The people of Israel, especially those living in towns near the Gaza border, may be forgiven for not being terribly interested in the rise of anti-Zionist sentiment abroad. They have more important things to worry about, such as the missiles flying into their homes, schools and businesses.
But while less lethal than the Kassams launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the rhetorical rockets being launched at the Jewish state from Britain are deeply troubling for those who care about Israel's standing in the world. The embrace of boycotts on Israel by British academics, doctors, architects and journalists — even trade unionists — represents a genuine victory for those anti-Zionist activists that are working hard to isolate the Jewish state.
The strategy of Israel's foes has been clear from the outset. They sought to demonize it via biased media coverage and activist propagandizing that portray Palestinian suffering as solely the result of Israeli inhumanity, which then implicitly or openly justifies Palestinian terrorist attacks on Jews. When Israel counterattacks, rather than this being seen as a legal reaction on the part of a democratic state defending its citizens, such measures are then exhibited as further proof of Israeli wrongdoing.
This cycle of lies and smears has resulted in a situation where the demonization of Israel is now part of mainstream opinion in Britain — not just in academia, where extremist, left-wing views often prevail.
The notion that scholars who are presumably dedicated to the free exchange of ideas would choose to boycott Israeli universities is an absurd betrayal of principle. It's matched only by the spectacle of the union that represents journalists — another group you'd expect to support free speech — choosing to isolate a country with a universal justice system and elected leaders.
Optimists may point to the election of a new president in France, who will hopefully be more sympathetic to Israel, coupled with the commitment of the current British government to warm relations with Jerusalem. But those who believe that these anti-Israel measures are just mere talk are mistaken. They represent a declaration of war upon Israel and the Jewish people that is gaining traction in political and cultural circles.
Unfortunately, the Jewish origin of some of those advocating for this movement serves as cover for those behind these despicable attacks.
That these groups choose to excoriate Israel while maintaining silence about the ongoing genocide in Darfur — and oppression throughout the entire Arab and Muslim world — speaks volumes about their credibility. There can be little doubt that traditional anti-Semitic themes that have been reflected in the anti-Israel invective increasingly heard throughout Europe are having an impact on those choosing to boycott the Jewish state.
But it would be a mistake to think that this purely a European phenomenon with no application to American society and politics. The ideas behind these boycotts are percolating on college campuses here and fueling the movement to divest from companies that do business with Israel.
More to the point, the successes of Israel's foes in Europe show us the future of American society if we're not ready to fight back.
At present, the most vicious foes of Zionism in this country remain marginal figures. But if — due to a misplaced fear of being accused of "suppressing" anti-Israel voices — American Jewry fails to confront and isolate this festering virus of hatred, we may eventually find ourselves in the same difficult position as British Jewry is today.