Words Count

Jewish Light Editorial

Fifty Black Lives Matter movement groups have just committed a genocide on the English language.

See what we did there? We casually used a highly charged and extremely serious word — “genocide” — to describe a gross rhetorical inaccuracy.

Yet that is exactly what those same groups did in their recent statement supporting the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — what we’ve in these pages long referred to as the DLI, or De(L)egitimize Israel movement.

The statement, which has been eschewed by a number of Jewish groups in a number of ways (see related story on page 1), reads in part as follows:

“The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.” 

This use of the word “genocide” is not simply an excusable exaggeration. It is a consistent use by certain groups opposed to Israel that is intended to rally support to their cause.

It is, of course, tantamount to the notion of the Big Lie. As Joseph Goebbels put it so bluntly, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

And what a Big Lie this is. 

Most estimates put the worldwide Palestinian population at a bit under 12 million, and the Gaza/West Bank population at about 4.4 million. 

How many Palestinians have died in conflict with Israel in recent years? Well, let’s choose statistics presented by a group favorably disposed toward the Palestinian cause; B’Tselem, the self-proclaimed “Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.”

According to B’Tselem, there were roughly 4,800 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces from September 2000 until Operation Cast Lead, 1,400 in Cast Lead, and another 3,000 from that point on (including Operation Protective Edge).

Put aside for a moment that any deaths in combat are terrible and that during the same time, many Israelis were killed, and many Palestinians by other Palestinians. Let’s just focus on the numbers.

By the reckoning of a group that is highly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, there were approximately 9,200 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during this 16-year period.

That equates to less than one-hundredth of one percent of the world Palestinian population. 

Never mind what you think about the Palestinian cause. Never mind what you think about social justice. Never mind what you think about settlements, or territories, or one- or two-state solutions.

These numbers demonstrate one thing, for the sake of this analysis: Namely, that 50 Black Lives Matter organizations have either intentionally appropriated the “genocide” label, or have been negligently duped into using it.

While the loss of any life is tragic, these numbers do not remotely rise to the level of genocide, and to equate them with genocide is factually wrong and insulting to those groups that truly have suffered from near total genocide.

Is this important? Of course it is. Because it shows a couple very critical things. 

First, that the facts on the ground aren’t enough for those attacking Israel; militant opponents of the nation feel they must subvert the truth to amplify their cause.

Second, this comparison of the Israel-Palestinian situation to the Holocaust is a vulgar, offensive moral comparison that attempts to create a moral equivalency that simply doesn’t exist. And by doing so, it points inappropriate and highly anti-Semitic ammunition not only toward Israel, but toward Jews in general.

Anyone who reads these pages with regularity knows that on the one hand, we find the BDS/DLI movement to be rife with funding sources and management that seethe against Jews. On the other hand, we have been critical of Israeli leaders regarding various aspects of their relationships with the Palestinian people.

We attempt to look at each individual piece of evidence before us and make a rational judgment about issues. Sometimes we end up on one side, sometimes on another; sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. 

But what we try not to do — and what we hold the organizations who participated in this terribly divisive statement accountable for — is use callous, insensitive and terribly hyperbolic language to achieve political aims. That, in a word, comprises propaganda.

We absolutely value the goals of transforming America into a society with no racism and no discrimination toward groups that have been subject to tremendous injustice and inequity. The good works of some of the groups associated with the statement should be respected and recognized. But when the message becomes divisive — and when those who claim persecution are willing to so cavalierly demonstrate prejudice toward those who themselves have been the victims of hatred and persecution — we question their commitment to true social justice.