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Saturday, November 18, 2017

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The  virulently anti-Israel and anti-semitic boycott, divest and sanction effort ("BDS") is one of the greatest threats to the Jewish people in the twenty-first century.  Some try to present BDS as a “free speech” and “right to protest” issue.  However, those doing so are shockingly silent in failing to apply this standard to Iran, Turkey, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela the Sudan, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Myanmar, Morocco, and a host of other countries in the world.  In each and every one of these “Human Rights” denizens,  the standards of non-discriminatory treatment of citizenry and non-citizens, and associated free speech, right to practice religion and right of public assembly issues all horrifically fail in comparison with Israel's efforts and achievements in all these areas.  It is indisputable that Arab citizenry in Israel have better quality and more comprehensive medical care; greater educational opportunities, literacy and achievement; and higher levels of per capita income and other freedoms than they do in most Arab countries.  But the "BDS” flag waivers somehow lay all the evil of the entire world at the foot of Israel.  

BDS is pure and unadulterated rank anti-semitism and anti-zionism and should not be tolerated, promoted or accepted by any decent, fair-minded individual in the free world.  It should be no less tolerated or accepted by any respectable politician, academic or business person.  Those who dismiss BDS concerns or take the issue lightly, either do not have children or (future) grandchildren on the college campuses or have not tried walking around Europe with a yarmulke or other jewish religious symbol the past few years. As just two examples from the dozens I could list, I note the vicious anti-semitic smashing of a brick into the head of the AEPI fraternity’s University of Arizona chapter president’s head a few years ago following various “Heil Hitler” slurs;  and the unfortunately very long list of French-Jewish victims that have been murdered, mutilated, tortured, shot or thrown off balconies in the last few years simply for being Jewish.  The indignities and mutilations suffered by French-Jewish citizens (and numerous other European Jews), by the way,  is not limited to one class of Jew.  The victims have been both wealthy and poor, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, and observant and non-observant. 

BDS is one of the greatest canards and lies of the twenty-first century and all those who promote and support BDS should be condemned vigorously and publicly, roundly and soundly.  Anyone who does not support the ANTI-BDS effort, should also be criticized and taken to task.

These are not minor nuisance issues. I applaud the Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred for taking swift action Saturdayafternoon after the racially insensitive gesture by Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel during Friday night’s World Series game.  But where is the widespread response to the recent appallingly crude anti-Semitic remarks and social media posts by Rutgers Professor Michael Chikindas and the recent announcement that Rutgers professor Jasbir Puar will be publishing a book accusing Israel of a modern blood libel?   Rutgers University has correctly stated that it is investigating these incidents.    But where is the general community (Jewish and non-Jewish) outrage and response? Why are “assault”against Jewish citizens and students taken so lightly and dismissed so easily?

There are many ways to fight for the Jewish people and the survival of Israel and no one should take the survival of the Jewish people or Israel as a given; our history teaches us otherwise.  As to the current issue at stake,  many of us here in New Jersey fought very hard for the last two years for the enactment of our anti-BDS legislation.  We prepared and laid the groundwork for the legislation.  We worked with legislators.  We testified before the appropriate Assembly and Senate committees.  We wrote Op-Ed’s.  We accepted modifications to the legislation to address issues that were raised, and we were very appreciative when Governor Chris Christie, with the strong support of Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, signed the bill on August 16, 2016.  New Jersey was one of the first states to enact strong comprehensive BDS legislation and we are very proud of the effort and the result.  We appreciate all those who stood with us on the BDS issue, especially the legislators and the sponsors of the legislation, and we applaud their courage, but also note that this is what is, and should be expected, of all decent, fair-minding individuals.

 In New Jersey, I and many other members of the Jewish community as well as innumerable Jewish organizations and institutions, have worked extremely closely with Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno over the past (almost) eight years on a wide range of matters and issues of concern to all members of the Jewish community.  From the fight against BDS to security (and security funding) for Jewish community buildings and institutions, to the fight against anti-semitism, to expanding the trade and economic relationship between the state of Israel and the state of New Jersey and the exploration of creative collaboration between Israeli and New Jersey universities, to helping to address the economic issues facing New Jersey Jewish communities, to the strong support for school choice and busing for students in religious schools and finally, but very importantly, the funding of grants and aid to Holocaust survivors, Kim Guadagno has been there wholeheartedly and unreservedly for the New Jersey Jewish community.  

 

Everyone, including politicians, is entitled to their view and position on any matter including legislation before the State of New Jersey.  But, if you are a politician or an elected official, the record matters.  

 

The candidate for lieutenant governor in New Jersey on the democratic side, the one individual on the other side’s election ticket with elected service and a New Jersey record to be examined is former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.  Assemblywoman Oliver was one of only three votes (in the 80 member General Assembly) against the New Jersey anti-BDS legislation, which also overwhelmingly passed the state Senate (with no opposition), and was enthusiastically and publicly signed by the Governor.

 

Lest you think the lieutenant governor’s position is an irrelevancy and the views of the lieutenant governor unimportant, I note that the republican candidate for Governor, Kim Guadagno, is the first (elected) lieutenant governor in our State’s history.  The reason for the creation of the lieutenant governor’s position was simple. Three of New Jersey’s recent governors either resigned while in office or became physically incapacitated while in office, leaving the arguably most powerfully governor’s office in the country in each instance in the hands of the state Senate president. 

 

So the ascendancy of a lieutenant governor to the top position is not so far-fetched.  In fact, in many other states, lieutenant governors, often succeed their bosses, either as a result of resignations during a term, or as an elected successor.  As such, the positions and views of candidates for lieutenant governor are important.  In fact, one of the current democratic candidates for governor in Illinois, progressive state Senator Daniel Bliss,  recently parted ways  with (i.e, dropped from the ticket)  his original selected lieutenant governor candidate, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, over their differences on the BDS issue.

 

Thus, this election matters, and, if you are a New Jersey voter, your views on BDS and your vote matters. 

 

Mark Levenson has been a jewish community activist and a strong advocate for Israel for over 35 years. The views expressed herein are solely those of Mark Levenson, in his individual capacity, and do not reflect the views or opinions of any organization or entity with which he is currently or formerly been associated with.