Our duty as journalists to objectively report all sides of the story took reporter Justin Silberman and staff photographer David Stuck to a protest outside of Sen. Ben Cardin’s Baltimore office last week. Those there were protesting the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would prohibit companies from supporting government boycotts of Israel, an act the ACLU recently criticized.
As you’ll read in Justin’s cover story this week, there were Jews among those protesting; Jews concerned about the treatment of Palestinian people. On the other side, those supporting the bill argue that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic, committed to destroying Israel and must be stopped. As with a large number of issues on Israel these days, this is one that clearly divides the American Jewish community.
One could argue that at least some people on both sides want the same thing — a better, safer, stronger Israel. While BDS has certainly been hijacked by anti-Semites in some cases, there are Jews who have taken up the cause as their outlet to express their support for a people they see as marginalized, support that is central to their Jewish identity.
It’s hard to argue that any country is perfect, the U.S. and Israel being no exceptions. What’s most important is to understand these issues holistically and push for Jewish people to work together on finding solutions that help Israel and contribute to the stability of the Middle East.
Jewish people are diverse in thought, practice and culture and in how we express our alliance and support of Israel. A beautiful thing about Judaism is how issues are thoroughly investigated and understood from a multifaceted approach. This is yet another example of a complicated issue we have to look at from many angles.
If we can peel away the rhetoric, acknowledge and address the anti-Semitism without letting it distract from other issues — and get to the core of people wanting Israel to be the best it can be — we can achieve a lot in these conversations and perhaps even unite a divided Jewish people. Cardin recognizes that, as he was planning to meet with the group that organized last week’s protest today, at which time he’ll undoubtedly explain, among other things, that he is not criminalizing individuals for supporting BDS.
This is a problem we likely won’t be able to legislate or protest our way out of. Working together for the betterment of the Jewish people, the Palestinian people, Israel and the Middle East needs to be a group effort.