The worldwide Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is the twenty-first century’s highest profile anti-Israel global campaign that meets the “three D” ( Double standard, Deligitimization, and Demonization) litmus test for crossing the line between legitimate criticism of the Jewish state and toxic anti-Semitism: Never designed to help a single Palestinian, BDS singles out Israel exclusively for criticism, ignoring the major human rights abusers around the world, while distorting the Jewish state’s actions to defend herself from terrorist attacks by means of false and malicious comparisons with Nazi Germany and South Africa’s Apartheid regime.
So it is almost beyond belief that the city government of Munich is allowing a BDS event to be held in the Gasteig Building, a tax-payer funded city building, as part of Munich’s “cultural program.” German Jews are especially appalled by the effrontery that such an event would be scheduled on November 9, the same day that Kristallnacht commemorations are being held to remember country-wide November, 1938 Nazi pogroms that burned German synagogues, attacked and sent thousands of Jews to concentration camps.
Charlotte Knobloch, is a Holocaust survivor who heads the 9,500-members of the Jewish community of Munich, the city where the Nazi movement was originally organized.
Knobloch has warned that: “The BDS campaign disguises the socially unacceptable ’Don’t buy from Jews!’ as a modernized form of Nazi jargon by demanding ‘Don’t buy from the Jewish State’.”
Knobloch denounced the event as “a continued effort to defame, delegitimize, ostracize Israel under the cloak of allegedly legitimate criticism” and launching pad for “a comprehensive boycott against Israel will be announced aimed at hurting economics, science, culture and all areas of life.”
German authorities refused to join her denunciation. The spokesman for Munich’s Social Democratic Mayor Dieter Reiter said he “could not judge” whether the Social Democratic mayor opposes or supports a boycott of Israel. One local politician, Richard Quaas, a Munich city councilman from the Christian Social Union, did call on the city to cancel the rental agreement with the BDS group.
As Germans debate how they will deal with the influx of up to 1 million Muslims, it would also be a good time to remember how their nation dealt with the Jewish minority in the last century. Nazi newspapers started calling for boycotts of Jewish businesses after World War I, despite the outstanding record of the over 100,000 Germany Jews who served in the German Army. As Hitler rose in political popularity in 1930, SA Stormtroopers or Brown Shirts began a sporadic terror campaign including harassment, vandalism, and kidnapping Jewish judges, lawyers, doctors, and anti-Nazi activists.
Following Hitler’s coming to power on January 30, 1933, the Nazi leadership decided on an organized boycott of Jewish businesses. On April 1, the first nationwide boycott was ordered, with Berlin’s 50,000 Jewish businesses in the crosshairs. In broken store windows, signs were posted “Jews Are Our Misfortune!” and “Go back to Palestine!”
The Nazis inspired similar boycotts elsewhere, including Austria. In Poland, the head of the Catholic Church and Polish Prime Minister called for boycotts against Jews. In Hungary, the government passed laws limiting Jewish economic activity from 1938 onwards. In Palestine, the first anti-Jewish boycotts coincided with bloody anti-Jewish riots whose battle cry was “O Arab! Remember that the Jew is your strongest enemy of your ancestors since olden times.”
North America was not immune. In Quebec, French-Canadian nationalists organized boycotts of Jews in the thirties. In the U.S., the Nazi anti-Jewish boycott had defenders in distinguished academic circles, just as anti-Israel BDS campaign thrives on many university campuses today. At a time when Ivy League schools imposed discriminatory admission quotas on Jewish students, Harvard Professor S. B. Fay blamed German suffering during the Depression on anti-Hitler protestors. Fay told the Harvard Crimson student newspaper that Germany’s affairs were “none of any other country's business.”
Cloaked in the rhetoric of nonviolent resistance, the BDS Movement today is nothing like the nonviolent Montgomery Bus Boycott protest campaign of the 1950s—which invoked Christian love against white racism. BDSers habitually cross the line, deploying historically toxic language demonizing the Jewish State and Jews everywhere.
BDS’ publicly-stated goal is to “end occupation in the territories.” Under siege by terrorists today, Israel had already unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza in 2005 and is committed to a two-state solution if only it had a willing peace partner ready to accept a Jewish neighbor. Instead, as Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) confirmed to Palestinian students, the BDS Movement is really a public relations stunt designed to prepare the ground for the ultimate goal of the destruction of Israel.
As Germany welcomes twenty-first century refugees, they must not endanger the lives of descendants millions of Jews who were stripped of their rights, cast out as refugees in the 1930s, ghettoized, gunned down or gassed by the German Third Reich in the 1940s. In 2015, German leaders including those in Munich have a historic and moral obligation never to embrace those who aid and abet forces that would destroy the State of Israel—home to 6 million Jews.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
Historian Dr. Harold Brackman is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center