Jeremy Havardi
Jeremy Havardi

Valencia hiring BDS activists to fight antisemitism is indecent

Stickers calling for a boycott of Israel
Stickers calling for a boycott of Israel

It is not often that initiatives to tackle racism run into the ground even before they have started. But that appears to be the case in Spain where Valencia’s regional government has organised a teacher training course on ‘Solidarity and human rights: Judeophobia, Islamophobia, and Palestine-Israel.’

The aim is to promote ‘values of peace, solidarity, and human rights’ while dismantling ‘numerous myths and predjudices that exist around these matters.’ And the problem with this seemingly noble endeavour? The organisation hired to combat racism itself stands accused of racism against Jews.

BDS Pais Valencia became infamous in 2015 when it successfully pressurised the Spanish Rototom Sunsplash festival to disinvite Matisyahu, a Jewish and non-Israeli singer. His ‘crime’ was refusing to state whether or not he supported a Palestinian state, the only performer asked such a question.

The resulting torrent of anger that this incident unleashed forced the organisers to recant and then re-invite the singer. Yet in 2020, an organisation that demanded such blatantly discriminatory action is now going to instruct others on how to avoid such discrimination. It is an absurd situation.

Yet this bespeaks the arrogance of today’s anti-Zionists, a group of obsessive ideologues who think that they know better about antisemitism than its victims. They have redefined the world’s oldest hatred to suit their own agenda, in blind ignorance of what this pernicious racism really involves.

They believe that antisemitism belongs to the far right and comes dressed in Nazi insignia and senseless violence. They also think that opposing prejudice and hostility to Jews as Jews is their sole requirement for opposing antisemitism and that unless one intends to harm Jews in any way, there is no racism.

But one need not intend to harm Jews for racism to be perpetrated. What also matters is the outcome of one’s actions. This is particularly so when Jews are attacked as Zionists. BDS Pais Valencia made much of the fact that they targeted Matisyahu, not because he was a Jew, but because he was a Zionist. This is modern political antisemitism’s ‘get out of jail free’ card whereby any blatantly racist discrimination towards Jews is sanitised because of its supposed political context.

Yet as both a Jew and Zionist (if he is one), Matisyahu faced discrimination. As a Jew, he was subjected to a blatant double standard when he was asked for his opinion on a Palestinian state. No Chinese performer would have been asked about Tibet, no Russian about Ukraine, no Australian about the Aborigines, no Turk about the Copts and no American about Guantanamo Bay.

Moreover, Matisyahu was being asked to criticise Israeli conduct simply because he was a Jew. To hold a Jew responsible for the behaviour of Israel is an egregious form of antisemitism, according to the widely accepted IHRA definition.

Such discrimination is par for the course “in anti-zionist movements”. These ‘progressives’ believe that Jews alone must pass a political test to join the community of decent people. Jews must disavow Zionism, endorse Palestinian supremacy and reject the central form of communal Jewish identity today. If they fail to do so, they are considered beyond the pale and treated as pariahs.

This is why Jewish activists marching with a Star of David were banned from the ‘DC Dyke March’ in 2019. It was why hundreds of students at Essex University, urged on by a local chapter of Amnesty International, voted against creating a Jewish society on the grounds that it would celebrate Israeli independence.

Yet attacking Matisyahu as a Zionist is no better. Fundamentally, Zionism is a form of collective Jewish identity, a historic right of self determination and cultural renaissance recognised in international law. Denying its legitimacy is a form of discrimination against Jews as a collective and is unconscionable.

Moreover, BDS organisations actively discriminate against Israeli Jewish performers, journalists, academics and politicians by seeking to exclude them from the public sphere in its entirety  through boycotts .

No other country and its supporters are treated in such an appalling fashion.

It is laudable that Valencia’s regional government should seek to tackle racism. To do so effectively, they should use an organisation committed to the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

About the Author
Jeremy is an author and the Director of B'nai Brith UK's Bureau of International Affairs
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