Letters

The danger of false anti-Semitism accusations

written by Students Against Israeli Apartheid at Dalhousie University
April 7, 2016 11:45 am

This article is in response to previous pieces written by Leah Aubrecht and Mary MacDonald, particularly their article “Reply to Haiven and Zayid.”

The claims of Aubrecht and MacDonald that the BDS movement is a campaign of half-truths and propaganda, which were very weirdly followed by comments about Iran and ISIS, are awfully ironic, particularly given the amount of misinformation they themselves have spun and recycled within their numerous opinion pieces (as we’ve shown in our previous articles).

What Aubrecht and MacDonald miss is that BDS is the exact opposite of propaganda: it is in no way state-sponsored (as they like to remind us).  It is a grassroots, global network that organizes peaceful boycotts, and advocates for sanctions against an abusive state.

But let’s move on to a more serious accusation that Aubrecht and MacDonald seem eager to slander people with. The two insist on championing the absurd claim that “students opposed to Israeli policies, and those questioning the state’s unequal treatment of non-Jews, [have] fostered a dangerous environment.” They then continue on to slander those who advocate Palestinian rights by saying they’re being anti-Semitic. One must ask oneself: How does it follow that, by advocating for the rights of a besieged, occupied, colonized, and imprisoned people, we are being dangerous or anti-Semitic? It simply doesn’t. The ludicrousness of Aubrecht and MacDonald’s support of this logic really merits no rebuttal. It’s just plainly wrong.

That said, what is exceptionally interesting is that the libel that Aubrecht and MacDonald have levelled against us shows that it is they, not us, who are promoting and recycling “propaganda and half-truths.” After all, it is the racist, right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu that is, much like Aubrecht and MacDonald, far too ‘trigger-happy’ when it comes to accusing its detractors of anti-Semitism. So much so, in fact, that Netanyahu’s government went as far as accusing the European Union of being anti-Semitic for (wait for it) saying that products from Palestinian Territories should be labeled as such, instead of being labeled as Israeli.

Aubrecht and MacDonald are not only being equally ridiculous when they claim that advocates for Palestinian rights are anti-Semitic, but they also ignore a very important fact: such a strong accusation, when used without justification, belittles the genuine experiences of anti-Semitism that Jews have experienced both in the past and in the present-day, which we continue to stand against.

As Larry Haiven, a professor at SMU and a member of Independent Jewish voices, put so simply in his opinion piece from last week, “BDS isn’t anti-Semitic.” In fact, we at SAIA work with, and welcome, anyone seeking to express solidarity with Palestinians. This includes the voices of Jewish students, as well as our Jewish allies from the Halifax community— poignant examples being Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace (CAJJP), both of whom advocate for BDS.

Let us be clear. We are not being anti-Semitic when we criticize Israel, but are being anti-racism, anti-apartheid, and pro-justice. In light of those defining features, we stand against all forms of oppression, including both anti-Semitism and the abuse and denial of Palestinian rights. We maintain that this is not an either/or case. Nonetheless, we wonder: do our detractors believe that as well? For now, unfortunately, it seems the they don’t.