By Alexander Wolfe | Staff Columnist
Before President Trump captured headlines by declaring a national emergency to build his wall on the southern border, new members of the house Democratic caucus came under fire for antisemitic comments made regarding the state of Israel.
That said when a topic becomes as taboo as antisemitism, it’s important that we address accusations of antisemitism with the prudence and sensitivity it deserves. This means the unequivocal condemnation of antisemitic remarks and an honest investigation into charges of antisemitism when the truth does not appear so clearly. We saw the right wing fringe dabble with questions of antisemitism in Charlottesville, and the aforementioned Democractic Congresswomen have been accused of antisemitic statements and positions. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments contained antisemitic rhetoric, and her failure to promptly apologize is deeply troubling.
However, the reason behind this new wave of accusations has more to do with political positions and less with public statements. They stem from these Democrats’ support for the BDS movement. Boycott Divest Sanctions is a rather dodgy movement which advocates the total withdrawal of economic support for Israel, though their website reads that its goal is to help remind the rest of the world that Palestinians are entitled to human rights. The trouble with BDS is that it’s become associated with far-left elements, notably Louis Farrakhan, creating the same controversy around itself as this year’s Women’s March with charges of antisemitism. The group receives funding from sources which are questionable at best and corrupt at worst, and while the question of BDS’s ethics is far from difficult, the complaints the organization raises are more challenging to dismiss.
There is nothing antisemitic in supporting the two state solution. In fact, Israel publicly does — but, there is no harm in questioning the motives of Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration. The harm in question comes from the power of Israel’s state-funded lobbying organization, AIPAC. One part Jewish lobbying firm, one part Israeli propaganda arm, AIPAC is firmly entrenched within the establishment of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The firm funds campaign events for major candidates across the spectrum, and is notorious for its willingness to attack any person who would dare question the activities of the Israeli government. Even prominent Jewish celebrities have felt their ire — Jon Stewart in particular comes to mind — and while their mission is understandable, some actions of Netanyahu’s government have been entirely reprehensible, not to mention their manipulation of the American news cycle and the shattering of American inter-presidential diplomatic credibility.
The point of criticizing the Israeli government is not to question Israel’s right to exist, despite what AIPAC might have you believe. Israel, in addition to its status as the sole Jewish state, fulfills an important geopolitical role in the levant and is responsible for developing some of the best cybersecurity technology in the world. For these reasons I believe Israel must exist as a sovereign state. Yet the state that has had the potential to shine as an example of religious and ethnic tolerance has fallen into colonial warfare in an attempt to make room for its sprawling population.
The expressed ideology behind BDS seems to be a second version of the more moderate ideology held by the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin: Support for the Two-State solution, assertion of Palestinian human rights and equality of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel. After Rabin’s untimely assassination, hardline politicians took control of Israeli politics, and the nation hasn’t looked back.
The Israelis should have taken stock of the situation when a Security Council resolution unanimously passed accusing Israel of committing a “flagrant violation of international law” with regard to their policy of building settlements in officially designated Palestinian territory. Israel is not an inherently “evil” state as Ms. Omar tweeted in 2012, but the actions of its government and its treatment of Palestinians demand an investigation.