Thirty eight reporters are arrested in Iran. The most-watched independent television station in Venezuela is shut down. Palestinians kidnap two FOX journalists and a Palestinian radio journalist. Who does the British National Union of Journalists vote to boycott? Israel: the only Middle East nation with a free press. Ironic? Not any more so than British academics voting to boycott Israeli academics (including the leftists most critical of Israeli government policies) while remaining silent about the Sudan, Zimbabwe, and a host of other human rights offenders.
I agree wholeheartedly with Rabbi Waxman that the British boycotts are outrageously anti-Semitic, in that they single out Israel for approbation, out of all proportion to the criticism leveled (or not leveled) at much worse offenders, including the Palestinians themselves.
What can we do?
First we can support the ADL’s campaign to educate the public, which focuses on contextualizing the boycott to show how unfair it is.
Second, we can consider boycotting the boycotters. The United States can use its considerable clout to suspend contracts and grants to British academics and journalists who support this egregious act of bias.
Third, we have to take a long, hard look at how to stem the growing tendency on the Israeli left to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish State, as Adam LeBor does in his New York Times op ed, “New Lyrics for Hatikvah”. LeBor’s guilt about inequities Israeli Arabs and other minorities face in Israel drives him, and an alarming number of Israelis like him, to think that the only just step is to de-Judaize the Jewish State. His position is dangerous on two counts: he is kidding himself if he thinks our enemies will be satisfied with a secular state in the Middle East where Jewish residents have equal rights. Just look at how Christians are being treated under Palestinian Muslim rule. Second, a Jewish State of Israel is needed now more than ever with world wide anti-Semitism on the rise. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The tragic history of the 19th and 20th centuries proves that abandoning Jewish particularist identity does not guarantee anything but political and physical vulnerability.
Israel must still do a better job at providing more equitable opportunities for its minorities. But it does not mean that the Jewish identity should be removed from the Jewish State of Israel. Even the name Israel is the name of the Jewish People. To think the two can be divorced is self-deception.
As a Jew in America, I know that Christmas and Easter are the legal holidays. The airwaves are filled with Christmas music and there is a national Christmas tree on the White House lawn. I may not like it, but it is part of what America is. Israel is a Jewish State in which there is a public Menorah and the flag has a Jewish star. Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, mentions the Jewish soul, just as our pledge of allegiance mentions God (which is offensive to those who are not monotheists or theists). Israel must treat its minorities as Jews would have liked to have been treated (but seldom were) in other countries. While Israel does a better job than most following the rule of law to protect minority rights, it can and must do better. Nevertheless, Israel should not, and need not, give up its Jewish identity to do so. What Israelis like LeBor need is a little exposure to Masorti Judaism, which hopefully can reconnect them to their Jewish souls so they can understand why there is a place (and a need) for a Jewish State in the world.