Letters to the Editor: Pro-BDS Jews and Claims of Apartheid

Paris BDS
Protesters in Paris demonstrate against Israel's first officially sanctioned new West Bank settlement in more than 25 years, April 1, 2017. THOMAS SAMSON/AFP

Know the enemy

In response to “‘The last straw’: Why a pro-boycott activist dared Israel to arrest her at airport” (March 23) and “The Jewish voice at the heart of the BDS movement” (March 28)

Within a week, Allison Kaplan Sommer profiled two tireless Jewish activists — Judy Bamberger and then Rebecca Vilkomerson — for the Palestinian cause. To put it bluntly, both are messengers of hatred toward Israelis among non-Jews. Bamberger, in her numerous letters in the Australian press, and Vilkomerson, in her campaign for a total boycott of Israel, portray Israelis as a wicked and pariah people and Palestinians as admirable heroes. Is it any wonder that Israelis are one of the most despised peoples in the world and that Israeli tourists are unwelcome in many Western countries?

The two certainly do not embody Jewish values. The prophets in the Hebrew Bible, while they admonished the Jews, would never go to the gentiles to denounce them because of their love of them. While the two vilify Jews in the luxury of the Diaspora, there are other Jews there who work devotedly for the welfare of Israelis — from the poor and the sick, the lone soldiers, to Ethiopian Jews. That said, Sommer’s articles are important in letting readers know who Israel’s heartless Jewish adversaries are.

Jacob Mendlovic,
Toronto

Too close to apartheid

Regarding “Israel’s salvation? A full-on boycott” (B. Michael, March 28)

What has happened to Jewish morality in Israel? For decades, Helen Suzman fought for human rights for nonwhites in South Africa’s parliament. Over 60 years ago, Jews in South Africa and in America helped the blacks in both those countries in their struggle for human rights. Some even died doing this. In 1961, Golda Meir voted in favor of the condemnation of South Africa in the United Nations General Assembly. So what changed all this in Israel? The occupation. Almost 60 years ago, Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz foresaw the terrible future that lay ahead for the our young people and for the country. Twenty-five years ago, the only friend that South Africa had was Israel. What a change from 1961. Today, extremist right-wing leaders are welcome in Israel. From Austria, the Netherlands, the Philippines. There was a time when people of this nature would not have been welcome here.

Hundreds of thousands of “Jews of conscience” believe that, having failed to bring about change though the ballot box, the only way left to save Israel from catastrophe, is to support the boycott, divestment and sanction movement which, like chemotherapy, is very severe but is sometimes necessary to save the body. The demagogues in the governing coalition tell us constantly that they were elected democratically and can pass all the draconian laws they deem necessary. We only need look at the governments in Germany and Italy more than 80 years ago to understand that elected governments sometimes do lead their people to catastrophe.

What about fear and survival? Whites in South Africa, like Israelis today, feared for their security. If South Africa gave the blacks democratic rights, the blacks, being the majority, would then have the power to expel or kill all the whites. As we know, this did not happen. If Israel would agree to end the occupation, and withdraw from 95 percent of Judea and Samaria, we Israelis face far less danger than that faced by those whites. Israel is the leading economic, military and technological country in our area. In addition we have the support of the whole Western world behind us.

Our right wing politicians as well as the media have made Syria and Iraq the benchmark when discussing crimes against humanity. “Why all the criticism of Israel when in Syria hundreds of thousands have been killed.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constantly reminds the world that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.” If that is the case, we should be comparing ourselves to Western Europe and not the catastrophe in Mesopotamia.

Israelis don’t like their county being compared to apartheid South Africa. The fact is that the similarity is greater than what most people are prepared to admit. In both, untermenschen are/were shot to death with impunity. Examples: Sharpville and the Land Day demonstrations in Israel. Then there is the example of imprisonment without trial. In South Africa the opposition press made a fuss about the Ninety Day Detention Law. Here the law allows the occupation authority the right to detain people for twice as long, and as soon as the six months have passed, to renew it as often as the powers above believe is necessary. There are many cases where people are still in jail after five years or more without a trial!

B. Michael writes that in South Africa the children of the Afrikaners were taught that the country was given to them by God. Our minister of education is also making sure that our children learn that all of the Land of Israel was promised us by God. Our rabbis, and the ministers in the Dutch Reformed churches of the Afrikaners in South Africa also tell/told their congregations “God gave us this land.”

Stan Sagie,
Ramat Yishai