On Anti-Semitism, Boycotts, and the Case of Hermann Dierkes:

We are peace activists of Jewish background. Some of us typically identify in this way; others of us do not. But we all object to those who claim to speak for all Jews or who use charges of anti-Semitism to attempt to squelch legitimate dissent.


We have learned with dismay the allegations regarding Hermann Dierkes, a trade unionist and leader of the Left Party (DIE LINKE) in the German city of Duisburg. Dierkes, in response to the recent Israeli assault on Gaza expressed the view that one way people could help Palestinians obtain justice would be to support the call of the World Social Forum to boycott Israeli goods, so as to put pressure on the Israeli government.


Dierkes has been subjected to widespread and vitriolic denunciations for anti-Semitism, and accused of calling for a repeat of the Nazi policy of the 1930s of boycotting Jewish products. Dierkes responded that "The demands of the World Social Forum have nothing in common with Nazi-type racist campaigns against Jews, but aim at changing the Israeli government’s policy of oppression of the Palestinians."


No one has made any claims of anti-Semitism against Dierkes for anything other than his support of the boycott. Yet he has been accused of "pure anti-Semitism" (Dieter Graumann the Vice-President of the Central Jewish Council), of uttering words comparable to "a mass execution at the edge of a Ukrainian forest" (Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung editorialist Achim Beer), and of expressing "Nazi propaganda" (Hendrik Wuest, General Secretary of the Christian Democratic Party).


We signatories have differing views on the wisdom and efficacy of calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. Some of us believe that such a boycott is an essential component of a  campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions that can end the four-decade-long Israeli occupation; others think the better way to pressure the Israeli government is with a more selective boycott focused on institutions and corporations supporting the occupation. But all of us agree that it is essential to apply pressure against the Israeli government if peace and justice are to prevail in the Middle East and all of us agree that a call for a boycott of Israel has nothing in common with the Nazi policy of "Don’t buy from Jews." It is no more anti-Semitic to boycott Israel to end the occupation than it was anti-white to boycott South Africa to end apartheid. Social justice movements have often called for boycotts or divestment, whether against the military regime in Burma or the government of Sudan. Wise or not, such calls are in no way discriminatory.


Violence in the Middle East has indeed led to some acts of anti-Semitism in Europe. There was a call to boycott Jewish-owned stores in Rome that was widely and appropriately condemned. We deplore such bigotry. Israel‘s crimes cannot be attributed to Jews as a whole. But, at the same time, a boycott of Israel cannot be equated with a boycott of Jews as a whole.


An acute and disturbing form of racism rising in Europe today is Islamophobia and xenophobia directed at immigrants from Muslim countries. Dierkes has been a champion in defense of the rights of immigrants, while some of those who accuse all critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic often participate themselves — like the Israeli government and state — in such forms of racism.


The Holocaust was one of the most horrific events in modern history. It is a dishonor to its victims to use its memory as a bludgeon to silence principled critics of Israel‘s unconscionable treatment of Palestinians.



[We have spent just a week gathering names on this letter, circulating it only in a few countries. We apologize to all those who would have liked to sign, but didn’t get a chance or whose names arrived too late for inclusion. Peace activists of Jewish background can still sign on here (though those names are not automatically added here). For information on how you can help support this effort, please contact Dierkes.Letter@gmail.com.]





(organizations listed for identification purposes only)




Marc ABRAMOWICZ, Psychothérapeute

Mateo ALALUF, Professeur, Université libre de Bruxelles

Joëlle BAUMERDER, Directrice institution culturelle

Marianne BLUME, Professeur

Jacques BUDE, Professeur émérite, Université libre de Bruxelles

Willy ESTERSOHN, Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique


Thérèse FRANKFORT, Professeur

Victor GINSBURGH, Professeur émérite, Université libre de Bruxelles

Tom GOLDSCHMIDT, Journaliste

Martine GOLDSTEIN, Psychologue, Université libre de Bruxelles

Henri GOLDMAN, Auteur

José GOTOVITCH, Professeur retraité

Anne HERSCOVICI, Sociologue

Miaden HERZL

Henri HURWITZ, Professeur émérite, Université libre de Bruxelles

Paul JACOBS, Professeur, Université libre de Bruxelles

Willy KALB

Daniel LIEBMAN, Romaniste

Léon LIEBMAN, Magistrat honoraire

Nicole MAYER, Professeur émérite, Université libre de Bruxelles

Henri ROANNE-ROZENBLATT, Journaliste

Dominique RODRIGUEZ, Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique

Edith RUBINSTEIN, Femme en noir

Serge SIMON, Ecrivain et Union des progressistes juifs de Belgique

Michel STASZEWSKI, Professeur


Elie VAMOS, Médecin

Esther VAMOS, Professeur émerite, Université libre de Bruxelles


Jean VOGEL, Professeur, Université libre de Bruxelles

Laurent VOGEL, Professeur, Université libre de Bruxelles

Henri WAJNBLUM, Co-président de l’Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique




Elizabeth BLOCK, Not In Our Name: Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism, Women in Solidarity with Palestine, Independent Jewish Voices

Corey BALSAM, Student


Lawrence BOXALL, Jews for a Just Peace

Mark Robert BRILL

Anne-Marie BRUN

Smadar CARMON, Not In Our Name: Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism


Judith DEUTSCH, MSW, President, Science for Peace


Inge FLEISCHMANN FOWLIE, Independent Jewish Voices




Daniel FREEMAN-MALOY, Activist and writer

Sam GINDIN, York University

Rachel GUROFSKY, Trent University

Larry HAIVEN, Saint Mary’s University

Jean HANSON, Independent Jewish Voices

Jake JAVANSHIR, Not In Our Name: Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism

Mira KHAZZAM, Independent Jewish Voices


Naomi KLEIN, Author


Richard Borshay LEE, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

Abby LIPPMAN, Independent Jewish Voices

Henry LOWI

Elizabeth MOLCHANY, Esquire

Rabbi David MIVASAIR, Ahavat Olam Synagogue, Vancouver


Yakov M. RABKIN, Professeur titulaire, Département d’histoire, Université de Montréal

Diana RALPH, Independent Jewish Voices

R.S. RATNER, University of British Columbia

Herman ROSENFELD, Instructor, Labour Studies, McMaster University

Martha ROTH, United Jewish Voices-BC

Marty ROTH, United Jewish Voices-BC


Alan SEARS, Ryerson University

Edward SHAFFER, University of Alberta

Sid SHNIAD, Independent Jewish Voices

Greg STARR, Jews for a Just Peace



Suzanne WEISS, Not In Our Name: Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism




Houria ACKERMANN, Directrice de crèche

Nuri ALBALA, Avocat


Paul ALLIÈS, Professeur à l’Université de Montpellier

Arlette ALVARENGA, Consultante retraitée

Simon ASSOUN, Union Juive Française pour la Paix

Marc AYBES, Infographiste

Bernard BATT

Raphaël BÉNARROSH, Avocat retraité

Eliane BÉNARROSH, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples

Zvi BEN-DOR, Professor, New York University (Paris, France)

Daniel BENSAÏD, Professeur à l’Université Paris 8

Jean BRAFMAN, Conseiller régional d’Île-de-France

Kurt BRAININ, Médecin 


Kenneth BROWN, Mediterraneans/Méditerranéennes

Alice CHERKI, Psychiatre, psychanalyste, auteure

Élisabeth CHOPARD-LALLIER, Conceptrice d’édition

Sonia DAYAN-HERZBRUN, Professeur émérite à l’université Paris 7

Gilles DERHI, Pédopsychiatre, Union Juive Française pour la Paix

Sylvia EVRARD, Union Juive Française pour la Paix

Mireille FANON-MENDÈS-FRANCE, Union Juive Française pour la Paix

Patrick FELDSTEIN, Bureau national, Union Juive Française pour la Paix


Jean-Guy GREILSAMER, Président des Amis du Théâtre de la Liberté de Jénine




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