Elan Carr, the world's anti-Semitism czar?

Elan Carr, United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, at press briefing on April 11, 2019. Screenshot.

Elan Carr, United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, at press briefing on April 11, 2019. Screenshot.

The Trump administration has recently sworn in a new envoy to patrol not the US, but the world, to track down and snuff out anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism is disgusting and should be snuffed out, but that doesn’t seem to be Elon Carr’s actual priority. He’s more about Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS).

BDS is a nonviolent movement, begun by Palestinians in 2007, calling for worldwide action in order to achieve justice.

It aims to pressure Israel to end its illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights; grant Palestinian citizens of Israel full equality; recognize Palestinian refugees’ right of return as per UN Resolution 194.

But Elan Carr disregards the purpose of BDS and focuses instead on the (intended) negative effect the movement has on Israel. Because Israel is self-described as the Jewish State, he jumps to conclusions:

“An individual has a right to buy or not buy what they please. However, if there is an organized movement to economically strangle the state of Israel, that is anti-Semitic. “The idea that somehow there can be movements organized…not to allow Israel to participate in economic commerce in the world…that is [anti-Semitic].”

(Actually, the organized movement duplicates the boycott campaign that ended apartheid in South Africa. At no point was that considered anti-White South African – only anti-injustice.)

“Two communities that are living side by side, and one refuses to buy from Jews and one wants to buy from non-Jews, I think that’s very clear what that is.”

(Actually, this description is misleading, and Carr knows it. Of the two communities living side by side, one is illegal under international law – and that’s why it is being boycotted. BDS is not a preference for one ethnic group over another, but a rejection of the perpetration of oppression.)

Carr considers BDS a formidable enemy:

“This isn’t a ragtag group. There are international organizations; there are websites; it’s organized. And the stated goals are clear. And the stated goals on the website of the BDS movement is to deny the state of Israel economic prosperity and to deny it legitimacy. That is anti-Semitism.”

(Actually, BDS is committed to denying Israel economic prosperity only until it abides by human rights standards and international law. As for legitimacy, that’s in Israel’s hands alone: it has de-legitimized itself, and can reverse direction.)

Carr described BDS as “dedicated to strangling the Jewish state out of existence.”

(Actually, BDS exists to stop the strangling of Palestinians out of existence. Israel, one of the world’s most powerful nations, will not be forced out of existence by this nonviolent movement.)

According to the Washington Post, Carr will work to make Jewish communities around the world feel more secure, but “his rallying cry would be that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic.”

“We are going to focus relentlessly on eradicating this false distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism,” he said.

(Actually, the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is very real. Zionism – the belief in a Jewish state in historic Palestine – is not universally accepted by Jews; Israel is not the embodiment of Jewish people everywhere. Ask them.)

Finally, Carr stated, “Hatred of the Jewish state is hatred of the Jewish people.”

(Actually, no it’s not. It is not hard to distinguish between human beings and states. It is possible to hate policies without hating a state or people; it is also possible to disapprove of the actions of a state without hatred toward anyone.)

Elon Carr seems to be obsessed with BDS – but his fury is misdirected. The BDS movement exists only to pressure Israel to comply with international law: to end the illegal occupation and blockade of Palestinian territories, to fulfill the UN mandate to allow Palestinian refugees to return home, to end its practices of unlawful collective punishment, child incarceration, torture, land theft, and restrictions on movement, religion, speech, and dignity.

In its own words, “BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.”

If Carr wants Israel to be freed from the economic binds of the BDS movement, he needs to join the movement – he needs to add his voice in criticizing Israel’s illegal, oppressive policies. BDS will disappear when those policies disappear.

All American Jews should do likewise. Anyone who advocates for Israel, or for justice (or both) should support BDS. It’s good for Palestinians and for Israel.