Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, just released its annual report, titled “Freedom in the World 2015,” on political rights and civil liberties in 195 countries around the globe. The results are in and they are dire.
“More aggressive tactics by authoritarian regimes and an upsurge in terrorist attacks contributed to a disturbing decline in global freedom in 2014.”
Over the last nine years there has been a march toward repression, with 36 percent of the world not considered free, based on the data collected on global rights and civil liberties. The predominance of this oppression resides in the Middle East and North Africa. I feel compelled to mention, as we consider civil liberties, that 27 million people in the world today are slaves.
With that backdrop, I want to draw attention to the rise of anti-Semitism all over the world, and the ugliness and violence surrounding it. Here in the Bay Area, we are combating anti-Semitism in a variety of guises, but the one that gets the most traction at this time is the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions).
What I find remarkable is that if you have an agenda, facts are the enemy of truth. In this case, BDS’ agenda is disguised — the end goal is the elimination of the State of Israel — and its underlying ideology is hidden, often mixing vitriolic rhetoric against Israel with anti-Semitic imagery and stereotypes.
Why do the leading activists of the movement focus their ire on the only real democracy in the Middle East, other than because of obsessive hatred? Why are some well-meaning people who care about peace and are frustrated by the status quo drawn into a movement that harbors such antagonism toward Israel and Jews?
Although the situation is not perfect, I feel very comfortable in stating that civil and political rights in Israel fare much better than in Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Nigeria, and I could name countless other examples. Yet Israel is the only country to be vilified with a concerted, well-organized campaign across the globe.
While there are those who call for “massive immigration to Israel,” we should also raise our voices against massive discrimination, BDS and the fear for our security worldwide. This is not the time to run, but to stand up and fight against blind hatred. As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated in his recent address to the French
parliament, “if the Jews leave, France is no longer France.”
If one group anywhere can be singled out and made to feel so marginalized that they flee for their lives, the stage is set for another group to be next in line. This is not only about the Jews; it is about minorities everywhere. Israel is the Jewish homeland for those who choose to make it home, not a land to which they should be forced to flee. Israel is a homeland we are proud of. In 67 short years its world contributions include remarkable medical advancements, indispensible technology and the work of one of the highest numbers of Nobel prizewinners per capita.
I am proud of the tremendous social and educational initiatives and grateful for the billions of dollars contributed by generous donors globally to ensure Israel’s continued improvement in the realms of racial, social and economic equality; education and political advancements; and other important values that make for a successful society. These funds are often targeted for improving the lives of Jewish immigrants, Israeli Arabs, ethnic minorities and other impoverished members of Israeli society. It is an aspirational country, one that seeks to improve the lot of its people and contribute to the betterment of the world.
Let’s name BDS for what it is: anti-Semitism in its purest form and the distortion of truth. Instead let’s fight for the freedom and democracy for the people who live under tyranny and fear caused by their own governments across the globe.
Rosalind Franklin is principal of Rosalind Franklin Group, providing life and executive coaching for clients, and is president of the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council.