view from central park

The loathsome symbol of all the world’s woes


What a painful week. The ugly tentacles of anti-Semitism came out from all directions.

Before the news of Airbnb’s boycott of Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria, before the bloodcurdling chanting at UCLA of “Intifada!” “Intifada!” — a call to murder Jews in Israel — before all that, I came across a short video by the well-known thinker and author Yossi Klein Halevy. He’s been on a campus tour discussing his recent book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor. A student at DePaul University in Chicago asked Halevy why “humanizing” Zionists was acceptable. The student compared the humanizing of Zionists to asking African Americans to “humanize” members of the KKK.

Here’s part of Halevy’s on-the-spot response:

“Those who traffic in that kind of language are on very thin ice. My understanding of anti-Semitism is the following: Anti-Semitism is not simply hating the Other, the Jew as Other. Anti-Semitism works a little bit differently. What anti-Semitism does is turn the Jews, the Jew, into the symbol of whatever it is that a given civilization defines as its most loathsome qualities. And so, under Christianity before the Holocaust, and the Vatican too, the Jew was the Christ killer — his blood be upon our heads and upon our children’s heads. Under communism, the Jew was the Capitalist. Under Nazism, the Jew was the race polluter, the ultimate race polluter.

“Now we live in a different civilization, where the most loathsome qualities are racism, colonialism, apartheid. And lo and behold, the greatest offender in the world today — with all the beautiful countries of the world — is the Jewish state. The Jewish state is THE symbol of the genocidal racist apartheid state. That’s Israel. That’s the Jewish state.

“An Israeli political philosopher, named Yaakov Talmon, once put it this way: ‘The state of the Jews has become the Jew of the State.’ What that means to me is, criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israel’s right to existence, denying Israel the right to exist, calling Israel the Zionist Entity, that is anti-Semitism. That is a classical continuity of thousands of years of symbolizing ‘the Jew.’ So, using that kind of language can come today from the far left, it can come from white supremacists, it can come from Islamic extremists. It can come from many sources. But all of those groups converge on one idea: the Jew remains humanity’s great problem.”

Within 48 hours of this pitch-perfect definition of anti-Semitism, Linda Sarsour’s message about American Jews’ loyalty hit the news. It’s a familiar anti-Semitic trope. Sarsour accused Jewish liberal progressives, with whom she shares much, of having loyalty to Israel that trumps their loyalty to America.

Now, as Dr. Afshine Emrani of California put it, “I’m loyal to both my mom and dad.” Jews have always been proud Americans; we should not have to prove our bona fides.

Wherever we turned, the news featured another anti-Semitic tale. The shouts of “Intifada! Intifada!” were on a mainstream American university campus — not in Gaza, Iran or Syria, but right here, reflecting the mainstreaming of anti-Semitic rhetoric on American campuses.

The UCLA event was led by people who go on record as saying or writing, “We should just stone all the Zionists to death,” “#liestoldinschool the holocaust,” and “lol let’s stuff some Jews in the oven.”

Clearly, the Airbnb boycott that singles out Jewish apartments — not Palestinian Arab apartments, only Jewish ones — in the West Bank is horrendous for its blatant anti-Semitism. Human Rights Watch appears to be behind it, and now they’re working on bringing the Bookings web service on board with this misguided, racist policy.

As former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren put it: “Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria, not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, in Moroccan-occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea. Airbnb policy is the very definition of anti-Semitism.”

There are many conflicts areas in the world, yet Airbnb and Human Rights Watch does not take a stand on any of them. Only the Jewish territorial conflict is singled out. As Halevy said, the Jew is singled out as symbolizing the most loathsome qualities in society.

If a company is going to stand on a human rights platform, be consistent. Otherwise, this decision to boycott only Jewish-owned businesses is, in fact, anti-Semitism, pure and simple. Airbnb functioning in the Judenrein Palestinian Authority cannot be deemed OK while its functioning in the West Bank is problematic. This is the ultimate double standard.

I am not advocating that Airbnb shut down Arab Palestinian businesses. Let them make a dignified living. I am calling out Airbnb’s hypocrisy.

The 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht was just weeks ago. On that night, Jewish shop windows were literally shattered. Today, instead of windowpanes, anti-Semites leverage BDS to shatter Jewish businesses.

The West Bank will be subject to future negotiations between Israel and Palestinians. But for now, it is an unresolved political issue — like Cyprus, Ukraine, Tibet, the Sahara and other places. So unless Aribnb plans on navigating international conflicts around the globe, stay out of it.

Meanwhile, despite all of this, news out of Israel last week included reports of continuing humanitarian aid to Gaza; a promising treatment for an aggressive brain cancer; and IsraAid, whose emergency response team is traveling to California to help in the aftermath of wildfires.

While some will continue to pin on Jews and on Israel the most loathsome qualities, that doesn’t change the truth of who we are, in America, Israel or anywhere else.

As painful as last week was, especially because of the future isolation it portends, I am so proud to be part of this people, the Nation of Israel. G-d bless America. Am Yisrael chai.

Copyright Intermountain Jewish News