You probably heard about the storm over reggae singer Matisyahu’s on, off, and then on again invitation to sing at the Rototom Sunsplash music festival in Spain last weekend. Matisyahu is a talented Jewish reggae singer from Los Angeles, whose 2006 song ‘Jerusalem’ and 2008 song ‘One Day’ captured the hearts of millions of teenagers across the globe. In those days Matisyahu was hasidic in lifestyle and appearance, although since then the beard and peyot have come off. The invitation for him to perform at this obscure Spanish reggae festival would hardly have been newsworthy had it not been for the interference of the BDS movement.
Just in case you are wondering if you misread that last sentence, let me confirm that, yes, the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, whose stated aim is ‘to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to [ensure] the end of Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect for the right of return of Palestinian refugees’, applied pressure on a bunch of Spanish music lovers to either force an apolitical American Jewish singer to sign a declaration in favor of their non-music related political agenda, or face protest demonstrations and a coordinated boycott. Matisyahu understandably refused to sign any such declaration, so the festival organizers decided to disinvite him rather than deal with the bad publicity.
But rather than prevent bad publicity, the move backfired badly and attracted international condemnation. Following phenomenal pressure from multiple sources, including various governments, European Jewish leaders, and ELNET, which is a European version of AIPAC, the festival decided to re-invite him, and Matisyahu performed in front of an enthusiastic audience. Meanwhile the local BDS group that precipitated this outrage was unrepentant, claiming spuriously that the gentle singer was someone who was guilty of ‘incitement to racial hatred and connections to extremist and violent fundamentalist groups.’ More incredibly, the group accused the media of misrepresenting the incident ‘as part of the global BDS movement’, which compelled them to make clear that their efforts were ‘outside the remit of the cultural boycott of Israel.’
It is this last statement that I would like to focus on, because it exposes BDS activists for what they are – virulent anti-Semites who target Jews, even though that is not officially part of their agenda. And not just Israeli Jews, but all Jews. American Jews. British Jews. Spanish Jews. If you are a Jew, know that you are a BDS target. You are assumed to support every aspect of Israel’s policies and military strategy. Your only ‘get out of jail’ card is to publicly sign up to the repugnant BDS campaign, an agenda that hides under a musk of humanitarian concern for Palestinian Arab suffering, but which is in fact intent on destroying the State of Israel by creating one state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and repatriating any Arab descended from Arabs who became refugees in 1948. In other words, BDS is not interested in a peaceful solution or prosperity for Palestinian Arabs, only in ensuring that Jewish statehood is no longer viable. Even if the Jewish State complied with every ridiculous UN resolution, they would still hate it – because it is Jewish, and it exists.
I am going to say something now that may shock you, but it is important to put it on the record. If you support Israel and are against BDS, please please stop defending Israel to BDS supporters. You are wasting your time. No one in the BDS camp is interested in complex defenses of Israel’s right to exist and right to defend itself. Because they are anti-Semites. I don’t care if they are Jews or non-Jews – they are anti-Semites. If Jews irrationally hate other Jews, they are anti-Semites, pure and simple. We must stop using the definition ‘self-hating Jew’. It is meaningless to the wider world. If a former Catholic criticizes the Pope, no one calls him a self-hating Catholic, they call him an anti-Catholic. If someone born a Jew hates other Jews for being proud of their heritage and their history, and demands that they reject that heritage and history in order to be accepted, they are not self-hating Jews, they are anti-Semites. It’s that simple.
Now that BDS has been exposed – correction: has exposed itself – as a group that targets all Jews, it is obviously pointless to discuss or debate with them on the issues. If they are blackmailing music festivals to boycott American Jewish singers with loose connections to Israel and no political history, then we need to start calling them what they are: anti-Semites and racists. BDS is no different than the Nazis of the 1920s and 1930s who created a myth that all Jews were guilty of insidious crimes against the international community, and were intent on world domination. When people spread malicious lies about you, don’t waste time refuting their lies – expose them for what they are: vicious liars motivated by hatred.
The Torah portion this week ends with the famous commandment to destroy Amalek, the nation that attempted to exterminate the nascent Jewish nation as it emerged from Egypt. The instruction from Moshe is unequivocal: תִמְחֶה אֶת-זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק מִתַחַת הַשָמָיִם לֹא תִשְכָח – ‘never forget your duty to obliterate any memory of Amalek from beneath the heavens.’ If it is a choice between them or us, make sure it is them, not us. My friends, our battle with BDS is a fight for the survival of the Jewish nation, not a gentlemanly discussion over coffee about the rights and wrongs of Israel’s actions and policies. BDS is a relentless and vicious campaign against Jews. That this makes you a target – in Los Angeles, or in New York, or in London – is not an accident. BDS must be uprooted and destroyed. Your life could depend on it.
Rabbi Pini Dunner is the Senior Rabbi at Beverly Hills Synagogue, a member of the Young Israel family of synagogues.