The anti-Semitism deeply embedded in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been apparent for years, but particularly since the 2014 Gaza War.

Rallies against Israel regularly devolved into Jew-baiting throughout Europe, and even in some places in the U.S., like Miami where they chanted, “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.”

At a Boston rally sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace in July 2014, Israel supporters were attacked by a woman who yelled that they would claim back Jerusalem for Christians and Muslims.

It is no surprise that Walking While Jewish is dangerous in many cities in Europe. While there is an intellectual distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, in reality on the streets of Europe and some places in the U.S., they are one and the same.

The BDS movement was launched at the anti-Semitic 2001 Durban conference, so it always has attracted hard-core anti-Semites, even if most of the followers naively think the movement is about peace and justice. The BDS strategy always has been about dehumanizing Israeli Jews with false, misleading and defamatory accusations, in order to delegitimize Israel.

In reaction, there are increasing legislative moves in the U.S. to boycott the boycotters, including an Illinois bill that unanimously passed the legislature today:

None of these legislative efforts prevent people from speaking out against Israel.

But they do reflect a national consensus that the U.S. will not become a party to efforts that fall within the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism:

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

That definition carries with it real-world examples, as listed on the State Department website:

Contemporary Examples of Anti-Semitism

Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews (often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion).

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective—especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the state of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.

What is Anti-Semitism Relative to Israel?

EXAMPLES of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel, taking into account the overall context could include:


Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis

Blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions


Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation

Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations


Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.

Note the italicized wording: Mere criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, so long as it is within the parameters of what we accept as fair criticism of any country.

But when it devolves into the types of gross caricatures of Israel and Israelis of the type we see almost daily, it crosses a line.

Attempts to paint Israel as the new Nazi regime, such as this photoshop of the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl giving birth to Hitler, cross a line that the State Department recognizes exists between criticism of Israel and demonization:

Twitter - @bound0479 - giving birth hitler Zionism

Twitter - @maxblumenthal - reaction giving birth hitler Zionism

It is deeply problematic for the legitimacy of the BDS movement that the image above was approved by one of its most outspoken activists, Max Blumenthal. But that is just the tip of the BDS propaganda iceberg — an unrelenting campaign of defamation and distortion meant to instill hatred of Israeli Jews.

Jewish Voice for Peace is one of the most aggressive BDS supporters. The recent failed Bowdoin academic boycott referendum was backed by JVP, and JVP activists were behind the failed GreenStar Food Coop Israel boycott.

Wherever you see BDS divestment initiatives on campuses, JVP is not far away and often is the instigator through its campus branches. JVP is particularly useful to the movement because it has the term “Jewish” in its name; its left-wing Jewish activists and Rabbis provide convenient cover, and are among the truest of believers.

Because the reality of the BDS movement presents JVP with a dilemma, JVP is using its active database and email list to petition the State Department to change the definition of anti-Semitism and the examples on the State Department website.

That’s right, rather than address the anti-Semitism polluting the movement, JVP wants to change the definition.

JVP issued an action alert today and already has gathered 16,000 signatures (as of this writing) on a Petition asking John Kerry to change the defintion:

Dear Secretary John Kerry-

As Jews and non-Jewish allies, we stand with the hundreds of academics across the U.S. calling on you to change the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. Hatred needs to be stamped out, but we won’t achieve that by demonizing those who raise their voices to oppose Israel’s human rights abuses.

This proposal is superfluous in content, as the State Department definition already makes clear that mere criticism of Israel, even the type of harsh criticism directed at other states, is not anti-Semitic.

Perhaps JVP would do better to look in the mirror and see the horror show that lurks within its ranks and the BDS movement, rather than trying to play word games with definitions.


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