Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market bills itself as the “heartbeat of Israeli culinary art.” Dozens of small restaurants and shops offer cheese, wine, bread, fish, olives, pasta, burgers – pretty much anything you can imagine and quite a bit that you probably cannot. I had a nice lunch there the other day. Exactly a week later two Palestinian men sat down in a café, ordered dessert, pulled handguns from beneath their dark suit jackets and began firing at everyone in sight.
Four civilians were murdered and more than a dozen wounded before the killers were stopped – one shot by a security guard, the other arrested. The following day, the Sarona Market was up and running again.
It’s not that Israelis have grown blasé about such bloodshed. But shutting down the market for more than a few hours would have provided the terrorists with a bonus. Israelis also recognize that terrorists can strike anywhere -- even a place you might not expect (like Orlando, Florida) and against those you might not expect to be in the crosshairs (though if you didn’t know that Islamists target gays you haven’t been paying attention).
One difference: When it comes to Jews, guns, bombs and knives have long been coupled with economic weapons.
In the 1930s and early ‘40s, the project of serious anti-Semites was a Europe without Jews. No Jewish-owned stores in Berlin. No Jewish professors teaching in Viennese universities. No Jewish villages in the Polish countryside.
Immediately after becoming German chancellor in 1933, Hitler proclaimed a boycott of Jewish shops. Five years later came Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” in which 7,500 businesses were destroyed (along with synagogues, schools, even cemeteries).
At a meeting of National Socialist leaders a few days later, Hermann Goering declared that “the Jewish question” needed to be solved once and for all. “Since the problem is mainly an economic one, it is from the economic angle it shall have to be tackled,” he said, adding: “I implore competent agencies to take all measures for the elimination of the Jew from the German economy.”
“Don’t buy from Jews” became a Nazi slogan. Death squads, concentration camps, gas chambers, ovens, genocide – all that soon followed.
After the defeat of Germany in 1945, serious anti-Semites moved on to a new goal: a Middle East without Jews. The Arab League immediately organized a boycott of the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine.
A UN plan to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state – the original two-state solution – was accepted by the Jews but turned down by Arabs. In 1948, Israel declared its independence. The boycott continued.
Next, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq attacked – waging a war to wipe the fledgling Jewish state off the map. They failed. The boycott continued.
The rulers of Egypt, Iraq, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries then turned on their own Jewish subjects. Whether those subjects favored or opposed the re-birth of a Jewish homeland didn’t matter. Hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes. Many sought refuge in Israel. Today, about half of all Israelis are from families with roots in Arab and Muslim countries.
In 1967, Israel’s neighbors launched another conventional war aimed at eliminating Israel. When that, too, failed, terrorism became the weapon of choice. But economic warfare continued as well. In the 1970s, the United States adopted two significant laws making it illegal to comply with boycotts imposed by foreign governments waging war against Israel.
So today, non-state actors lead the campaign. Omar Barghouti, credited as a co-founder of the so-called BDS (for boycott, sanction and divest) Movement, has stated plainly that the goal is not to pressure Israelis into making concessions that might lead to peace. “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” he has said.
With two BDS supporters appointed -- courtesy of Sen. Bernie Sanders -- to the Democratic Party’s platform committee, even Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of left-leaning J Street, seems to have grasped the truth. The movement, he now says, “fails to recognize Israel’s right to exist, to support a two-state solution, to differentiate between the occupation and opposition to Israel itself.”
In recent months, more than 20 governors have signed anti-BDS laws. In response, BDS advocates are angrily asserting that their freedom of speech is being violated. That’s a canard. These laws simply make clear that taxpayers – in Illinois, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida and a growing list of other states -- will not support companies that discriminate against Israel.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that conditioning government money on compliance with anti-discrimination policies does not violate the First Amendment,” legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich pointed out. He added: “Israel boycotts — which target all businesses from a particular country — have the key hallmark of impermissible discrimination: They cut off business to people and companies not because of their own particular conduct, but on the basis of who they are.”
BDS advocates claim to fight for “social justice” but they turn a blind eye to the Muslim-on-Muslim wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, the genocide of Middle Eastern Christians and Yazidis, the enslavement of girls in northern Nigeria and the routine executions of gays in Gaza, Iran and other corners of the Islamic world.
“Anti-Semitism,” the British rabbi/philosopher Jonathan Sachs recently observed, “is a virus that survives by mutating. In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated because of their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries they were hated because of their race. Today they are hated because of their nation state, Israel.” There may be treatments for this virus but no one has a cure.