Anti-Israel or Anti-Jewish?

by Michael Sevi | 5/16/02 5:00am

To the Editor:

In his May 14 interview with The Dartmouth, "Tutu Tells of Apartheid Struggle," Desmond Tutu states that with regards to Israel, "The minute you say something critical, they say you are anti-Semitic."

This is quite an exaggeration; however, an observant person cannot ignore the fact that very often anti-Israel sentiments are conflated with, or rather used to mask, anti-Jewish sentiments.

Look at what happened at a recent rally at San Francisco State University. While Jewish students rallied in support of Israel, pro-Palestinian demonstrators encircled them and proceeded to shout nasty racist comments at the Jewish students. Many of the comments I would never repeat, but the tamer ones included, "Go back to Russia, Jew!" and "Hitler did not finish the job!"

After the rally ended, the mob tightly ringed-in the Jewish students and continued shouting racist remarks at them. Luckily, the campus police were close by, and they quickly intervened to safely escort the Jewish students away from the mob. The president of SFSU's account includes many of the details I won't repeat and underscores my point: being anti-Israel and hating Jewish people are often fused.

In another case of this all-too-common phenomenon, look at what happened at that bastion of liberal values and openness, U.C. Berkeley. After several pro-Palestinian rallies, a brick was thrown through the window of the Hillel, the center for Jewish life on campus. Later, the words "Hate Jews" were scrawled on the door of the building. And finally, the son of the campus rabbi was physically assaulted on campus. Is it any wonder why passionate anti-Israel rallies alarm the Jewish community?

Next, let's look at the international scene, where Europe has taken a more anti-Israel line recently. Along with the increase in support for the Palestinians has come a plethora of anti-Jewish attacks. In France alone, in just the first five months of this year, over 400 attacks on Jewish citizens, synagogues, schools and businesses have been reported. Similarly, Great Britain, Belgium and Denmark have all witnessed renewed anti-Jewish attacks on their soil. Is it sill any wonder why the Jewish people are put on guard when anti-Israel protesters passionately vilify the Jewish state?

The truth is that both domestically and internationally anti-Jewish individuals often use anti-Israel activism to veil their racism behind seemingly legitimate political views. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that 250 neo-Nazis and white supremacists rallied in support of the Palestinian people. Need I say more?

Though clearly not all pro-Palestinian demonstrators are anti-Semitic -- and no one should think that I'm claiming that -- Mr. Tutu would be wise to take note of the numerous examples I have illustrated here, and not portray the Jewish community as crying wolf. Time again, even on liberal American college campuses, we have seen that what starts out as anti-Israel ends up as blatantly and even violently anti-Jewish.