Crying wolf diminishes Jewish claims to sympathy. If you exaggerate the threat when you need the world’s support, they will remember the times you stretched the truth and not be there when you need them.
THE CEO of the Seattle Jewish Federation recently co-authored an Op-Ed, [Recognize and speak out against anti-Semitism, Opinion, June 27] warning that Washington state was awash in anti-Semitism and Jew hatred. Don’t you believe it.
One co-author, Keith Dvorchik, found anti-Semitism everywhere: at Western Washington University, at the University of Washington, at Westlake Center and Jewish businesses in West Seattle and Capitol Hill. From these alleged incidents, he spins an alarming tale of a community awash in hate, a community in which it is no longer safe to be Jewish or a supporter of Israel.
Dvorchik reserves special vitriol for the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement (BDS) whose intent is to “demonize Israel.” He adds that it represents “anti-Semitism embodied in hatred of Israel” and a “critique metastasizing into Jew hatred.” His Op-Ed offers no evidence to support these very serious charges.
The other perspective
Read the Op-Ed “Recognize and speak out against anti-Semitism” at: st.news/anti-Semitism
In an interview, Dvorchik told me the BDS movement is intended to destroy Israel. Omar Barghouti, BDS’ founder, said that even if there were two independent Palestinian and Israeli states, BDS would not end. This meant, Dvorchik believed, that BDS would not stop until Israel was destroyed.
But the truth is different: BDS has three planks in its platform: granting Israeli Palestinians rights equal to Jews, the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Nowhere does it call for the destruction of Israel. I asked Dvorchik to offer evidence that BDS constituted Jew hatred. He did not.
Dvorchik’s Op-Ed claims there were “several severe incidents of anti-Semitism at WWU.” The university has refused to release any details. But a citizen secured the reports through a Freedom of Information Act request. One said a swastika was drawn next to a student’s name in his dorm. A female fellow resident told the victim that she was drunk at the time she drew the swastika, and she apologized. The victim seemed satisfied with her explanation and told school officials that he did not wish her to be expelled from the dorm.
About the incident at the University of Washington, Dvorchik writes: “Burned pages from a book by a Jewish poet were scattered outside the UW’s Hillel building, a sickening reminder of Jewish books burned during the Inquisition.”
I called Hillel director, Amee Huppin Sherer. She said that her office manager had found the burned pages. It was reported to a Jewish community-security official, who determined the pages came from a book written by Heinrich Heine, who famously warned that any country that burned books would end up burning people.
A report was made to the police. They have not had success identifying how the incident happened.
In the matter of the Westlake Center incident, Dvorchik described: “An anti-Israel poster depicts a rabbi eating a bloody baby.” The facts of this report aren’t as he describes them.
In July 2014, Palestinian activists held a rally at Westlake protesting Israel’s war on Gaza. That summer, in Operation Protective Edge, 500 Palestinian children were killed. Among the protest signs was a cartoon depicting a diner wearing a Star of David (Israel’s state symbol). On his plate was a Palestinian baby. Next to it was a glass of the baby’s blood. Clearly this was an offensive poster and worthy of condemnation and organizers of the event should have demanded it be removed. But this was the act of a single individual at a rally held under a period of great distress for the Palestinian community, which was under desperate assault (more than 2,300 Gazans were killed during the war).
Further, that cartoon did not depict a rabbi, as Dvorchik claims. It depicted an Israeli. The offending cartoon did not attack Jews; it attacked Israel and did so because of the deaths of vast numbers of Palestinian children. Judaism and Israel are not the same. That is not a defense of the image. It offers context to the offending poster.
Do Jews have a right to be sensitive to anti-Semitism? Of course. Jews have every right to be vigilant. But do leaders have the right to play fast and loose with the truth in order to dramatize their concern for the safety of their fellow Jews and their support for Israel?
In fact, crying wolf only diminishes Jewish claims to sympathy. If you exaggerate the threat, when you need the world’s support, they will remember the times you stretched the truth and were not there when you needed them.