Letters to the Editor
Ottawa Jewish Bulletin
February 6, 2012
As a Jewish human rights activist, I was disturbed and disappointed by Oliver Javanpour’s November 28 World Affairs column (Is Israeli Apartheid activism creating the next generation of anti-Semites?).
Javanpour refers to “a soup” of Palestinian human rights organizations as “Jew-hating.” This reference is entirely inaccurate and unethical.
In the history of Judaism, Zionism and the secular State of Israel are very recent phenomena. For a large part of Zionism’s history, it was considered a fringe ideology within Judaism. While Israel calls itself a ‘Jewish state,’ its policies do not reflect the values of all Jewish people. I for one, am not supportive of Israel’s discriminatory policies against the Palestinians, yet I identify proudly as a Jew. In fact, there are thousands of Jews who either identify as anti-Zionist, or who are Zionist, yet very critical of the systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinians. To label these people and the organizations that embody their ideas as “Jew hating” is a very serious, even libellous, accusation. Is Javanpour implying that Judaism and the State of Israel is the same thing?
If we all accept Javanpour’s analysis, we would ensure the terrible reality of anti-Semitism continues to plague this world. If everything the State of Israel did was pinned on the backs of all Jews internationally, then all Jews would be deemed complicit in Israel’s actions, including its alleged crimes. One could argue that this idea is in itself anti-Semitic. Why would a modern secular state be equated with an ancient ethno-religious movement of vast diversity and beauty? I do not know the answer to this question, but I do see a frightening trend within my community that allows analyses like Javanpour’s to be widely received.
Silencing criticism of a state by deeming it anti-Semitic has obvious repercussions. Palestinians and the defenders of their rights around the world are being effectively muzzled when they are told their legitimate concerns are defamation, and even hate speech. It is a bullying tactic used to avoid dealing with a serious moral issue. I was raised on the notion that the Jewish community is one in which healthy debate is encouraged. I was also raised on the Jewish values of human rights and social justice. The organizations that Javanpour has called “Jew-hating” are human rights groups, several of which identify as being Jewish and as representing traditional Jewish values.
Let us heed the call and the challenge of tikkun olam.