It's just a picture.
I was going to let it pass, do nothing about it. Move on. It's just a picture.
For some reason, though, I showed it to friends. Friends on the left. Israelis. Some of them on the far left. Nearly all of them, direct descendants of Holocaust survivors.
Many, to my surprise, reacted to the picture with the same response. In my experience, their response was one which activists here – left or right – nearly never use when describing actions taken on behalf of their own side:
"Go'al Nefesh." Disgusting. Disgusting to the very core.
The picture is a portrait of Anne Frank, a heartbreaking smile in her eyes, a keffiyeh photoshopped around her neck and shoulders.
Particularly in Amsterdam, where Anne Frank lived most of her short life,
the image promotes BDS, the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
True, it's just a picture. But what gives the image such force? And why do some people who agree with its underlying politics – bringing the occupation to an end – find it so abhorrent?
There are a number of factors at play here, but in this short space I will try to address just one. For lack of a ready term, let's call it the Shikootz Factor (Shikootz: biblical Hebrew for an abomination, an outrage that shocks and does harm and renders desolate).
In recent years, Israel / Palestine extremism has seen a new model, the hate crimes called 'price tag' attacks, developed to a practice-makes-perfect formula by young, fanatic, pro-settlement Jewish delinquents.
The hallmark of the attacks – aside from the abject inability of Israeli police to prevent them or apprehend their perpetrators – is an act of vengeance which causes outrage and shock and harm, but not to the object of the anger, rather to innocent people, with absolutely no connection to the original motive.
Over the years, mosques and churches have been torched and defaced, ancient olive trees belonging to Palestinians uprooted and destroyed, and Arab-owned cars damaged and set afire.
A recent of the classic price tag hate crimes targeted the Jerusalem foothills village of Abu Ghosh. One night last week, price tag attackers slashed the tires of nearly 30 cars in the village, borrowing a phrase from the Nazi German "Juden Raus!" in spray-painting "Arabs Out" in Hebrew on village walls.
This week, in a variation on the theme of revenge turned on the uninvolved, the Islamic Jihad, furious with Hamas over Hamas security forces' arrest and killing of a Jihad activist in Gaza, fired six rockets from the Strip over the border and directly into southern Israel.
Who, it might be worth asking, is hurt by the exploitation of Anne Frank for the purpose of boycotting Israel? Certainly not pro-occupation and pro-settlement rightists in Israel and abroad. They revel in images such as these – in fact, they exploit them themselves - as proof of their allegations that the boycott movement is anti-Semitic.
No, those who are affected most directly by the Anne Frank image – and most deeply hurt - are Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
The 'price tag,' in all its obscenity. And in all of its anonymous cowardice. And - in its ability to breed and disseminate misery and injury and malignant anger - in all of its might.
I was going to let all this pass. It's only natural, after all, that people refrain from condemning abhorrent acts committed by people on their own side. It's divisive to do so. It confuses the issue. And, God knows, there's plenty to condemn on the other side, and precious little attention span left for much else.
I was going to let it all pass. Write it off. But at some point, I couldn't let it go. Injury to innocent people is wrong, no matter who's responsible, or how just their cause.
The whole story of the Mideast conflict is injury to countless innocent people. No activist need cause injury to even one more.
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