I struggle to understand why Israel is being demonized to the extent that academics in the so-called enlightened and educated world are boycotting us. It is a selective boycott, to be sure. But the BDS declarations are so filled with hate and lies that I am astounded that the boycott promoters are not in the minority with the majority setting them straight on history and current events.
My reflections brought me back to consider an experience I had in Europe about 40 years ago. Let us call this story, A Tale of Two Poles:
At 18, I hitchhiked alone through Europe during my summer break after my first year at Carleton University. I was naive and unfamiliar with the ways of the world. Being Jewish was at that time just an aspect of my being, nothing that I took to be too big a thing. I was beginning to notice, however, that others made a big deal about it. I will tell you here of only one instance (well, actually two instances that are two sides of the same coin and, therefore, form a singular event in my mind).
Sleeping in parks along with other hippies travelling at under $5-a-day, I fell ill in Austria. I made my way to a convent-hostel where they allowed me to stay in bed throughout the day even though hostellers were supposed to leave by 9 am and only return in the afternoon. The nuns brought cups of tea to me and the other young woman sharing the sick room with me.
When we began to feel a bit better, we began to talk. She was from Poland, a university student like me, and I told her I was from Canada. Suddenly, I have no idea why, because I have on me no signs of being Jewish nor did I tell her I was, she began to talk about how the Jews ruined Poland with their money hungry ways and it was a good thing that Poland got rid of all her Jews.
She was talking about me. Both sides of my family were from Poland, some having made it to Canada just before or after the war and others perishing in it. She kept going on and on, the venom she spewed getting more and more vicious. Finally I told her I was a Jew and that was the end of any conversation – thankfully!
Sometime later, I was sitting on the bank of some stream, still in Austria. Another young woman came to sit with me and I soon found out she was from Poland, also a university student. I was ready to get up and find myself another spot alone but we had a pleasant conversation and somehow the question of the war came up. She lamented on how the biggest problem facing Poland today is that the Jewish population is no longer there. Not knowing I am Jewish, she shared how she understood that the Jews contributed to the economy and development of Poland and the antisemitism had destroyed all that was good in Poland, present and future. Then I told her I am a Jew and my family ran from Poland to Canada. She apologized on behalf of her nation and told me she is sorry that more Poles don’t see things as she does.
Two sides of the same coin – two Poles apart: both looking at the same thing and seeing it in a diametrically opposed manner.
Some Israelis suggest boycotting the world and refusing to continue to provide our advancements in medicine and technology, for example, believing that people would recognize the positive impact we have on world development and would change heart. Perhaps all Israelis and pro-Zionist Jews should get on an ark and float off to Mars. However, that would be equivalent to Poland having been emptied of its Jews. And probably most would blame us anyway for the sorry state the world is in; only a few would lament our departure.