Boycotts not panacea to hate in deeply divided country

Leaflet from Anti-Nazi Boycott Committee, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, circa 1936 Photo:Courtesy
A few weeks after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor by the President of Germany in January 1933, the global Jewish community declared an economic and financial war on “the New Germany”.

Global Jewish leaders together with powerful international Jewish financial interests launched a boycott of Germany and its products with the aim of crippling her already struggling economy and to bring down the new Hitler regime. 

The anti-Nazi boycott by the Jewish community did not achieve its purpose. Hitler and the Nazi Party didn’t fall. In its stead, it was followed by reprisals against Jews and Jewish interests in Germany that increased in intensity and cruelty over the years. 

At first, the backlash was subtle. At that time Hitler was not fully in charge of the armed forces and was part of a coalition government. As soon as he had control of government and the armed forces, the reprisals turned from economic sabotage and passing of anti-Jewish laws to the confiscation of Jewish property and businesses and detention of male Jews in concentration camps.

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On April 7 1933, a law was passed barring Jews from holding civil service, university and state positions. In the same month, Gestapo, the police force later responsible for inhuman atrocities on Jews was established. In May of the same year, the burning of books written by the Jews and their political writings started.

On August 2 1934, Hitler proclaimed himself the leader and the chancellor. In May of that year, Jews were barred from the Armed Forces. In September by law, the Jews were no longer considered German citizens and were barred from marrying Aryans. 

In March 1936 Jewish doctors were barred from offering medical institutions. In April 1937, Jews were required to declare and register their property.

In October, the German authorities marked all passports of Jews with the letter “J” to stop them from immigrating to Switzerland. In the same month, 17,000 Polish Jews were expelled from Germany and Poland refused to admit them back. They were left stranded at the border.

In the period of one week, between November 9 and November 15, 1937, 7,500 Jewish shops were looted and destroyed, 30,000 male Jews were sent to concentration camps, all Jewish pupils were expelled from schools and all Jewish retailers were forced to hand over their businesses to Aryan hands. Germany invaded Poland in the following year.

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The Nazi boycott that started in 1933 and culminated into WWII, initially began as a reaction to a global Jewish boycott. Both boycotts, ill executed, and mired in malice and ethnic bigotry, had grave consequences. Millions of Jews died. Millions of soldiers from different nations followed suit when the rest of the world rose up to meet and conquer the invading Germans and their allies.

Nip the boycott in the bud. There is no disputing that we are a divided if not fragmented society. Economic ruination or stagnation may be the immediate target of the boycott. However, the psychological impact on the society is likely to have far deeper and longer effects than the targeted economic effects. 

The boycott will only have the effect of further deepening and cementing the “them” vs “us” mentality. Throughout history, and the examples are many, with those as close as Rwanda, or as far as Yugoslavia and Cambodia, a society that fences itself into “them” vs “us” camps, eventually, after years of negative tensions, ends up in a mindless bloodied conflict in which both sides emerge as the long term losers.

In a country boasting millions of sober and brilliant minds, is a boycott the only solution? Are there no other solutions that can demystify our tribal differentiations and forever bury the hatchet, not just in law like has been tried before, but within hearts, souls and minds?

Nip the boycott in the bud.

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