Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

A Letter To The Bundestag Criticizing Its Equation Of The BDS Movement With Anti-Semitism

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
August 2019

After the Bundestag, the German parliament, passed a motion which equated the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in opposition to Israel’s occupation with anti-Semitism, Dr. Sara Roy, a research scholar at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, addressed a letter to the German government.  
Dr. Roy noted that she writes not only as a Middle East specialist but, “I also write to you as a Jew, a child of Holocaust survivors ...My mother, Taube, and father, Abraham, survived Auschwitz among other horrors. My father was the only survivor in his family of six children and my mother survived with only one sister in a family that was larger than my father’s. I know, without question, that if they were alive today, the motion you are being asked to endorse would terrify them given the repression of tolerance and witness that it clearly embraces “  
Noting that she would not restate arguments others had made about free speech and the right to peacefully boycott oppressive regimes, Dr. Roy noted that, “In September 2014, I was invited to speak on Gaza at the Heinrich Boll Stiftung after the terrible events that summer. During the question period, a gentleman stood up who was quite agitated. He argued quite strongly that given Germany’s history, it is difficult, if not impossible, for Germans to criticize Israel. Embedded in his belief was that Germans should never engage in such criticism. He seemed to insist that I accept this. I do not. Nor would my parents.”  
Dr. Roy noted that, “My response to him, then, is the same as my response to you now. If your history has imposed a burden and an obligation upon you, it is to defend justice, not Israel. This is what Judaism, not Zionism, demands. Your obligation does not lie in making Israel or the Jewish people special or selectively excusing injustice because Jews happen to be committing it, it lies in holding Israel and Jews to the same ethical and moral standards that you would demand of any people, including yourselves. If you think that by refusing to criticize Israel’s brutal occupation—and punishing those who do — you are protecting and securing the state of Israel or the place of the Jewish people in the world, you are terribly misguided.”  
In conclusion, Dr. Roy writes: “Your approach achieves the exact opposite, — by insisting on sponsors treating Jews as an exception, you are weakening us again by making us a kind of anomaly, an intruder, a negation of Europe. It makes us more vulnerable to and unsheltered from the racism and the true anti-Semitism now resurgent throughout the world. Your sense of guilt, if that is the correct word, should not derive from criticizing Israel. It should reside in remaining silent in the face of injustice as so many of your forebears did before, during and after the Holocaust. I lost a large extended family to fascism and racism. By endorsing the motion that BDS is anti-Semitic — regardless of one’s position on BDS — you are criminalizing the right to free speech and dissent and those who choose to exercise it, which is exactly how fascism takes root. You also trivialize and dishonor the real meaning of anti-Semitism. How would you explain that to Taube and Abraham?” *

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.