January 11, 2022
At the heart of pro-Israel supporters animus to any voice of opposition, to any voice supporting the rights of the Palestinian people, and to any voice that calls for using the tactic of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as their alternative to violence, has been a claim that singling out Israel is unfair and anti-Semitic.
According to the Maccabee Project, which does its anti-BDS work on college campuses, “The problem with the BDS movement is that it criticizes only Israel. BDS insists on blaming the entire conflict on only one side – Israel. Such simplistic scapegoating will not bring peace; it will only fuel extremism…. The BDS movement criticizes one nation and one nation only – Israel.” Rabbi Avi S. Olitzky used this same logic model when he criticized US Representative Omar for her support of BDS in an article he published in The Hill. He defined BDS as “an attempt to demonize, delegitimize and apply a double standard to Israel… And we, as members of the Jewish and broader communities, should be willing to partner wholly with anyone truly committed to such an end, and not merely using it as cover for implicit anti-Semitic gains.”
A 2014 article published by the Gatestone Institute’s International Policy Council Professor Dershowitz damned BDS for its singling out of Israel. “The BDS movement is immoral because it reflects and encourages a double standard of judgment and response regarding human rights violations. By demanding more of Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people, it expects less of other states, people, cultures, and religions, thereby reifying a form of colonial racism and reverse bigotry that hurts the victims of human rights violations inflicted by others.”
As one voice, pro-Israel supporters have made this a central line of defense. BDS is wrong because it singles out Israel because it ignores other cases of governmental atrocity. If its supporters do not protest every bad-acting nation, then they are clearly singling out Israel because it wants to be a Jewish nation and because those in power are primarily Jewish Israelis.
That argument makes a good debating point; but it just serves as a façade to shield and deflect from taking a cold, hard look at the reality of what is taking place right in front of us. How do I know that? Professor Alan Dershowitz taught me that lesson in his eulogy for Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I was taken aback when Professor Dershowitz chose the prelate’s death as the moment to demonize Archbishop Tutu.
Tutu was a supporter of the Palestinian People and had criticized the policies of the Israeli government. In words of a speech he made in 2002, as reprinted in the Guardian, he recognized the reality of modern Israel/Palestine and the struggle to overcome the political power of Israeli supporters. “Israel has a right to secure borders. What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to other people to guarantee its existence. I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us Black people in South Africa.”
He went further, not shying away from recognizing the political power of the pro-Israel, Jewish forces in the US that work against speaking his truth. “People are scared in this country, to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful–very powerful. Well, so what? We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust. Israel has a right to secure borders. What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us Black people in South Africa. the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints experienced. Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation…Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?”
Palestine was not his only focus. He was also a loud critic of evil wherever he encountered it. As summarized recently by Colbert King for the Washington Post, “Tutu took on bigotry wherever its ugly head was raised, including continental Africa, where same-sex relations are outlawed in most countries…Tutu held to his convictions, even when it meant speaking out against his own South African government for bowing to Chinese pressure and failing to support Tibetans who are “viciously oppressed by the Chinese.” He called on the international community to impose sanctions on the military junta of Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha after it hanged environmental activist and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and others in 1995. Finding evidence of thousands of people killed and displaced in Sudan’s Darfur region, Tutu condemned African leaders for supporting and protecting then-Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir from an International Criminal Court arrest warrant on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
You would think that this would be enough to be better understood by pro-Israel advocates, to be seen as a political foe but not as someone to be damned as anti-Semitic.
But it was not. In an appearance on Fox News, Dershowitz was clear; opposing Israel and elevating Palestinians is not to be tolerated. As reported by Newsweek, this is the professor’s eulogy of a man of peace and reconciliation. “I hope you don’t mind if I do this. The world is mourning Bishop Tutu, who just died the other day. Can I remind the world that although he did some good things, a lot of good things on apartheid, the man was a rampant anti-Semite and bigot?… People say you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. Well, that’s wrong… The bottom line is that at a time when people are reckoning with the careers, of people with mixed legacies, whether it be Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and others, we have to include in a reckoning of Tutu his evil, bigotry against Jews, which has existed for many, many, many years.”
For Tutu to recognize that Israel is, in its own words, the Jewish homeland as. Knesset member Amir Ohanarecognized in 2018 on the passage of the nation-State law was too much to be tolerated. “The passing of the law declaring Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people shows that in principal, we are not a bi-national state, not a bi-language state and not a bi-capital state. We are only a Jewish state with Hebrew as an official language, and Jerusalem as our undivided capital city.”
For Dershowitz and other Israel supporters, his recognizing the power inequity, in Israel and in the US, between Jews and Palestinians was enough to be declared an anti-Semite. Even in death, Archbishop Tutu had been brave enough to speak this truth, and for that his memory had to be vilified lest his memory lights a spark of recognition of the wrongs that go on daily in the name of that Jewish State.
For that bravery may his memory be a blessing and light showing us a path to a time when we will remember that we are all, Israeli Jews and Palestinians are created in God’s image. Only then can the difficult reality of one land and two peoples have any chance of solution and can the world have any chance for reconciliation of festering wounds.