Placing a Target on American Jews

June 14, 2022

6 min read


The Mapping Project is animated by one of the most durable and deadly conspiracy theories in human history.

On Twitter a few days ago, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, seethed, as he often does, about the people he hates most.

“Zionists have always been a plague, even before establishing the fraudulent Zionist regime,” he wrote. It is not the state of Israel that Khamenei and his rabid Islamist followers regard as their ultimate enemy. It is “Zionists,” who have always been “a plague for the whole world.”

By “Zionists,” of course, Khamenei means Jews. The virulence of the Iranian regime has never been limited to Israel. That is why Iranian-sponsored terror attacks have been carried out against Jews and Jewish targets far from the Middle East, such as the horrific bombing of the Amia Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in which 85 people were murdered and more than 300 wounded. That is why Iran has been a leading promoter of Holocaust denial. That is why its “Jewish Studies Center” is a leading purveyor of antisemitic books, videos, and reports.

So it isn’t hard to guess what Khamenei would think of The Mapping Project, a new antisemitic endeavor in Massachusetts. The Mapping Project was unveiled last week by far-left extremists associated with BDS Boston. (BDS refers to the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions campaign to isolate and demonize the Jewish state.) It consists of an interactive map of Massachusetts on which are linked nearly 500 public and private entities of every description. Its creators call it “an organizing tool” for “fighting back against Zionism, US imperialism, and other interlocking systems of oppression.” They claim that the organizations it highlights represent the “local institutional support for the colonization of Palestine.”

In the age-old manner of antisemitic conspiracy-mongers, The Mapping Project purports to show that a sinister web ties the Bay State’s Jewish schools, synagogues, cultural groups, and charities to the politicians, media, police, and local governments they supposedly influence. It lists a dozen or so “harms” that are to be rectified through “liberation struggles,” with “Zionism” heading the list. Hatred of Israel pervades The Mapping Project — for example, it condemns “promoting tourism and travel to Israel; engaging in academic exchange programs with Israel; and hosting Israeli cultural events.” But it is equally obsessive in its hostile focus on organized Jewish communal life in Massachusetts.

The Mapping Project hopes to dismantle every organization with the word “Jewish” in its name.

“Our goal in pursuing this collective mapping was to reveal the local entities and networks that enact devastation, so we can dismantle them,” the project’s home page declares. Ponder that for a moment: so we can dismantle them. To facilitate that “dismantling,” it provides the street address of every organization it lists, and in many cases the names of key staff members.

Who and what does The Mapping Project hope to dismantle? For starters, every organization with the word “Jewish” in its name: The American Jewish Committee. Combined Jewish Philanthropies. The Harvard Center for Jewish Studies. The Jewish Arts Collaborative. The Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston. The Jewish Community Relations Council.

But that barely scratches the surface of what The Mapping Project has targeted for “dismantling.” In its crosshairs as well is the commonwealth’s synagogue council. A Jewish support group for the disabled. A Jewish day school. A Jewish newspaper. A media watchdog. The Israeli consulate-general in Boston. Numerous Jewish charities and volunteer associations. A pro-labor committee. A pro-business council. Human rights advocacy groups. Right-wing Jewish activist organizations. Left-wing Jewish activist organizations. In the world according to The Mapping Project, all these entities share in the collective guilt imparted by their Jewishness. “We hope,” the project’s creators told an interviewer, that others will use their map to “plan ways to disrupt these systems and one day dismantle them altogether.”

A Massachusetts map shows Jewish schools, community associations, charities, and volunteer organizations that a radical anti-Israel group accuses of causing "devastation" and wants to "dismantle."

A tremendous amount of work went into compiling The Mapping Project, which reflects antisemitic fanaticism of a high order. “Antisemites are many things, but they aren’t lazy,” wrote Yair Rosenberg wrote in the Atlantic last January . “They’re animated by one of the most durable and deadly conspiracy theories in human history.” The Mapping Project is only the latest in a long litany of such conspiracies. To the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (an infamous tsarist disinformation hoax), The International Jew (an antisemitic text published by Henry Ford), and the ravings pumped out by the regime in Iran, we can now add The Mapping Project.

It hardly needs to be said that none of this has anything to do with legitimate criticism of Israel, of which there has never been a shortage. In the concise formulation of US Representative Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat, “This project is an antisemitic enemies list with a map attached.”

This is not a trivial endeavor. Massachusetts political and media leaders should have no illusions about its menacing intent. “It should be understood clearly what Boston BDS and its leftist allies are doing here,” writes Jonathan S. Tobin, the editor of the Jewish News Syndicate.

They are placing a target on American Jews — declaring that anything and everything associated with Jewish life in this country is fair game for false accusations of crimes against minorities, delegitimization, and, at the very least, hounding out of the public square and, perhaps, ultimately violence.

On both left and right, antisemitism in America is on the upswing.

Jewish communities tend to be fractious, and it is rare for Jewish organizations or opinion leaders, in Massachusetts or anywhere else, to agree on much. But on the threat represented by The Mapping Project, there is virtual unanimity. It is seen as deeply alarming — all the more so at a time when worshipers have been massacred in US synagogues, when toxic antisemitism is being normalized on college campuses, when Jews have been ganged up on and beaten in American streets. Year in, year out, American Jews are the minority group most likely to be victimized in a hate crime. Khamenei in Iran makes no secret of his loathing for Jews. Neither does BDS in Boston.

Jew-hatred has historically flourished in disordered, unhealthy societies, and America today is more disordered and unhealthy than it has been in a long time. On both left and right, antisemitism is on the upswing. In recent years, Chabad centers across Massachusetts have been repeatedly vandalized, as have the Jewish student center at Northeastern University and the Holocaust memorial in downtown Boston. Last summer, an Orthodox rabbi was stabbed eight times in Brighton Center by a gun- and knife-wielding assailant. What will this summer bring?

These are ugly times. Jews, as ever, are the canary in the coal mine. And there are those, as ever, who seek to map out their demise.

This op-ed originally appeared in “Arguable,” a weekly newsletter written by Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby.

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