Shalom Life | June 11, 2015

It's 'Almost Impossible' for European Jews to Support Israel, says Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

"Israel was always a uniting factor in Jewish life; it has become a divisive factor"

By: B. Shane Morganstein

Published: June 9th, 2015 in News » World

It's 'Almost Impossible' for European Jews to Support Israel, says Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Photo: Lord Jonathan Sacks


Speaking at a round-table discussion entitled "Islam and BDS in Europe: a strategic threat?" Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has said that unlike other anti-Semitic movements to target Israel, the international BDS movement has partially succeeded in its goals.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has swept across Europe and North American college campuses, encouraging unions, student clubs, and institutions to completely boycott the state of Israel. Modeled after the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the BDS movement was launched in July 2005, and aims to put Israel under political and economic pressure over the state's treatment of the Palestinians.

Today, Sacks argues that the BDS movement has made it "almost impossible" for Jews living in Europe to support Israel, saying, "Jews have been faced with a choice: live in Europe and criticize Israel or be silent, or leave Europe."

Sacks, who served as chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, placed BDS as just another movement on a historic continuum dating back to the blood libels of the middle ages.

"In the middle ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, they were hated because of their race. In the twenty first century, they are hated because of their nation state. Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism."

Sacks also noted that BDS has been "fairly successful" in de-legitimizing Israel on the international stage. In isolating Israel internationally, the Jewish state could eventually be left defenseless and without allies, in the same way that the American-initiated Evian Conference of 1938 had Adolf Hitler see "the world declare that it cares about Jews but not prepared to do anything to actually help them."

In order to combat this dangerous situation, Sacks argued that it is the responsibility of Jews to ensure that Europeans understand, "if it is not safe for Jews, it is not safe for Europeans."

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