Larry Gellman

Using BDS to Delegitimize Most American Jews

There is a coordinated, well financed BDS offensive being waged against Jews here in the U.S. with the goal of delegitimizing us and saying we don’t have the right to exist as Jewish people. But it is not coming from Muslims, anti-Semites, and supporters of the Palestinians.

It is coming from the Netanyahu government and its unequivocal lovers here in our own Jewish community.

The most recent salvo came from Netanyahu’s hand-picked Minister of Religious Services who stated that (American) Reform Jews aren’t really Jewish.

“The moment a Reform Jew stops following the religion of Israel, let’s say there’s a problem,” the minister, David Azoulay of the Shas party, said on Army Radio, adding, “I cannot allow myself to call such a person a Jew.”

Another Haredi MK added that he thought the insult was a mistake. He said that Reform Jews are still Jews–we are just “sinners who have torn the Torah to pieces.”

This is the latest in a recent flood of comments, speeches, articles, and actions coming from the Adelson/Netanyahu/Hagee coalition blasting liberal American Jews who are less willing to support any government whose leaders make comments and adopt policies which we find repulsive and fly in the face of the Jewish and American values that define us and in which we firmly believe.

The strategy is to take commitment to Jewish values, frame it as anti-Semitism and abandonment of Israel, and then count on the passion, wealth and power of the accusers to obscure the lack of any factual basis or logic.

Recently, Michael Oren–now an ambitious politician in the Netanyahu coalition and no longer a diplomat–accused Barack Obama of “deliberately” working against Israel’s interests and also lashing out at the non-Orthodox American Jewish community for abandoning Israel.

Then Sheldon Adelson deputized Shmuley Boteach to be in charge of his $50 million massive anti-BDS campaign on college campuses (Campus Maccabees) and excluded liberal Jewish and centrist pro-Israel groups from attending the first major planning meeting making it clear that our help was neither wanted nor needed in their efforts.

This is the same Rabbi Shmuley who has taken out several full page ads in the New York Times (I wonder where the money came from) blasting President Obama and his administration–the same president who virtually all liberal Jews voted for twice and still support–including a disgusting smear suggesting that Obama foreign affairs advisor Susan Rice was soft on genocide.

In a brilliant article, Rabbi Jay Michaelson makes it clear why, as with all of Adelson’s efforts to influence politics or build support for Israel, this effort is doomed to failure and will only help those who the modern day “Maccabees” are trying to destroy.

“The reason is not because the critics are anti-Semitic, hopelessly liberal or otherwise deluded. It is because many people think it’s wrong for any state to deny 4 million people the right to vote, to determine their own future, and to live free of military occupation,” he says.

And now Adelson and Rabbi Shmuley have picked David Brog, the Executive Director of Christians United For Israel to serve as the Executive Director of the Campus Maccabees.

The choice of Brog (who is Jewish) again sends a strong message that the proudly homophobic messianic CUFI founder Rev. John Hagee, Obama-hating Republicans, and the Right wing Jews who surround Adelson are the true lovers of Israel. The rest of us liberal, non-Orthodox Democrats (most American Jews) are traitors to the cause and have no business inside the pro-Israel tent.

Adding to the “evidence” against most American Jews were the results of a survey conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz showing support for Israel’s government rising among Republicans and falling among Democrats. That poll has prompted more articles and emails suggesting that American Jews in general and Democrats in particular are abandoning Israel.

Is it a coincidence that all of these dramatic statements and developments have occurred in such a short period of time with each of them building on a common theme?

Not a single one of these critics has discussed the possibility–much less the likelihood — that the policies of the Israeli government and the ongoing 48 year military occupation of the Palestinians in West Bank (which Netanyahu and his cabinet members have promised will continue), or the nonstop onslaught of nasty remarks about our president might be playing a role in the increased number of Jews joining the BDS movement against Israel and the reluctance of a growing number of Israeli and American Jews to support those policies.

As usual, the victims are being blamed for having earned the abuse that is being heaped on them. Meanwhile the deafening chorus of complaints about anti-Israel bias in the media and the anti-Semitism of all critics of any Israeli government continues unabated.

Booing the refs and screaming about the dirty play of the other team remains the only “strategy.” Never any honest analysis of the broad range of factors or behaviors by our own team that are contributing to the problems. That has never been an honest or winning strategy in sports and it isn’t when it comes to hasbara either.

I don’t know which is the greater irony.

That Netanyahu has not thrown the Religious Services minister who made the comment about Reform Jews out of his cabinet but rather just said that the guy who he hand-picked to be the head of Religious Affairs in Israel doesn’t necessarily speak for Bibi.

Or that no major Jewish leader or organization other than Abe Foxman at the ADL and Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Reform movement has objected to the comments. Not Federation. Not AIPAC. Not Hillel International. Not the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

Could it be that a combination of fear of alienating Adelson or drawing the attention of the Right wing pro-Israel thought police makes our so-called “leaders” lose their voices and quake in their boots–even as the majority of Jews whom they are supposed to serve and represent are being slandered and excommunicated?

I have written repeatedly about the existential threat to our American Jewish community being the increasing nastiness of attacks by one Jew against another in the name of love for Israel. Not terrorism, anti-Semitism, intermarriage, assimilation, or BDS against Israel–all of which are real concerns but none of which will do us in.

Can there be any doubt on the part of any reasonable person that sinat chinam –the baseless hatred of one Jew toward another–is what is most likely to destroy us?

About the Author
Larry Gellman is a retired Managing Director--Wealth Management at a private worldwide investment firm. He has studied and lectured on Jewish wisdom and ethics in Israel and the U.S. . He has spent 40 years as a major Jewish philanthropist and a current National Board Member of organizations including J Street, Americans for Peace Now, and CLAL and a past chairman and former board member of Israel Bonds, Jewish Federations, AIPAC and Jewish Day Schools in Tucson and Milwaukee. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN MY WRITINGS ARE MINE AND MINE ALONE. IDO NOT SPEAK ON BEHALF OF ANY OF THE ORGANIZATIONS WHERE I SERVE AS A BOARD MEMBER OR VOLUNTEER.