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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Jeremy Corbyn and Ilhan Omar: Prejudice, Miscommunication, or Ignorance?



Left-leaning parties in the United States and United Kingdom have recently seen controversy over remarks made by representatives that some deem Antisemitic.

In the United States, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota's 5th Congressional District has made numerous remarks which have raised alarm among Jewish Americans which have caused the Democratic party to wrangle with two questions.

Were Congresswoman Omar's remarks antisemitic? And how should they be addressed?

In the United Kingdom, a similar controversy refuses to go away, but rather than stemming from a newly elected representative, the controversy comes from the top, centered upon the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Party has seen 8 of its Members of Parliament resign from the party in recent weeks, many citing the party's "institutional anti-semitism" as one of their reasons for leaving.

What caused this controversy in the first place? Let's start in the United States.

Ilhan Omar, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpgCongresswoman Ilhan Omar is a naturalized citizen, a Somali-American, Muslim refugee who represents Minnesota's 5th Congressional district, which covers parts of Minneapolis and its suburbs. It was the seat once held by former Congressman and current Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was first elected to the seat in 2006.

Congresswoman Omar has made three comments that have invited controversy.

The first was a tweet she made on November 16, 2012, which read as follows:
Image result for Ilhan Omar "Israel has hypnotized the world" tweet

This tweet came into the spotlight as Omar was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2018. It was widely criticized as alluding to the old antisemitic stereotype and conspiracy theory that Jews have a disproportionate, secretive and even malicious influence over world affairs. While the tweet does not explicitly mention Jews, it does mention Israel, a country which defines itself as a "Jewish and democratic state".

Omar initially defended her 2012 tweet,  claiming that "I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans. My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza War and I’m clearly speaking about the way the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war."

However, she later backpedaled after her comments were criticized by New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, apologizing for "not disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used".

The second comment Congresswoman Omar made references a Puff Daddy song. Omar was criticizing the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, claiming in a roundabout way that money was the chief motivator behind American support of Israel. She referenced the song "It's all about the Benjamins" ("Benjamins" refers to US $100 bills, which depict Benjamin Franklin)

Again she was criticized, this time for skirting the stereotype that a predominantly Jewish group was buying off Americans in exchange for supporting Israel. She apologized relatively quickly, saying " "I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes...I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry"

Recently, Congresswoman Omar made a third comment that caused alarm. While speaking at a bookstore, Omar claimed that "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country."Again, a reference to Israel, and again, a remark which some claim skirts antisemitism by suggesting Jewish Americans are loyal to Israel, not the United States. Omar has not yet apologized for this statement.

The Democratic Party passed a resolution after Omar's "Benjamins" tweet condemning antisemitism and may do so again. However, some in the party have rallied to Omar's side, pointing out that criticism of Israel is not necessarily antisemitic and that Islamophobia has motivated some of the criticism against her.

Over in the UK, the Labour Party is run by a man named Jeremy Corbyn, a member of Parliament from Islington North, a constituency in London.
Image result for jeremy corbyn
Corbyn's political career has spanned for much longer than Congresswoman Omar's. He was first elected to the House of Commons under Labour's banner in 1983, and has been in Parliament since. He became leader of the Labour Party after the 2015 resignation of its former leader, Ed Milliband, in 2015.

His allegations of antisemitism are also longer and more illustrious than Omar's.

In 2010, Corbyn co-chaired a meeting in the House of Commons where a Holocaust survivor and Anti-Zionist political activist named Hajo Meyer spoke. Meyer compared Israel's actions to the Nazis and claimed that "Judaism in Israel has been substituted by the Holocaust religion, whose high priest is Elie Wiesel." Corbyn defended his attendance at the meeting by saying "Views were expressed at the meeting which I do not accept or condone. In the past, in pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people and peace in Israel/Palestine, I have on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views I completely reject. I apologise for the concerns and anxiety that this has caused”.

In 2011, Corbyn was one of several MPs, mostly from the Labour Party, to sign a proposed motion to rename "Holocaust Memorial Day" to "Genocide Memorial Day". Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said that "Any attempt to remove that specificity is a form of denial and distortion." The Labour Party responded, saying "this was a cross-party initiative, jointly sponsored by a senior Conservative MP, to emphasize the already broader character of Holocaust Memorial Day. It is not our policy to seek a name change for this important commemoration".

In 2012, a mural was painted in East London by an American artist named "Mear One" entitled "Freedom for Humanity". The mural strikes a conspiratorial tone and skirts the antisemitic trope of Jewish bankers having control over the world. The mural was removed, and Corbyn made a comment on facebook complimenting the artist. This provoked more complaints, and Corbyn apologized, claiming that once he took a closer look at the mural, he saw the antisemitism depicted.

Corbyn also attended a wreath-laying event in 2014 where the Palestinian victims of a widely-condemned Israeli airstrike  in 1985 were remembered. Close to where he attended the ceremony (he did not actually place a wreath, he was simply in attendance) were the graves of two people accused of involvement with the Black September group, which massacred members of the Israeli Olympic Team during the Olympic Games in Munich.


He also attended a Passover Seder with a Jewish group recently, which would theoretically combat the accusations of antisemitism, if it wasn't organized by a far-left group which agrees that the allegations of antisemitism against Corbyn were a political plot against him. Regarding Israel, the "Jewdas" group claims the country is a "a steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of".

The sad part is that Congresswoman Omar is no stranger to religion based prejudice. Recently, "Assassinate Ilhan Omar" was found scrawled in a gas station bathroom in her Congressional district. An outrageous mural was hung in West Virginia's State Capitol building erroneously linking Omar to the attacks on September 11th, a clear reference to her being a Muslim. She has in the past recalled Islamophobic abuse that has been hurled at her as a girl growing up as she regularly wears a hijab.

Supporters of Corbyn and Omar repeat popular refrains, which, while not necessarily false, sometimes lack context.

One of the loudest refrains is that of "Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic!"

They're right. Criticizing Israel is not necessarily antisemitic. There are plenty of criticisms one can make of Israel's political decisions under Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu without being antisemitic.

Omar's criticisms, however, in addition to being controversial, also seem somewhat poorly thought out. If she's making them out of genuine concern about the Israel-Palestine conflict, that's fine, but this is an incredibly sensitive topic and while plenty of reasonable criticism exists, there are lines that Omar should be careful not to tread upon.

An example of criticism of Israel which is NOT antisemitic could look something like this:

“Israel should freeze settlement construction immediately and get back to the peace negotiating table. The conflict with Palestine has gone on for far too long and both countries are going to need to make some concessions and admit some fault if they are to acheive a long-lasting peace."

Let's examine the "Benjamins" quip. "It's all about the Benjamins, baby" is a reference to US$100 bills, and it's not unusual for politicians to complain about the influence of money in democracy, especially self-proclaimed democratic socialists. Perhaps Omar was trying to be clever by referencing Puff Daddy lyrics. Jokes about money, wealth, and financial stinginess are a touchy subject and one of the oldest stereotypes in the book about Jews.

For instance, had she made that sort of joke about the two front-runners in the upcoming Israeli election, who are both named Benjamin (Benjamin Netanyahu and Benjamin "Benny" Gantz), this may have been seen as a clever, funny remark.

And the other side of the political spectrum is not at all immune from this same perceived prejudice. Antisemitism is not just present but rampant among the rise of the nationalist right. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban can't seem to go two sentences without babbling about George Soros. The Alternative For Germany party constantly sticks its foot in its mouth while referring back to World War II and the Holocaust. The geriatric former leader of France's National Rally (formerly the National Front) party is still around and he's a Holocaust denier. President Trump once claimed that a white supremacist rally where they chanted "Jews will not replace us" had some "very fine people" and once said that "The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. No one else.”

I don't know if Ilhan Omar is antisemitic. I've never met her, I have never been able to sit down and talk to her.

Her remarks, however, are at best insensitive and ignorant to the context of antisemitism. If she doesn't want to be accused of antisemitism, she needs to choose her words more carefully. If she continues to make remarks in the fashion she is doing so now, she is not going to help her own cause.

As for Corbyn, the overwhelming feeling I get from reading about him, his past actions and his relationship with British Jews is above all, indifference. His apologies are present, but flimsy. He doesn't seem to properly vet the demonstrations he plans to attend in context of the wreath-laying. And right as you'd think he may have made an important step to reach out to the community he has such strained relations with by partaking in one of their most important and sacred holidays...he goes to an event which demonstrates open contempt - not criticism, but contempt and maybe even hatred - for Israel. Above all, whether he's antisemitic or not, I don't think he cares whether he's accused of it or not. And now he's losing members of his own party.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Brief Guide to the upcoming 2019 Israeli Election

Israelis will be heading to the polls on April 9th to elect the 21st Knesset.

Since the election was called, Israel's already large number of parties has grown. In order to get seats in the Knesset, a political party must gain at least 3.25% of the vote. This electoral procedure ensures that a wide range of political parties are able to win seats and make their voices heard.

Image result for Likud partyIsraeli political parties can be sorted by religion, ideology, and ethnicity. Here's who to watch for this election.






LIKUD

Likud is a center-right to right-wing political party, led by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is a secular Jewish political party home to moderate and right-wing factions, but has managed to win elections in 2013 and 2015. It currently leads the polls for the 2019 election, hovering just under 30 seats in polling predictions. Prime Minister Netanyahu has wavered in his support for a Palestinian state, at times believing that there should not be one, other times claiming he supports one.

Benjamin Netanyahu is currently on track to return to the Prime Minister's residence in April if polls are accurate, but he's not guaranteed. The Prime Minister is under multiple corruption investigations, and both the police and the State Prosecutor have recommended that Netanyahu should be indicted. It is up to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt as to whether "Bibi" should be indicted. Netanyahu has claimed that he will not resign if indicted, but Israel has dealt with this sort of thing in recent memory. The Prime Minister before Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, was indicted for corruption charges and he stepped down before the 2009 election, eventually serving time in prison.

Likud is the largest of the secular right-leaning parties in Israel. But if Netanyahu is indicted, its poll numbers may suffer and it could lose its solid grip on first place. If an indictment does get filed by the Attorney General, it is likely to come in February or March.

So who stands to gain most from this possibility?
YESH ATID Image result for yesh atid

Yesh Atid (English: "There is a Future") is a centrist, liberal political party led by former journalist Yair Lapid. Rather than focus on security issues, Yesh Atid is a party that prefers to shift the political dialogue to the economy and social issues such as conscription, corruption, civil marriage and the like. Although Lapid's party entered into a coalition government with Netanyahu and Likud after the 2013 election, it was increasingly critical of Likud leading up to the 2015 elections. Yesh Atid's security ideals are less hawkish than Likud, but definitely to the right of parties like the social democratic Meretz.

Many opinion polls put Yesh Atid second in the running for Knesset seats, even slightly above Likud at times, but their numbers have dwindled as the election draws closer. Lapid sometimes comes across as wishy-washy and indecisive. How well Lapid can unite the center and appeal to voters on the fence is up in the air, but if Netanyahu is indicted, he and his party stand to gain.

However, they're not the only party aiming to capture the center of Israeli voters.

RESILIENCE

The Israel Resilience Party is a wild card. It is one of the newer political parties and its positions are not yet very clearly defined. The only concrete political position Gantz has taken lately is a desire to reform Israel's controversial "nation-state" law with respect to Israel's Druze population.

It is led by Benny Gantz, a popular former General in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Gantz's party is set to receive around 12-14 seats if polls are to be believed, close to where Yesh Atid stands in the polls.

Lapid and Gantz has reportedly considered an alliance, but nothing has come to fruition quite yet as both want to run for the Knesset at the top of their party lists. If the parties did join, they'd come within striking distance of Likud in the polls. Theoretically, with Gantz's military experience and Lapid's stature in the Knesset, perhaps Lapid could run for Prime Minister and Gantz could be given the Minister of Defense job, though no such agreement has been made.


Logo haAwoda.svgZIONIST UNION...OR NOT

Hatnuah logo.svg
In the weeks leading up to the 2015 election, the social-democratic Israeli Labor Party and the liberal Hatnuah ("The Movement") party joined under one banner, calling themselves the Zionist Union in hopes that the alliance would gain just enough votes to unseat Prime Minister Netanyahu.

They fell short, winning 24 seats compared to Likud's 30. The parties stayed united until the very beginning of 2019, when they abruptly broke into their separate factions.

The Labor Party isn't the force it used to be. It won a respectable 19 seats in the last election, but since its split with Hatnuah, is only expected to win about 7-10 seats. Hatnuah may not even get into the Knesset if polls are to be believed. Both Labor's current leader, Avi Gabbay, and its co-leader when it was part of Zionist Union, Tziporah "Tzipi" Livni, used to be members of Likud. Some left-leaning Israelis are disappointed that the party has drifted away from its social-democratic roots, and the party hasn't been able to gain back its previous mandates on the basis of security policy since the failure of the Oslo Accords.

SUPPORTING ACTORS: THE (MOSTLY) SECULAR RIGHT

Four small political parties make up Israel's secular center-right to right-wing outside of Likud, two of which are brand new.


KulanuNew.svg


KULANU

Kulanu is a center to center-right party founded in 2014 by current Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon. It won a respectable 10 seats in the Knesset in the 2015 elections, and is hovering around 5-7 seats in recent polls. Whereas Likud focuses on security issues, Kulanu focuses more on economic issues, such as the cost of living.


Yisrael Beiteinu party logoYISRAEL BEITEINU

Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel Our Home") is a minor right-wing nationalist secular party that primarily represents the interests of Russian-speaking Israelis. It ran on a combined list with Likud in the 2013 election. 



GESHER

Gesher split off from Yisrael Beiteinu when MK Orly Levy left the party in 2016. Levy chose to resurrect the name of her father's party ("Gesher" means "Bridge" in Hebrew), which broke off of Likud in the 1990s. Levy's decision to split off from Yisrael Beiteinu was primarily driven by her frustrations with the party's lack of attention to social issues. Her new party is polling around 4-5 seats, just above the threshold.

Logo of HaYamin HeHadash.pngNEW RIGHT

New Right is a political party that seeks to bridge the divide between Orthodox Jewish voters and Secular Jewish voters under a far-right mantle. The party is led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, former members of the Jewish Home party. Bennett is a Modern Orthodox Jew, Shaked is secular. Their new party is a vocal proponent of a one-state solution.

SWINGING BACK LEFT: MERETZMeretz Logo.svg

Other than Labor and perhaps HaTnuah, Meretz is the only other Jewish party in the Knesset that could be considered a left-wing party. Meretz (Hebrew for "Vigor") is a social-democratic party focused more on social issues than Labor, which tends to focus on the economy and security issues.

Like Labor, Meretz was a stronger political player in the past and has faded in the present.

THE RELIGIOUS PARTIES

Jewish political parties in Israel can be separated into two camps: secular and religious. This label is a bit wonky as "secular" in this case usually means "not Orthodox".

There are three major Orthodox political parties in Israel. These parties do not typically win many seats in the Knesset, but with Israel's wealth of political parties and low election threshold (3.25%), they tend to become very important and influential when coalitions are built.

Within this group of parties, you have two Haredi parties and one Modern Orthodox party.

The Haredi parties are called Shas and United Torah Judaism, a coalition of two smaller parties called Agudat Yisrael (Union of Israel) and Degel HaTorah (Flag of the Torah).

Shas represents Mizrahi Jews, who trace their heritage to the Middle East, and Sephardic Jews, who trace their heritage to the Iberian Peninsula)

United Torah Judaism represents Ashkenazi Jews, those who trace their heritage to Western and Central Europe.

There exists some schism between secular (not Orthodox) Jews and Orthodox Jews in Israel. Under current Israeli law, civil marriage is not possible and non-Orthodox Jews must marry in an Orthodox ceremony, causing many secular Jews to marry abroad, as Israel does recognize secular marriages conducted abroad. Many of the secular parties seek to change this but Haredi parties want to uphold the status quo.

Haredi Jews also for the most part refuse to serve in the IDF as it would obstruct their religious studies, whereas the majority of secular Jews are conscripted.

The Modern Orthodox party is known as The Jewish Home, but their influence has waned since Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked defected to their New Right party and the party is now barely treading water above the electoral threshold.


THE ARAB PARTIES

About 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs. Their political representation in 2015's election was fairly significant, as the three major Arab parties combined their resources and ran as one party called the Joint List. The Joint List came in a respectable third place, only behind Likud and Zionist Union.

This big-tent coalition was made up of four parties of extremely variable ideology: Hadash, the largest faction, is a Communist party. Following them into the Knesset in 2015 are Balad, a left-wing, secular Arab nationalist party, Ra'am, who are Islamist, and Ta'al, another secular party.  

Recently, Ta'al split off from the Joint List, preferring to run on its own. It's still unclear how many seats Ta'al will manage to siphon off the still-mostly-united Joint List.


WHO'S GOING TO WIN? 

The short answer is that it's too early to tell. Right now, Likud still has a strong lead in the polls. Most polls conducted in January have Likud winning around 27-30 seats out of a total of 120. If the polls hold and Likud wins, they will have to work out a coalition with multiple other parties to create a government with 61 or more seats.

Before elections were called for April 2019, it briefly looked like Yesh Atid might be able to unseat Likud as they led multiple polls in 2017 and early 2018, but they were unable to hold that lead.

Likud's not out of the woods yet, though. Prime Minister Netanyahu is under multiple corruption allegations. Israeli police and more specifically, Economic Crimes Division Director Liat Ben-Ari have recommended to the Israeli Attorney General that he be indicted on three different cases.

If the Attorney General chooses to indict Netanyahu, his decision will likely come in either February or March.  Netanyahu has stubbornly refused to step down if he is indicted, but his party may suffer in the polls if he refuses, possibly forcing his hand.

This is not the first time an Israeli Prime Minister is under investigation as the elections draw closer. Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert of the centrist Kadima party, was under investigation, and ended up serving time in prison. Olmert stepped down from power and was replaced by Tzipi Livni. Kadima still narrowly won the election, but Livni wasn't able to form a coalition, and that responsibility was given to Netanyahu because his Likud party had come in second.




Friday, January 11, 2019

BDS: Because Severely Flawed Activism is still protected Free Speech

Various states in the United States have been looking into passing legislation to fight against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The moves have generated considerable debate from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine movements. This debate has also involved constitutional scholars as to whether restrictions on BDS would constitute a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peacefully assemble". 

To gain balanced context on this argument, a healthy amount of background information is necessary. 


The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, officially, seeks "to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law." BDS believes that Israel practices a form of apartheid similar to the original system in South Africa, in place from 1948 to 1990. Strict economic sanctions and international boycott dragged apartheid South Africa into a deep recession. Considerable violence broke out between white and black South Africans until the government finally capitulated and transitioned from a venomously racist pariah state to a multi-racial liberal democracy between 1990 and 1994.


BDS supporters believe that the same method of protest can be applied to Israel. In their eyes, if Israel is put under sufficient economic pressure, the country will abandon the practices seen as prejudiced and belligerent. Critics of BDS complain that while institutional prejudice exists in Israel, the country is disproportionately singled out, pointing to the discrimination against the Kurdish minority spread out over Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey as well as the oppressive treatment of South Asian immigrants (Indians, Bangladeshis, Nepalis) in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Some even venture to compare BDS to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses as Adolf Hitler consolidated his power.



Is BDS antisemitic? Despite frequent accusations of antisemitism, BDS insists that it does not harbor hatred towards Jews. This question has been debated since the organization was founded in 2005, and the answer may not be a simple "yes" or "no".


The methods of protest mentioned in BDS's name are pretty standard. Boycotts are common and happen for all sorts of reasons. When investors observe business practices they don't want to associate with, they divest their holdings. When a country behaves belligerently or aggressively, they are often penalized with economic sanctions by other countries. These methods can be driven by prejudice. They are  certainly not inherently prejudiced, though.


However, BDS often oversteps legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and appeals to emotion through poorly thought out action which can be interpreted as prejudiced towards Israelis as a people rather than simply critical of decisions made by the Israeli government. 


For instance, Israeli actresses Gal Gadot and Natalie Portman have both run afoul of BDS. Gadot's breakout role in Wonder Woman ruffled feathers because of her previous service in the IDF.  Portman's decision to not accept the Genesis Prize because of her distaste for Prime Minister Netanyahu was claimed to be a bone thrown to BDS by some Israeli right-wing politicians, which she vehemently denied. If you're going to criticize Israel, it seems odd to focus on two actresses that are not involved in policy decisions. Gal Gadot isn't enacting security policy in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), nor is she building settlements in the West Bank. She didn't even see combat during her conscription. Portman went out of her way to clarify that her disagreement was with Netanyahu, not Israel in general


BDS supporters on Twitter also bombarded Scottish actor Gerard Butler in an immensely cold and condescending manner. When Butler tweeted a picture of his obliterated Malibu home after the wildfires in California, he was shellacked with venomous comments implying that he deserved to have his house burn down for supporting the IDF in a fundraiser. 

This is where BDS loses the trail. Expressing frustration with the Israeli government's handling of the conflict with Palestine is one thing, but hounding an actress for serving legally-required military service is flippant and alienating. Equating another actress' frustration with her country's Prime Minister with wholesale boycott of that country when she explicitly denied supporting such a measure is opportunistic and misleading. Jeering at a man whose house burned down is, to put it lightly, below the belt. 

In their "Frequently Asked Questions" section of their website, one question asks "Isn't a boycott of Israel antisemitic?"

An excerpt from their answer to this question explains: "The world is growing increasingly weary of Israel's attempts to conflate criticism of its violations of international law with antisemitism and to conflate Zionism with Judaism. Israel is a state, not a person. Everyone has the right to criticize the unjust actions of a state."

It is correct that criticism of Israel is not always antisemitic. Israel is not a perfect country; far from it, actually. The IDF has committed its share of disproportionate responses worthy of independent investigation. Israeli settlements are alienating and provocative to Palestinians in the West Bank. Institutional prejudice and discrimination against Arabs are present in Israel. The current government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, does not seem to prioritize peace. 

Let's examine that second part, though, about "conflating Zionism with Judaism". 


Zionism is a word that gets thrown around by scholars and conspiracy theorists alike, often with little context or explanation as to what it actually means. 


It actually has a relatively simple meaning. By definition, Zionism is a movement undertaken to establish a Jewish homeland in the historical "Land of Israel", a geographic region historically also known as Palestine. After the establishment of Israel as a sovereign state in 1948, Zionism became a set of beliefs concerned with advocating for Israel's security and defense. There are different types of Zionism as well, such as Labor Zionism, Liberal Zionism, Revisionist Zionism, and Religious Zionism. 


Technically speaking, you can be anti-Zionist and not antisemitic, but it's an awfully difficult tightrope to walk. Some Haredi Orthodox Jews oppose Zionism as too secular a movement, preferring that a Jewish state only be governed by Halakha (Jewish religious law) or to be established only after the Jewish Messiah re-appears. 


Outside these devoutly religious communities, however, that tightrope gets even thinner. Many refrains spouted by self-proclaimed "Anti-Zionists" would sound explicitly antisemitic if you replaced "Zionists" with "Jews". While Anti-Zionism doesn't have one simple interpretation, arguing for Israel to abandon its Jewish identity is extremely alienating to most Jewish Israelis. 


It is also important to remember that criticism of Israeli actions and anti-Zionism are not one and the same. Most of the political parties opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are Zionist. His main competition in the 2015 elections came from the center-left Zionist Union party and the centrist, Liberal Zionist "Yesh Atid" party. One can be vehemently opposed to Israeli security policy but still believe the country should exist as its constitution defines it - a Jewish and democratic state. 


In theory, BDS uses legitimate methods of protest. In practice, however, they refuse to acknowledge, or at least do not do enough to address, the undercurrents of antisemitism in their movement and turn a blind eye to Palestine's shortcomings in the conflict. If BDS was to focus on opposing specific Israeli policies they saw as hurtful to the peace process rather than hounding actors and actresses as well as calling for a blanket boycott against Israel (which, let's not forget, is about 20% Arab), they may have a leg to stand on. That is not the case.


Flawed as BDS may be as an organization, it is still entitled to the provisions of freedom of speech. Restricting the right of the BDS movement to freely protest and publish materials goes against the spirit of free speech in the United States. If the organization is forced underground, it may further radicalize and be able to argue that it is being unfairly singled out.

Freedom of speech must include that which you disagree with. If pro-Israel activists want to lessen the influence of the BDS movement, it should be done with counterpoints and debate rather than legal restriction.