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September 8, 2017

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 PAGE 5A Point Why rabbis like me oppose Israel's ban on BDS activists Counterpoint m Objections to Israel's BDS law are overwrought and hypocritical By Laurie Zimmerman MADISON, Wis. (JTA)--In March, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that denies entry to foreigners who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS. At the time, the law felt so insidious because it intro- duced a political litmus test designed to exclude those who object to Israel's policies. It served to stifle legitimate political debate. But it was all so theoretical. Until last month, that is, when Rabbi Alissa ShiraWise, who was part of an interfaith delegation that had planned to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, was banned at Washington's Dulles Airport. I was stunned. After speaking with a few colleagues who shared my alarm, we decided to craft a rabbinic letter that would oppose Israel's travel ban. We were concerned, however, that we would not be able to convince even 50 rabbis to sign it. We thought that too many rabbis would not pub- licly stand with Rabbi Wise, the deputy director of Jew- ish Voice for Peace, because of her support for the BDS movement. We thought itwas a professional risk that too many rabbis, even if they did agree with the letter, would choose not to take. Our colleagues proved us wrong: Over 230 rabbis, cantors and rabbinical students have now signed on, and the list continues to grow. The signers are diverse in their perspectives: Some are adamantly opposed to the BDS movement, others advocate boycotting and divest- ing from the settlements only, and some support BDS in full. We are united, however, in our belief that banning Rabbi Wise from entering Israel "desecrates our vision of a diverse Jewish community that holds multiple perspectives." For me, the issue is not about Rabbi Wise herself, nor is it about the BDS movement. While the image of a rabbi be- ing prevented from boarding an airplane to Israel is disturb- ing, and the Jewish commu- nity's hysteria about the BDS movement is frustrating, the incident reflects something even more distressing: the suppression of dissent in our community. For a community that prides itself on a tradition that honors varied and opposing ideas and upholds a strong commitment to debate, I am disgusted by its refusal to tolerate divergent voices. From Hillel International's Standards of Partnership that prohibit students in any local Hillel from inviting speakers who are sympathetic to the BDS movement, to the refusal of Jewish community centers to host speakers, musicians or actors who advocate BDS, to the organizations that con- done or even fund right-wing organizations like theAMCHA Initiative, which maintains a blacklist of professors who support boycotting Israel, our community is shunning a growing percentage of Jews who are increasingly ques- tioning the Israeli govern- ment's policies, along with its official version of history. This goes beyond support- ing BDS, as became apparent when the Jewish National Fund of Canada pulled out of a Yom Haatzmaut event that featured left-wing Israeli musician Achinoam Nini, who opposes BDS but supports the human rights organization B'Tselem. Or when J Street U, which advocates a two-state solution and opposes BDS, is denied space at the Center for Jewish Life in Princeton for an exhibit by an Israeli NGO critical of Israel. Those who express criticism of Israel in any way are increasingly being targeted as anti-Israel and pushed away from our communal institutions. We need not support the BDS movement to recognize that these institutions are succumbing to leaders and donors who uphold and pro- mote a very narrow version of acceptable discourse in our community. Israel's travel ban is just one component of this curtailing of debate in our community. Rabbis from across the movements have declared forcefully that even if they disagree with the goals of the BDS movement, they still see boycott as a legitimate tactic with a long history of creating justice for marginalized communities. As I watch a generational shift occurring in our com- munities, with increasing numbers of young Jews ap- palled by Israel's harsh poli- cies toward the Palestinian people, I have noted how many of them are baffled by the larger community's unwillingness even to discuss Point on page 15A By Anne Herzberg JERUSALEM (JTA)--In July, five leaders of the viru- lent BDS groups Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine were barred at Dulles International Airport from boarding a flight to Israel. The move reportedly was the result of an amend- ment to Israel's Law of Entry denying admission of senior activists of leading BDS or- ganizations to the country. Predictably, the incident raised the usual hysterical chorus that Israel was at- tacking free speech, banning dissent and no longer a de- mocracy. Despite these exaggerated charges, the decision to deny these BDS militants entry and the amendments to the law must be seen in context. From its very inception, Israel has been facedwith con- ventional and asymmetrical military and political threats from its neighbors, coupled with organized economic and diplomatic boycotts spear- headed by the Arab League and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. The Arab-Israeli conflict is unique, however, in that in conjunc- tion with this state action targeting the country, an army of political activists is provided tens of millions of euros, dollars and francs by the European Union, Euro- pean governments, the United Nations, churches and private bundations to produce rank Iropaganda, harass and seek rrest warrants of traveling Israeli officials and advance economicwarfare againstthe State of Israel. These campaigns go far beyond a critique of specific Israeli policies but are aimed at the country's very existence. In several cases, the orga- nizations involved in these campaigns advise their mem- bers to game Israel's border controls and lie about their purpose for coming to the country. Many of these politi- cal warriors also come to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to riot, destroy property and engage the police and military in violent confrontations and directly participate in hostili- ties. Networking with NGOs and other organizations af- filiated with terrorist groups like Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a regular staple of these visits. The Interna- tional Solidarity Movement is perhaps the best known of the groups engaged in this activity. For years, the Israeli gov- ernment expressed extreme frustration in response to these campaigns, registering countless complaints with their European counterparts and other funders. Unfortunately, Israel's ob- jections went largely ignored and the funding and political support continued. The Israeli public was angered by the invasion of these political combatants, the false and dis- proportionate attacks on their country under the guise of human rights, and the double standards applied to the Jew- ish state. This outrage was not confined to the right but by the majority of the Israeli public. Centrist politicians like Yair Lapid and journal- ists such as Ben Dror Yemini began to highlight the impact of these damaging campaigns and funding. Resentment and exaspera- tion further increased in the wake of intensive Palestinian terrorismandwars emanating from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip after Israeli withdrawals and peace offers. Rather than acknowledge Israel's efforts to resolve the conflict, NGO at- tacks, U.N. initiatives like the Goldstone report, lobbying of the International Criminal Court to accuse Israel of war crimes, and BDS efforts to demonize and isolate the Jewish state only intensified. Thus, the amendments to the Entry Law, as well as other legislation addressing these campaigns, were the foreseeable end result. On the one hand, NGO Monitor generally opposes such legislative measures. The revised law has given BDS activists unwarranted public- ity, allowing them to position themselves as martyrs and deflect the conversation from their destructive goals. More- over, we believe a systematic and intensive diplomatic pro- cess with government officials and international organiza- tions, along with naming and shaming of funders, is a more constructive way to impact change. We also think it is more effective in fighting BDS for Israeli politicians to educate and, where necessary, con- front European counterparts about absurd NGO fund- Counterpoint on page 15A By Steven Fine NEWYORK (JTA)--French historian Pierre Nora spent his life describing and explain- ing "places of memory," sites commemorating significant moments in the history of a community that continue to resonate and transform from generation to generation. For the French Republic, the Arc de Triomphe is one such "place of memory." Begun by Napoleon and completed in 1836, the Arc is a place of French pride and memory, where war dead from the Revolution to the pres- ent are recalled and military triumph exalted. Part of the power of this central place of memory resides in the architecture itself. The Arc de Triomphe is a larger version of another triumphal arch, the Arch of Titus. This arch, located on the Sacred Way in the ancient center of Imperial Rome, com- memorates the victory of the Roman general Titus in the Jewish War of 66-74 C.E. Built circa 82 C.E., its deep- ly carved reliefs show the gen- eral, soon emperor, parading through Rome in a triumphal procession. The spoils of the Jerusalem Temple, including its menorah, are borne aloft by Roman soldiers. Napoleon and those who came after him borrowed the design of this Roman triumphal arch, transferring the glory of Rome to the French nation. Subsequent events have complicated the meaning of the arch, which was intended to commemorate French mili- tary prowess. French victory in World War II, for example, was hardly unequivocal. Hitler did, after all, celebrate his own victory there, and France did not exactly emerge victorious by its own power. One of the more enduring photographs of the libera- tion shows American troops marching under the arch. The Arch of Titus, too, is a complex monument whose meaning shifted over time. Ti- tus had not defeated a foreign power but put down a pesky rebellion by a small province. For Christians, the Arch became a place to celebrate Christian triumph over Juda- ism and the imperial power of the Catholic Church. For Jews, the arch was a symbol for their own defeat and exile, even as some took solace by claiming that its magnificence was proof that Israel had once been a "powerful nation" and formidable foe. In modern times, the Arch of Titus became a symbol both of newfound Jewish rootedness in Europe and a place of pilgrimage where Jews, religious and not, could proclaim, "Titus you are gone, but we're still here. Am Yisrael Chai." Or as Freud put it, "The Jew survives it!" Where once Mussolini had celebrated the Arch as part of the heritage of fascism, Jews after the war assembled there to demand a Jewish state. Others imag- ined exploding the Arch and thus taking final retribution against Titus for his destruc- tion of Jerusalem. Instead, the State of Israel took the Arch back unto itself, basing the design for its state symbol on the menorah carved into its surface. I tell these stories of Paris, differing ways. The meanings of these places of memory are not stable They shift and transform as essential ele- ments of our social fabric and civil religion from generation to generation. Conflicting vi- sions often inhere in the same sculpture, much as Jews and Classicists often "see" very different messages in theArch of Titus. "In a pre-civil rights era, a statue of a Confederate general was seen by many as a tribute to military bravery and regional loyalty. Today the tide has shifted, and a consensus regards them as reminders of a racist past and an ignoble cause." Rome and Jerusalem as parallels to debate that has been intensified following the horrible events in Charlottes- ville. The sculptural tributes to the Civil War, North and South, are still living places of memory. Whether in the Sol- diers and Sailors Monument in Brooklyn, also modeled on the Arch of Titus, or in the thousands of statues across America, the Civil War is very much with us. Each place and time since then has thought about and reimagined the war--"The War of the Rebellion," to many Northerners, "The War of NorthernAggression" to some in the South--in complex and In a pre-civil rights era, a statue of a Confederate general was seen by many as a tribute to military bravery and regional loyalty. Today the tide has shifted, and a consensus regards them as reminders of a racist past and an ignoble cause. Tearing down a place of memory is a serious matter. The act of iconoclasm, of tearing down or transform- ing a place of memory, is never neutral. The list of such events is long and includes the Maccabees' destruction of idols in the second century BCE; the midrashic account of Abraham breaking the idols; late antique Christians and Muslims smashing Roman religious images (and burning synagogues); Orthodox Chris- tian iconophobes destroying sacred icons during the eighth century; Protestants ravaging Church art during the Refor- mation; Nazis torching syna- gogues during Kristallnacht; the Taliban destroying giant sculptures of the Buddha; or Eastern Europeans tearing down sculptures of Lenin and Stalin after the fall of communism. Such transformations of our visual cultures mark major transitions and often culture wars. They are at- tempts to change our memory by obliterating or shifting what we see and expect on our social landscapes, to change how we relate to our places of memory. The ceremonial--the lim- inal--moment of removing a place of memory is always laden and significant. It is a shorthand, a summary state- ment and dramatic enactment of the ways that those present understand the place and encode its memory. The march of the neo- Nazis, the texts they recited, the torches and flags they carried, and the violence they instigated are essential to un- derstandingwho these people are and what values they see in the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. Reading this event, one can tease out their entire world- view--and it is horrifying. In the meantime, each community and locale will act and respond as we play out this distressing drama and rehearse the repercus- sions of this tragedy in our lives. Some Confederate statues will come down--as in Baltimore and at the University of Texas, Austin. Some will be contextual- ized or moved. Others, alas, will be left undisturbed and continue looking down on us contemptuously. These once mostly forgotten monuments are again potent and complex places of memory. Faced with similar provo- cations, Talmudic rabbis Would avert their eyes from Roman imperial sculpture, placed in the cities of ancient Israel as tools of controL Some would spit in their imperial faces. When they could, others would tear down the statues of the hated emperors and their colonial regime. In modern times, Jews avoided walking beneath the Arch of the Evil Titus. Charlottesville is now a place of bloodshed. Perhaps it will begin to heal once the statue of Lee comes down. Nevertheless, the statue will continue to cast a shadow for decades, perhaps centuries, to come. Steven Fine is the Churgin professor of Jewish history and director of the Center for Israel Studies at Yeshiva University. He is director of the Arch of Titus Project.