June 21, 2022
A new website that claims to show the ties between various Massachusetts institutions and “support for the colonization of Palestine” has raised alarms over its dangerous targeting of the Jewish community.
The map, published earlier this month by anonymous supporters of the BDS movement, is being promoted by anti-Israel groups such as Boston BDS and the left-wing nonprofit Massachusetts Peace Action. It claims to illustrate organizations and institutions in Massachusetts that they say are responsible for harm against Palestinians.
Using a series of dots and lines in different colors, it not only connects pro-Israel groups but other Jewish institutions, including a high school, a center for people with disabilities, student groups, synagogues, newspapers, Jewish-run charities, and even a center for Jewish arts.
However, the graphic is not only limited to Jewish institutions, but also private corporations, politicians, police departments, finance groups, universities, and health care companies.
The Mapping Project has been denounced by elected officials and community leaders from across the political and denominational spectrum as antisemitic. The FBI has also announced that it is aware of the website and looking to identify additional information on it.
Here are five reasons why the Mapping Project is not only a dangerous threat for Jews, but also for everyone else.
- Rising Levels of U.S. Violence
The publication of the Mapping Project comes at a time when Americans are facing dangers from rising gun violence and mass shootings. This is especially true for historically persecuted groups such as the Jewish community and other minorities. Both the attackers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA in October 2018 and the May 2022 mass shooting at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York that targeted Black people, were motivated by antisemitism.
Today many Jewish institutions have increasingly become targets and have invested heavily in increasing security and awareness. Synagogues have become fortified, and Jewish schools have armed protection. According to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2020 report, 56% of Jewish institutions have increased security since the Tree of Life synagogue shooting.
Robert Leikind, Director of AJC New England, said that the Jewish community is feeling unsettled by this map.
“Whatever the intention of the people who wrote this. It is self-evident that the language can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Someone could see that as a license to carry out violence.”
“This brings home the idea that the world is becoming a more dangerous environment for Jews.”
- Repackaging of Classic Antisemitic Tropes
The stated aim of the BDS groups behind the Mapping Project is to “develop a deeper understanding of local institutional support for the colonization of Palestine.” They go on to claim that by highlighting these institutions they can expose how “oppressors share tactics and institutions” and “that our liberation struggles are connected.”
According to AJC, “BDS markets itself as a non-violent movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel to get it to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders.” However, while some may sincerely want peace and support human rights “BDS leadership in fact seeks nothing less than the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.”
AJC’s 2021 State of Antisemitism in America report also found that large majorities of both American Jews and the general public said that the BDS movement has at least some antisemitic elements, with 82% of American Jews saying it either is mostly antisemitic or has antisemitic supporters and 66% of the general public saying the same.
Indeed, Jews are being increasingly targeted over their association with Israel. In May 2021, Jewish patrons were attacked at a Los Angeles restaurant by a pro-Palestinian caravan upset over the war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
With the Mapping Project, Jewish institutions were not only targeted for their support for Israel, the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s only pluralistic democracy, but also using classic antisemitic tropes blaming Jews for all the evils of society, or in this case targeting Jewish institutions over their purported ties to Israel and questioning their loyalty.
“Antisemitism involves the suspicions that Jews are nefarious and a dangerous group of people who mean to do harm, and that’s exactly what this Mapping Project does,” Leikind said. However, this was not only limited to Jews, many non-Jewish businesses, institutions, and even schools were targeted over their affiliations to Jews or Israel.
“This is an assumption that if you associate with a Jewish organization or if you are engaged in any way with the State of Israel, that means by definition you are an oppressor,” Leikind said. “I think that this generalization is a clear articulation of what antisemitism looks like.”
- Ideological Attack on Western Values
Another stated aim of the Mapping Project is to connect the struggles of the Palestinians to “systemic white supremacy” and also to “U.S. imperialist projects” around the world.
According to Leikind, it shows that the BDS movement is not just an attack on Israel, but part of a larger ideological attack on the United States and the West.
“This goes to show that BDS is actually a part of a larger ideological movement that sees the West and America as part of an evil movement, indicating a strong hatred of America and Israel. Israel becomes the focal point, the avatar of all that is all wrong in the world,” he said.
However, by singling out Israel, groups like this ignore other human rights atrocities around the world.
“In the minds of the BDS community, the only threat is the U.S. and Israel. This reflects the post-colonial neo-Marxist ideas that surge through this movement. What this mapping project did was demonstrate just how radical this movement is and how hostile it is to the U.S. and Israel.”
- Antisemitism Isn’t Just a Jewish Problem
Since the end of World War II, thanks in part to Jewish advocacy against Jewish quotas in education and employment, Jewish Americans saw remarkable integration and acceptance into wider society. All walks of Jewish life flourished and it has seen Jews rising into top positions in the academic, business, and political world. However, the rise in antisemitism over the last decade or so has become a wake-up call for American Jews and the possible end of the “Golden Era” of American Jewry.
From being targeted on college campuses, harassed in the streets or on social media, and even attacked in their places of worship, American Jews are no longer able to avoid manifestations of antisemitism.
Dating back thousands of years, Jews are often blamed for a variety of societal ills and issues. Antisemitic conspiracies comprise a set of themes, several of which can harm other communities, these include deception, global dominance, dual loyalty, betrayal, supernatural evil, and replacement of those in power with Jews and other immigrants and minorities. Many minority communities today are treated as others, and are blamed for society's woes; the model for how to scapegoat stems from antisemitism. Learn more in AJC’s Translate Hate glossary of antisemitic terms, tropes, and themes.
In the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, antisemitism was not just a Jewish problem. Other groups can be targeted by people corrupted with antisemitic ideas. In the case of Buffalo, the shooter cited the antisemitic Great Replacement Theory as a motivating factor. The theory also inspired the shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas in 2019 targeting immigrants, and in Christchurch, New Zealand Mosque shootings in 2019 as well.
- Anti-Zionism is Often a Mask for Antisemitism
Antisemitism comes in many different shapes and forms, and it is not always easily identifiable. Often, antisemites will use criticism of Israel to cloak their antisemitic views.
“This Mapping Project underscores the fact that the critique of Israel, which in a normative environment would be part of an ordinary discourse, has increasingly become cover for the expression of antisemitism,” Leikind said.
Leikind believes that it is necessary for friends and people of the Jewish community to return to being activists.
“It is important to re-engage with the democratic process. Get to know elected officials and let them know what we care about. AJC has put a lot of effort into expanding the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism,” he said. “People should take it to their local elected officials and encourage them to adopt it.”
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued a proclamation endorsing the IHRA Working Definition in February 2022, which among other things, says denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination or holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel can be examples of antisemitism. The Definition helps to identify the types of anti-Jewish discrimination found in instances like the Mapping Project.
“The Jewish community and its allies need to be engaged and an active voice,” Leikind said. “When the Mapping Project was released, we sent a letter to many of our elected leaders urging them to condemn it. Many have done so. They should be thanked. Others have not yet stepped up. We hope they will.”
If you live in Massachusetts, join AJC New England in this critical advocacy. Click here to send a thank you to those who have spoken out, or to urge those who haven’t yet to do so.