While walking through Yad Vashem, amongst the overwhelming and moving details of the comprehensive exhibit dedicated to Holocaust martyrs and heroes, a particular caption to a photo caught my eye. In it was the word “boycott.” 


We all know about the book burning.  We’ve seen news footage of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. Because they both possess the power of visual film footage, it’s rerun in our head on a loop and seared into our mind.  So too the printed Nazi propaganda, with its exaggerated stereotypes immediately call to mind the repulsive imagery on the pages of Der Sturmer


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But while it’s not as photographically arresting, on April 1st 1933, soon after the Nazis won a majority in the German parliament, they instituted a boycott of Jewish retailers, stores and businesses by menacingly standing outside of them.  Any customers approaching would be met with signs that read, “Don’t Buy from Jews.”


When I saw it, I was immediately transported to the current BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) that today targets Israel and companies that do business with Israel, as if it were the Jew among nations to be vilified and singled out. 


The BDS movement against Israel has existed now for six years. Through tactics lifted right out of the history books of Nazi Germany, it has managed to close the Ahava store in London after scaring away its customers.  In fact, the owner of the property, Shaftesbury, will not offer Ahava a new lease, due to the protesting. 


The similarity is all too close.  Standing there and looking at that word, peering into the past, BDS was there too in that caption at Yad Vashem.


No different than the Nazi propaganda machine and its use of ‘The Big Lie’ that was able to tap into an already existing anti-Semitic attitude, BDS provides twisted facts to a cause with a false rationale, but turns it into a slanted, Bizarro version of politically correct righteous indignation.


It’s no wonder then that the design of Yad Vashem, which forces a walker through a timeline of events, zigging and zagging in a prism-like structure and a maze, it embodies the tumultuous journey Jews faced as the world turned lopsided for them. 


Standing at that mark of April 1st 1933 when boycotting was the foremost threat and early in the exhibit (only two months after Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor and at a point when propaganda was the key tool being used to rally Germans), one still has a long way to spiral down.  But through the twisted corridor you can see what was to come. 

Two words BDS—Never Again.


Abe Novick can be reached at abenovick.com.  He writes from Israel this week.

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