It was 81 years ago this week that the Nazis instituted their first boycott of Jewish businesses and goods. Back before the deathly Final Solution was implemented, Nazism defined itself through its boycotting of Jewish merchants, products, and professionals. Nazi leaders understood that boycotting was the ultimate act of stigmatization and de-legitimization; it was anti-Jewish to the core.
It is unthinkable, therefore, to hear of plans by the sponsors of New York’s annual Israel Day Parade to include groups involved in promoting boycotts against Jewish businesses, or products manufactured by Jews, that are located in certain parts of Israel. The UJA-Federation in New York, which coordinates the parade, says it’s including these groups in the name of an “open tent.”
But no tent should be enlarged in order to give credence to those engaged in one of the world’s most symbolic anti-Semitic acts: boycotting Jews. Not even when the boycotters or their funders are Jewish, or carry names such as the New Israel Fund, B’Tselem, or Promoters of a Progressive Israel. For years, and still today, Muslim and Arab countries wishing to de-legitimize and harm the State of Israel called for boycotts.
The boycotters claim they are only boycotting the (bad) Jews living and producing in areas where “they don’t belong.” The UJA-Federation should have no part of this canard, this indecency. Beyond question, boycotts will soon include other parts of Israel, and maybe people and communities in a Jewish neighborhood near you.
Some of these organizations actually produce lists of Jewish-owned businesses to be boycotted and punished. Curiously, those struck by a sense of “conscience” never seem moved to boycott Muslim states that are behind unending terrorism and severe human rights violations. Their singular focus on, and animus towards, Israel and Jews exposes their phobia and prejudice. They are engaging in the previously forbidden sport of anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Israelism or anti-Jewish nationalism. It is shameful and disgraceful.
On Tuesday, April 8, a group opposed to letting boycotters participate in the Israel Day Parade are gathering in protest in front of the UJA-Federation building on130 East 59th Street, from 4-7PM, to voice our opposition.
Letting the boycotters march is more than appeasement, and more than a public forfeiture of Jewish dignity. It is a kosherizing of the very organizations involved in boycotting our fellow Jews, and it verifies the notion that boycotts against Jews and Israel are acceptable, if a “proper rationale” can be offered.
There is something craven to the core in all of this. Truly, it is sick. Can you imagine a St. Patrick’s Day Parade sponsoring marchers calling for boycotting parts of Ireland, Irish businesses, and Irish products?
We have communicated to the UJA-Federation, the JCRC, and directors of other Jewish organizations our distress and anger regarding the choice they have made. It does not seem to matter. We understand that some on their staffs actually look at the 400,000 Jews in Judea-Samaria and East Jerusalem as “settlers” and interlopers who deserve reprimand and scorn. Though many do not share these views, they, nonetheless, habitually acquiesce to left wing causes for the sake of conformity and open-mindedness.
Too many within the establishment are guided by this pernicious notion, almost gospel-like, that “Jewish values,” openness and tolerance, mean seeing your enemy’s point of view to the exclusion of Jewish needs and peoplehood.
Those espousing the “open tent” theory know that our love of Israel will keep us in the parade despite its infiltration by the boycotters. We’ve seen this scenario too many times: simpatico for critics from the Left, indifference to loyalists in the center.
In today’s world, it’s easy and fashionable to denounce Israeli policies or simply remain silent. It takes courage to stand up to those routinely discrediting Israel from outside, and especially inside, our community. But we expect the UJA-Federation to do so!
There are far too many places in the world where the Islamic rhetoric and anti-Israel propaganda are readily available… and funded. Let them find their “open-ness” in those forums; forums, I might add, that are closed to a Zionist point of view.
If you can’t attend the rally, we ask that you contact John Ruskay of the Federation and Michael Miller at JCRC. There has been too much silence in the face of Jews being beaten-up in Europe and the U.S. Too many young Jews on campus are being intimidated and threatened by Islamic groups. They are rarely, in any meaningful way, helped by the national Jewish organizations – not with legal teams, court filings, financing, manpower, nor even calls for Jews and other good-willed citizens to assist at meetings.
We endured “official” silence in the 30s and 40s. It was a mistake and tragedy of historic proportions. Let us not do it again. Directors may be indifferent. Real leaders are not.
Rabbi Spero is author of Push Back: Reclaiming the Judeo-Christian Ethos, was a pulpit rabbi for almost forty years, leads the Synagogue of America, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.