I remember the UN Conference againsta Racism held in Durban in 2001. I remember it because it was in that conference that Arafat first referred to the Oslo Agreement as "Hudna" (Arabic word meaning "temporary Cease Fire") and also because it was at that conference that the Palestinian delegation first mentioned the need to "Boycott the State the Israel, Divest from it and impose Sanctions on it". While the international BDS movement will only come formally into existence the following year, it was in Durban that the foundation was laid. During the conference, the language of Apartheid South Africa was used to describe Israel again and again. While the official UN Conference kept that language off bounds, the parallel NGO conference fully adopted it. At the time, the delegations of the US, Israel and Australia left the UN conference in protest of the hijacking of the conference by the Palestinians to promote their own agenda. They also distributed for free copies of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion".
But the conference ended on September 10, 2001. A day later, the events in New York, Philadelphia and Washington overwhelmed the news cycle and the events of the conference were relegated to the back burner. But they weren't, the Palestinian Solidarity Movement was born in 2001, and the BDS Campaign in early 2002. At the time, in an effort to reassure Muslims that we were not blaming them all for 9/11, any negative comment on the behavior of any Muslim group was eyed suspiciously as "Islamophobic", regardless of the merit of the comment.
While concern about Islamophobia was genuine and valid, we allowed this concern to muffle criticism of the Palestinian behavior in Durban and the aftermath. This becomes especially poignant when we remember how Palestinians celebrated 9/11 in the streets of Ramalah.
We allowed our genuine and valid concerns of possible discrimination against Muslims to distract us from defending ourselves from the very real attack that started in Durban.
Why am I bringing this up right now, 18 years after the fact? Because it shows a pattern of allowing ourselves to be distracted from defending ourselves. Take the last two weeks, during which Rashidah Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and President Donald Trump have been exchanging barbs back and for - sometimes even using Israel and American Jews as the topic of discussion. American Jews and American Jewish organizations have been fast in lining up with one side or the other, adding to the already heated exchange and providign the Media with the kind of show they love, because it sells papers and airtime.
But while we were all so busy taking part of the political drama, a curriculum with a strong anti semitic content was almost adopted in California, the City of New York mentioned how anti Semitism is on the rise in the city, the Canadian chaper of the ADL released statistics showing that reported antisemitic crimes have increased by 58 % in 2018 when compared with 2017, and there were five reports of antisemtiic attacks in New York, New Jersey and San Francisco, thankfully without casualties.
As we continue to engage in the political telenovela, so common before a Presidential election year, anti Semitism is creeping into every day life, and we ignore the signs. The antisemitism that counts, the one that affects us every day, must be fought in every day life. With letters to the Editor, with Educational programs, and with Chutzpah - because those who are attacking us are also doing it with Chutzpah.
We are American Jews. We are Citizens of this great Nation that guarantees the individual rights of every American, and for many decades it has promoted the respect of Human rights around the globe. Since we are so passionate about defending the rights of others... shouldn't we be as passionate defending our own? Is defending Jewish rights any less important than defending the rights of Immigrants? Is fighting Islamophobia more important than fighting AntiSemitism? You need to find your own answers to these questions. I have my own.