Singling out Jewish businesses in the name of Palestine  – J-Wire


August 25, 2022 by Bren Carlill

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In 1930s Germany, lists of Jewish businesses were made, and ‘good Germans’ were encouraged to boycott them.

Bren Carlill

The Jews were accused of participating in a global conspiracy against Germany and of aiding socialism. Threats of violence – and then actual violence – against these shops and their owners soon followed.

The murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust is widely known. However, few people outside Jewish communities seem aware that the Holocaust wasn’t an aberration. Rather, it was the culmination of centuries of hate and the acquiescence of the majority to the radical few who singled out Jews and encouraged violence against them, whether for reasons of religion, racial purity or protection from global conspiracies.

My point? Jewish businesses are once again being listed, and people are being encouraged to take action against them.

Starting with Boston, such lists have popped up in a few places internationally in recent months. This month, it was Australia’s turn, in the form of Jewish-owned Melbourne restaurants selling Israeli food.

‘What you do with this information is up to you. Be bold comrades’, is the instruction on the list. The list first appeared on the Twitter account of local wannabe cultural critic Muhib Nabulsi, but it was eagerly retweeted – and added to – by the Palestine activist echo chamber.

Nabulsi prefaced his list by explaining how Zionism is a global conspiracy, with nodes everywhere, and that the businesses on his list were a ‘crucial component of Israel’s global genocide campaign’.

Nabulsi is a fan of the BDS Movement. BDS activists like to claim that BDS is a non-violent movement supporting Palestinian peace. But its leaders have made clear that their objective is not Palestine alongside Israel, but Palestine instead of Israel, an objective shared by outlawed terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Targeting Jewish businesses outside of Israel was always going to be the logical next step of the BDS movement. Listing these businesses, along with implied encouragement for violence against them, is a reversion to the dangerous antisemitism of previous centuries.

Indeed, Nabulsi wants us to believe that what should concern us is not the lack of Palestinian statehood but that Israel threatens everyone with ‘global genocide’. His logic is clear; local Jews are a threat to us all, so local Jews need to cop it. This script has played out hundreds of times throughout history. And it always ends badly for the Jews.

At its heart, BDS has always been an antisemitic movement. With this list, Nabulsi has exposed BDS for what it is.

The irony is, BDS helps prove the need for Israel’s existence. The Jewish people and religion come from the land of Israel. They were ethnically cleansed and dispersed to the four corners of the world but never forgot their homeland. It was only in the 19th century – as international travel became easier and the concept of national self-determination began developing, that the modern movement, which came to be called Zionism was born.

It was the yearning for a homeland, not antisemitism, that created Zionism. But the increasing violence against Jews in the 19th and early 20th centuries certainly made it more popular.

Modern antisemitism – these days wrapped in the language of ‘anti-Zionism’ – is much the same as its previous iterations; Jews are rhetorically and physically threatened because of events they have nothing to do with (and which are usually made up).

While the security situation for Jewish populations in most Western countries is the best it has ever been, it’s also true that violent antisemitism is rapidly increasing throughout the Western world. The constant – and they are constant – threats against Jews make return to homeland a valid option for many.

It is ironic that while BDS activists want to ethnically cleanse Zion of its Jews by targeting Melbourne felafel shops, they are making an increase of the Jewish population in Israel more likely.

Twitter removed some of the more egregious of Nabulsi’s claims (which, given the extremist filth it usually allows on its platform, is really saying something), but it left his list of Jewish businesses and his implied encouragement of violence.

We don’t need to get too far ahead of ourselves, of course. An ignorant supporter of an antisemitic movement posting a list of Jewish-owned businesses for people to vandalise doesn’t make Melbourne 1930s Berlin. It’s not the existence of the list that should worry us – after all, racists exist everywhere. The real problem is the acquiescence of the majority, who respond to such expressions of racism with silence.

This acquiescence has real-world ramifications. Consider this: with a handful of exceptions, it is only Jews that are pushing back against things like the listing of Jewish businesses. It is mostly only Jews that are pushing back against the increasingly hard-line and blatantly false anti-Israel rhetoric from sectors in civil society – such that Zionism is racist, that Israel practices apartheid, that Jews don’t have cultural links to the land.

Because of the lack of wider public disquiet, Palestine activists and their fellow travellers are ever more encouraged to further ramp up their rhetoric. In doing so, they purposefully preclude nuanced conversation about the best way to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian dispute. Further, they are also increasingly intolerant of people remotely sympathetic to Israel – which, of course, is most Jews.

On campus, student unions are passing motions that position Zionists (that is, anyone who thinks Israel should continue existing) as morally beyond the pale. Given these student unions represent the entire student body, and almost every Jew in Australia is sympathetic to Israel’s existence, Jewish students are feeling the squeeze.

Listing Jewish businesses might have been the logical next step for the BDS movement, but it’s not the logical endpoint; violence against Jews is. (Hence the catch cry among Palestine activists to ‘globalise the intifada!’)

Encouraging violence against businesses owned by an ethnic minority because of events on the other side of the planet over which they have no control is racism, pure and simple. But if the wider community tolerates this racism with silence, the thugs will interpret acquiescence as acceptance, and take the next step into violence. It is up to us all to stop this.


Dr Bren Carlill is the director of public affairs at the Zionist Federation of Australia

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