – and make no mistake about it, BDS is only about destroying Israel – would be the equivalent of the ANC inviting white bigots to argue that apartheid should be reinstated. I am all for inviting Israel’s opponents to open, rules-based debates, where they are forced to rationally defend their positions in the marketplace of ideas, and indeed, our organization, This World: The Values Network, will be sponsoring debates along these lines across the United States, beginning at Columbia University on 31 March. I believe strongly in freedom of speech and fair and intelligent exchange. And if it’s a credible opponent but who has the intention of obliterating your very home it can only be a debate format and on neutral ground. But what fool would allow poisonous, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda offered to impressionable Jewish minds without a retort? To invite people who want to malign and defame Israel to address Jewish audiences is proof of the old adage that there is no hatred like Jewish self-hatred.
Sunday, December 07, 2014
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes: At the Oxford Union debate on Iran that I participated in last Thursday night, I waited for the inevitable argument that we’re wasting our time fighting over the Islamic Republic when the real wolf in sheep’s clothing is of course the Jewish state. Sure enough it came in the first thirty minutes when a bearded Islamic student who did not look much different to me (lucky, handsome devil) joined the floor debate. He argued that Israel, an apartheid state, is responsible for the real atrocities in the Middle East. So why bother with the Iranian distraction? Time was when an argument like that would have been shot down by the intelligent students witnessing the debate. Really? You’re going to compare a liberal democracy like Israel, with every freedom from religion to press to assembly, to a theocratic nightmare like Iran? Iran last year put 700 of its citizens to death, hangs gays and blasphemers from public cranes, and stones women to death on false accusations of adultery so their husbands can marry younger women. Are you seriously going to compare Israel to a country that used snipers to murder political protesters in the streets of Tehran in 2009 and infamously shot Neda Agha-Soltan in the heart? The martyred Iranian woman even has a scholarship at Queens College, Oxford named after her. Press accounts of the Oxford debate have our side demolishing those of the pro-Iran faction and for anyone who was there the huge applause I was fortunate to receive from the entire audience – easily in evidence on the video of the debate shows how well we connected with the students. But… we lost anyway. When it comes to Israel, British Universities seem impervious to reason.