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May 22, 2016 1:44 am

BDS Is Part of the Long Line of Antisemitic Hate

avatar by Paul Socken

Email a copy of "BDS Is Part of the Long Line of Antisemitic Hate" to a friend
A BDS protest in London. Photo: Wiki Commons.

A BDS protest in London. Photo: Wiki Commons.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) that has isolated and vilified the state of Israel, above all other nations of the world, is disturbing in the extreme. Witnessing the vehemence of the activists and their irrational rage brings back memories of times when the Jew, not Israel, was the target of endless hatred.

The Jew, and now Israel, can do no right. There is no rational discussion possible because any attempt to present the Israeli point of view is shouted down.

In these trying times, it is instructive to review Paul Johnson’s magisterial History of the Jews, an absolutely essential work. The French Enlightenment, he reminds us, was a seminal period in the development of modern Western civilization but, tragically, contained within it a virulently antisemitic seed: “It insured that hatred of the Jews, so long kept alive by Christian fanaticism, would now survive the decline of the religious spirit.”

The secular antisemitism of the Left, under Voltaire, saw the Jews as an obstacle to the new secular order. The Right resented the collapse of the old order and blamed the Jews, whom they believed were its beneficiaries. In addition, Napoleon, whose intention was to include Jews in the new society, established a Sanhedrin — a modern council of Jewish leadership — which served as a lightning rod for conspiracy theorists. From such suspicions there eventually arose documents like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabrication about supposed Jewish power, which plagues us still.

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Then there was the rise of secular movements and doctrines founded by self-hating Jews such as Karl Marx in the early and late 1800s. Marx’s breathtaking ignorance of Judaism did not prevent him from loathing it. Marx saw the Jew as the embodiment of bourgeois commerce and an obstacle to his new atheistic and egalitarian order.

In more recent times, successive popes have bravely and increasingly renounced antisemitism and all the beliefs and doctrines it was founded upon. But this has occurred during the transition to an increasingly secular Europe and North America, and the ascendency of a radical segment of the Muslim world.  The result is an antisemitic secular West, and an antisemitic East, led by jihadist forces, often with the two converging in their agenda.

An eloquent and realistic historian, and a practicing Catholic, Johnson asserts that “no people has been more fertile in enriching poverty or humanizing wealth, or in turning misfortune to creative account” than the Jews. “The Jews gave the world ethical monotheism, which might be described as the application of reason to divinity. In a more secular age, they applied the principles of rationality to the whole range of human activities, often in advance of the rest of mankind.” Johnson’s scholarship represents an important voice in the non-Jewish world that co-exists with the hate, but does not eliminate it.

We understandably thought that six million dead Jews would satisfy the blood lust, and would buy us more than 70 years of relative peace and acceptance. Modern events have proven that hope to have been naive. Antisemitism has, indeed, reared its ugly, bestial head in spite of many appreciative friends like Johnson.

It is frustrating to contemplate all the bad that has been attributed to the Jews, despite all the good that Jews have contributed to the world. The child in us says, “That isn’t fair” while the adult in us says, “Who says life is fair?”

Johnson ends his book with a caution: “Excessive skepticism can produce as serious a distortion as credulity.” We cannot afford to be naive, nor can we allow ourselves to be cynical. These are extraordinary times. Virtually all Jews live in  democratic societies with a strong history of civil liberties. We must exercise those liberties to defend ourselves, or we will lose them.

Dr. Paul Socken is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the University of Waterloo.

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  • nat cheiman

    Europe is stuck with Islamists including BDS types.
    Time will reveal the truth about these snakes

  • kris kristian

    The BDS will faze out, when the world will wake up to the Islamic lies about Israel.

    Israel has been accused of being an apartheid state.
    There is no truth in this lie..
    In South Africa, there are millions
    of Coloured and Blacks, who lived through the apartheid South Africa.

    Many hundreds of blacks and coloured people have visited Israel
    They have all come back home with a greater support of the Zionist state, as they found no trace of apartheid in Israel.
    Unfortunately, the ANC government is anti Semitic and supports BDS against Israel

    Those around the world who support BDS are ignorant fools who believe every lie about Israel. Why don’t they visit the Zionist state?

    They complain that Israel has stolen land from the Palestinians. There is nothing further from the truth.

    Are they aware of what happened in the Old City of Jerusalem when it was under Jordanian rule?
    they destroyed 56 synagogues, with all the religious books.
    They broke the tomb stones of the oldest Jewish cemetery nd use the tomb stones as stepping stones to the latrines.
    Where was BDS then?
    They would not allow any Jews no pray at the Western Wall.

    Israel, after being attacked so many times, created military history, by defending themselves against Arab states, hell bent on destroying the Zionist Jewish state

    The Arabs/Muslims hate Israel because it is a sore thumb in the way of Islamic expansion.

    The world population is like a bunch of ignorant fools to believe every lie about Israel.. I challenge those who support NDS to visit and see for yourselves, that BDS is a lie.

  • Joshua Laskin

    Dr. Socken lost me, toward the end, when, after an exposition on the long, eternal history of antisemitism, he writes that the Holocaust should have given Jews a break. But, if his deliniated history demonstrates anything, it’s that there always was, and always will be antisemitism. Which brings us to the current situation with BDS. Why is there any surprise that the Jewish state would be singled out for censure, for a level of human-rights abuse which is common around the world? The only anti-historical shock, would be if the Jewish state *wasn’t* held to a higher standard. So, what’s the plan? Arguing that the Jewish state shouldn’t be censured for being as wicked as everyone else? History shows that this won’t wash. BDS is only to be expected. Although the impulse to oppose it, is understandable, fighting it will probably only make it bigger, and stronger. BDS is just part of the natural cost of a Jewish state. It literally comes with the territory.

    • Joshua:
      The reason Israel in particular, and Jews in general, are held to a higher standard is because this is G-d’s plan. G-d Himself holds us to a higher standard. The Nations of the world are required to keep the Seven Mitzvos B’Nai Noach, while we are required to keep 613 Mitzvos. G-d has called us His Chosen People and requires us to be a “Nation of Priests and a Holy People.” By our righteous example, we are supposed to be a “Light unto the Nations”
      Inasmuch as we fulfill the Holy Covenant that we made with HaShem at Har Sinai i.e. Na’asse v’Nishma, we will receive praise and honor from the Nations. If we fall short, we incur the opposite.
      Thus, “the ball is in our court.”
      Nobody said being a Jew is easy!

  • We all need to take action against BDS.
    Writing about it, talking, tweeing, posting, is all great. But what can one DO ABOUT IT?

    Lets see: http://www.no2bds.org

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