[Marxism] On Anti-Semitism, Boycotts, and the Case of Hermann Dierkes
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 30 07:56:15 MDT 2009
On Anti-Semitism, Boycotts, and the Case of Hermann Dierkes:
An Open Letter from Jewish Peace Activists
March 30, 2009 By Multiple Authors
We are peace activists of Jewish background. Some of us typically
identify in this way; others of us do not. But we all object to those
who claim to speak for all Jews or who use charges of anti-Semitism to
attempt to squelch legitimate dissent.
We have learned with dismay the allegations regarding Hermann Dierkes, a
trade unionist and leader of the Left Party (DIE LINKE) in the German
city of Duisburg. Dierkes, in response to the recent Israeli assault on
Gaza expressed the view that one way people could help Palestinians
obtain justice would be to support the call of the World Social Forum to
boycott Israeli goods, so as to put pressure on the Israeli government.
Dierkes has been subjected to widespread and vitriolic denunciations for
anti-Semitism, and accused of calling for a repeat of the Nazi policy of
the 1930s of boycotting Jewish products. Dierkes responded that "The
demands of the World Social Forum have nothing in common with Nazi-type
racist campaigns against Jews, but aim at changing the Israeli
government's policy of oppression of the Palestinians."
No one has made any claims of anti-Semitism against Dierkes for anything
other than his support of the boycott. Yet he has been accused of "pure
anti-Semitism" (Dieter Graumann the Vice-President of the Central Jewish
Council), of uttering words comparable to "a mass execution at the edge
of a Ukrainian forest" (Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung editorialist
Achim Beer), and of expressing "Nazi propaganda" (Hendrik Wuest, General
Secretary of the Christian Democratic Party).
We signatories have differing views on the wisdom and efficacy of
calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. Some of us believe that such a
boycott is an essential component of a campaign of boycott, divestment,
and sanctions that can end the four-decade-long Israeli occupation;
others think the better way to pressure the Israeli government is with a
more selective boycott focused on institutions and corporations
supporting the occupation. But all of us agree that it is essential to
apply pressure against the Israeli government if peace and justice are
to prevail in the Middle East and all of us agree that a call for a
boycott of Israel has nothing in common with the Nazi policy of "Don't
buy from Jews." It is no more anti-Semitic to boycott Israel to end the
occupation than it was anti-white to boycott South Africa to end
apartheid. Social justice movements have often called for boycotts or
divestment, whether against the military regime in Burma or the
government of Sudan. Wise or not, such calls are in no way discriminatory.
Violence in the Middle East has indeed led to some acts of anti-Semitism
in Europe. There was a call to boycott Jewish-owned stores in Rome that
was widely and appropriately condemned. We deplore such bigotry.
Israel's crimes cannot be attributed to Jews as a whole. But, at the
same time, a boycott of Israel cannot be equated with a boycott of Jews
as a whole.
An acute and disturbing form of racism rising in Europe today is
Islamophobia and xenophobia directed at immigrants from Muslim
countries. Dierkes has been a champion in defense of the rights of
immigrants, while some of those who accuse all critics of Israel of
being anti-Semitic often participate themselves -- like the Israeli
government and state -- in such forms of racism.
The Holocaust was one of the most horrific events in modern history. It
is a dishonor to its victims to use its memory as a bludgeon to silence
principled critics of Israel's unconscionable treatment of Palestinians.
[We have spent just a week gathering names on this letter, circulating
it only in a few countries. We apologize to all those who would have
liked to sign, but didn't get a chance or whose names arrived too late
for inclusion. For information on how you can help support this effort,
please contact Dierkes.Letter at gmail.com.]
Signatories at http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/21016
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