Recently, a controversy arose with the faux-reggae muzak performer Matisyahu, who is a devout Jew and a strident Zionist. Hasbarists were outraged that he had been singled out “as a Jew” and asked not to perform, even though there’s ample evidence that he was asked to clarify his position after numerous pro-Israel actions and statements including performing for AIPAC, supporting the IDF, and promoting Israeli propaganda. He confirmed the legitimacy of the boycott when he was invited back to perform and performed a song glorifying the occupation of Jerusalem and the destruction of Al Aqsa.
But it raises the question, to what extent are Jews and others responsible for the situation in Palestine? To what extent is boycotting individuals appropriate given that BDS generally applies to institutions, not individuals? Is it anti-Semitic to boycott Jewish individuals?
Anyone familiar with the Palestinian debate has heard “we blame Zionists and not Jews” but what do we really mean by this when a good number of Jews are Zionists(but not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews). This is absolutely true and I want to unpack this a bit.
Lets meet some people (any resemblance to real people is pure coincidence… mhm, yup)
- Ahava Lehava is a Liberal Zionist who lives in New Dublin, USA. She is a secular Jew who was raised in the Jewish community and was taught that Israel is the happy shiny land of eco-friendly rainbows and gay pride parades. She hates Netanyahu and supports a two-state solution because she thinks Palestinians cannot coexist with Jews because Khamas. She donates significant amounts of money to Jewish organizations in the community because of the work they do in her community – providing day cares, family events, promoting Holocaust education. However, they also contribute a lot of money to anti-BDS and pro-Israel lobbying and even sponsor the JNF, which steals Palestinian land under the cover of making Israel “green.” Ahava writes for the New Dublin Times, a paper with very low circulation, about how Israel has the right to defend itself against backwards, evil, Khamas by any means necessary to preserve their shiny rainbows.
- Bacon McInfidel lives in Backwash, Arkansas. He goes to the Church of the Return of the Jesus where he contributes his money, time and effort. He’s dreams of going on a trip to Israel where he would help settlers uproot Palestinian olive trees but can’t afford it on his pay-check working in the heterosexual lube factory. His heroes are Jebus(Jesus’ right-wing, gun toting cousin), the IDF and Reagan. Bacon regularly lobbies his politicians and donates what little money he has to the IDF because he thinks that Israel will make Jebus come back and kill a bunch of Muslims and then ??? and then profit.
- Kapo Selfhatevitz lives in Tel Aviv, is a devout Reform Jew who believes the occupation violates her Jewish values. She is an activist who regularly travels to the West Bank to help Palestinians. She served a year in prison for refusing to serve in the IDF and has been injured in several protests. She pays taxes but doesn’t vote because she thinks the system is inherently broken and its not worth participating in.
- Magiic Nobalz is a Muslim who lives in London. He regularly condemns Palestinians as being radical Islamists who want to destroy every Jew in the world, and he knows this because he was born in Palestine and was allegedly the #2 man in the super-secret terrorist group that’s 100% Islamist evil, sunk the Titanic with Hitler-rays while killing JFK and can’t be named for the same reason you can’t say Voldemort’s name(oops… sorry). He profits off this story by getting regularly invited to Parliament, on talk shows as well as some lucrative book deals.
As you can see, four different people who have different levels of moral and physical complicity. Of course there’s no clear answer. Kapo had no choice in being born Israeli and is genuinely fighting for human rights, she is paying taxes to the government which does harm but morally, I would say she’s the superior of the four. Ahava probably means well but she is actively promoting the propaganda she was taught and her financial donations probably do more harm than Bacon. Bacon is brainwashed, motivated by hate and some very twisted dogma but he’s poor and barely literate, apart from shouting a lot(and potentially shooting someone) he doesn’t have the capacity to have a major impact. Magiic is just an opportunistic lowlife with almost no redeeming qualities.
Now, let’s pretend we have a kitten-juggling show and that all four of these individuals are expert kitten-jugglers. Who would you invite?
Not inviting Magiic and Bacon is easy – both are obvious bigots, and I wouldn’t trust Bacon to be sober enough to juggle a kitten. Inviting Kapo is easy, she sounds awesome and I bet she’s awesome at juggling kittens. But what about Ahava? She has made explicit anti-Palestinian statements but in a venue where she has very low exposure and she finances some very nasty anti-Palestinian causes by funding organizations that are actively helping her community. I could see this going either way. Personally, I would not invite her, if only to get awareness about how much money goes from organizations that claim to be Jewish charities directly to Israel.
Imagine a Muslim charity donating over 40% of its budget to fund Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad – FBI would be all over that like a puppy to a freshly pooped-in litter box.
Notice how in all that analysis, the Jewishness of the persons did not come up. That’s because the adage of Zionism is not Judaism(or Jewishness) is true. The decision of whether to boycott someone should not be based on their religion or their tribal affiliation but rather their public statements, their affiliations and their actions.
This does mean that in many of these cases, Jews may be boycotted. That’s ok. It is not anti-Jewish to boycott Jews because they support and espouse racist opinions – it is anti-Jewish to boycott Jews because they are Jews. In other words, forget the ethnicity and religion of the person you are concerned about and look at what he or she does, or substitute another ethnicity/religion and see if you would boycott them if they were of that background.
So now that we’ve got that sorted, back to kitten juggling.