‘BDS makes it almost impossible for Europe’s Jews to support Israel’ – i24news
The global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has managed to divide the Jewish public in Europe and the US on the subject of Israel, the UK’s former chief rabbi said Monday.
Speaking at a panel discussion titled “Islam and BDS in Europe: a strategic threat?” at the Herzliya Conference, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks claimed the BDS campaign has succeeded at least in part in its goals, unlike earlier anti-Semitic drives against the Jewish state.
“Israel was always a uniting factor in Jewish life; it has become a divisive factor,” Sacks was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying.
The BDS campaign has made it “almost impossible” for Europe-based Jews to openly support Israel, he added. “Jews have been faced with a choice: live in Europe and criticize Israel or be silent, or leave Europe,” he said.
Sacks, the UK’s chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013, compared the BDS movement to the anti-Semitic blood libels dating back to the Middle Ages.
“In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, they were hated because of their race. In the twenty first century, they are hated because of their nation state. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism,” Sacks was quoted by the Times as saying.
He noted that the BDS movement has been “fairly successful” in de-legitimizing Israel on the world stage, which could eventually lead to Jews across the world feeling defenseless.
“If Israel is thoroughly isolated, it too will be seen to be defenseless, and that will be very dangerous indeed,” Sacks said, adding that Jews must convince Europe that if the continent is “not safe for Jews, it is not safe for Europeans.”
“If Europe loses its Jews, it will have lost its freedom,” Sacks argued. “The hate that begins with Jews never ends with them … We must not be left to fight this battle alone.”
Sack’s statements came as roughly 30 students participated in a discussion on the boycott movement at Tel Aviv University on Monday.
Hosted by the sociology and anthropology department, the event was the first of its kind to be held at the university, Israeli news site Haaretz reported.
Dan Rabinowitz, one of the professors in attendance, pointed to a petition that was signed by roughly 1,300 anthropologists across the globe and which called on Israeli universities to urge the government to withdraw from the West Bank in order for the boycott to be lifted.
“That is a condition that cannot be met,” Rabinowitz was quoted by Haaretz as saying. “The universities are not in a position to make an institutional stand on political issues. We don’t know the opinion of Tel Aviv University on the occupation and refugees, just as we don’t know the opinion of UCLA Berkeley on climate change, Guantanamo or the war on terror.”
The BDS campaign is being carried out by people who “never believed in a two-state solution, or who gave up on it,” he added, noting that academics in this instance were seen as an “obstacle” to the movement.
“The presence of Israelis who can show an enlightened face and arouse empathy is an obstacle. Therefore Israeli academic and cultural institutions are a nuisance. The universities are more dangerous to the post-Zionist vision than Netanyahu, Bennett, and Shaked,” he said.