[Marxism] On Anti-Semitism, Boycotts, and the Case of Hermann Dierkes

Louis Proyect 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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