This was taken here in Bethesda this afternoon.
Before we get into debates with the usual throw away lines: "anytime anybody criticizes Israel, you people shout 'antisemitism!'" Let's make something clear: supporting BDS *might,* in some cases, reflect an antipathy to Jews. Criticism of Israel certainly not the same thing as antisemitism, but antisemitism often lurks where there is criticism of Israel. It is foolish to deny it.
I criticize Israel all the time and nobody calls me an antisemite. There are non Jewish supporters of Israel who are critical of government policies and nobody calls them antisemites. And there are critics of Israel who are antisemites.
In the case of the Westmoreland United Church of Christ, might we suspect that there is actual antisemitism and that this is not simply political advocacy free of ethno-religious prejudice?
There are ways to find out.
Last year I emailed and telephoned the church to discuss the activities of their Middle East Committee. I received no response. I emailed a second time. No answer. Not a good sign, but neither is it proof of prejudice. It is hardly polite not to respond to the inquires of a locally based rabbi. Maybe they just aren't organized?
I complained to a friend who is a leader in the UCC about this. He replied that the Westmoreland church, which he knows well, has a circle of people who are not just critical of Israel but are quite antisemitic. (He used the word "antisemitic," I didn't.) He is sophisticated enough to know the difference between anti-Judaism, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
The UCC has a history regarding Israel which isn't the most friendly, but, to their credit, they adopted a position in the 1980s affirming the validity of Judaism as a way to redemption, parallel to Christianity, and strongly denouncing antisemitism and antiJudaism.
But while the denomination has distanced itself from anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, doesn't mean that all of its churches and members are free of the prejudice.
You can draw your own conclusions. I have drawn mine.
This is America. There is freedom of speech here. They are entitled to be anti-Israel and, if they so choose, they are also entitled to be antisemitic. But, if so, I do wish they admitted it.