Mainstream Jews Ignore Antisemitism on the Left
By Matthew M. Hausman
How many times must the political left slander Israel and malign Jewish values before American Jews finally admit that it is fundamentally antisemitic? Evidence of Jew-hatred on the left abounds, and yet liberals often deny its existence or, worse, rationalize it as a response to Jewish particularism. Then there are those Jews who peddle hateful anti-Israel rhetoric themselves and who serve to shield their radical compatriots from accusations of bigotry. Progressive extremists disparage Israel in the vilest terms and support Islamists who preach genocide, but deny charges of antisemitism by pointing to leftist Jews who do the same. How can they be antisemitic, they ask, when even some Jews denigrate Israel and support the Palestinians? Unfortunately, many liberals fail to see the nuanced disingenuity of the question and, thereby, excuse radical hatred through ignorance or naiveté. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the trivialization of reported antisemitism within Occupy Wall Street (“OWS”).
The movement since its beginning has attracted left-wing activists, some of whom accuse Jews of controlling American foreign policy, dominating the world economy, and enforcing apartheid in Israel. Supporters in public parks and on college campuses promote boycott, divestment and sanctions (“BDS”) initiatives, which are inherently antisemitic, and attribute to the mythologized “Jewish Lobby” a nefarious agenda lifted straight from the fraudulent “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
There is photographic evidence aplenty of signs bearing slogans like, “Occupy Wall Street not Palestine,” (http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=17208), “Google Zionists: Control Wall Street,” (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jag9889/6427530173), and “Nazi Bankers Wall Street,” (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimkiernan/6201783073/), from New York’s Zuccotti Park; or “Humanity vs. the Rothschilds” and “It’s Yom Kippur, Banks should Atone!” from Occupy LA (http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2011/10/13/more-anti-semitism-at-occupy-los-angeles/). Likewise, there are many videos of protestors engaging in hate speech, including those at Occupy LA railing against “masonic and Jewish bankers” and accusing “Zionists and Jews” of controlling the Federal Reserve (http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2011/10/13/more-anti-semitism-at-occupy-los-angeles/.); those at Occupy D.C. proclaiming that “criminal Zionists” and “Jews with Israeli citizenship” run the U.S. government (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtwS4AUFbJU); and those in Zuccotti Park claiming that Barack Obama is “in the pocket” of Israel and the Jews. (This latter accusation – laughable given the president’s disgraceful treatment of Israel since his first days in office – shows the delusional depths of radical Jew-hatred.)
During the 2010 midterm elections, the mainstream media gleefully accused the Tea Party of racism because of the fringe views of some of its right-wing gatecrashers, even though the movement’s hierarchy denounced these extremists and took constructive efforts to expel them. Still, network and cable news stations continued to report racist attacks despite a lack of credible evidence or corroboration from the alleged victims. The press felt no shame in branding that movement “racist” despite the swift denunciations by its leadership of any manifestations of racist extremism and scanty proof of institutional prejudice.
In a display of hypocrisy that highlights its partisan bias, however, the media has refused to criticize the Occupy movement for antisemitic outbursts observed at its protests. Such occurrences, when discussed at all, are described as isolated incidents unrelated to the movement’s mission. But a growing body of video and photo evidence suggests these incidents are neither rare nor isolated. If such attacks had occurred with the same frequency at Tea Party rallies, there would have been no end to the media’s criticism – and rightly so. Why then is such conduct virtually ignored when it occurs at OWS events?
As with the mainstream media, Jewish establishment organizations have been reluctant to criticize the movement for creating an environment in which “progressive” antisemites seem welcome and comfortable. Given their visibility at OWS protests, it is difficult to accept the facile explanation that the movement has no anti-Jewish bias, but that it simply cannot control all of its supporters’ conduct. The sophistry in such reasoning is exposed by the growing presence in the Occupy camp of groups such as the radical Islamic Circle of North America (“ICNA”) and the Muslim-American Society, which is related to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The media depicts Occupy Wall Street rather benignly as the Tea Party’s liberal counterpart, ignoring that the latter group is coordinated to work through the electoral process, not to disrupt society. While the liberal Jewish establishment often chastises the Tea Party, it says little about conspicuous antisemitism at OWS rallies, and groups like the Anti-Defamation League have even vouched for the movement’s integrity. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal on February 27, 2012, Abe Foxman had this to say about antisemitism within the movement:
[W]e found that while there were occasional displays of anti-Semitism among some individual participants, there was no evidence that these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories were representative of the larger movement, or that they were gaining traction with other participants.
One is left to wonder if the study sample evaluated by ADL was too small or whether its conclusions were influenced by political sensibilities.
A more sobering analysis was offered by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, which found that Islamic groups with radical ties have insinuated themselves on Occupy Wall Street, and that anti-Israel activity is increasingly visible. (This report can be accessed at http://www.investigativeproject.org/3312/is-the-occupy-wall-street-movement-occupied.) The Project reported, for example, how a group of 20 Occupy Boston protestors overtook the lobby of the Israeli Consulate last November, chanting anti-Israel slogans, such as “Viva Palestina,” and “hey, hey, ho ho, Israeli apartheid has got to go!” Considering that Israel has never practiced apartheid, and that “Viva Palestina” has been linked to Hamas – a terror organization whose sole purpose is to destroy Israel and exterminate Jews – their trespass and sloganeering cannot be characterized as constructive political speech. Moreover, if Occupy’s primary concern is economic inequality, even legitimate criticism of Israel would not be germane to the cause.
Such incidents are not isolated, and anti-Jewish sentiment seems ubiquitous. Moreover, it appears that the anti-Israel left has attempted to merge its agenda with that of OWS. As observed by Daniel Sieradski, a Jewish supporter of the Occupy movement:
“Worse yet, there have been attempts to push Zionists out of the movement by claiming their support for Israel’s mere existence is fundamentally racist and as such, they should not be part of any serious social justice movement. I find such actions deeply offensive. Insisting that I or anyone else pass a litmus test requiring the rejection of Israel’s existence so that I can protest the fact that my parents are in bankruptcy and foreclosure — which is actually what these protests are supposed to be about and which is why I got involved with them — is obnoxious and infuriating.”
(The full quote appears in www.newvoices.org, an on-line National Jewish Student Magazine, at http://blog.newvoices.org/tag/israel-palestine.) These attempts, though “obnoxious and infuriating” to some, should surprise nobody in view of the hard left’s history of effrontery and cooption. One need only recall how the Iraq War protests were usurped by left-wing Israel bashers and antisemites – and how moderate liberal Jews were forced out – to see that the infiltration of OWS fits a pattern.
One might question whether OWS is doctrinally biased against Jewish interests and national claims, or is guilty only of creating an environment that attracts Jew-haters and conspiracy theorists. But this question presumes a distinction without a difference; it would not even be asked if such bigoted misanthropes were found at conservative events. The mere fact that hateful zealots feel comfortable enough to participate in OWS without fear of moral reprisal would seem to betray the movement’s natural affinity for extremists from its end of the political spectrum. Their continued participation in OWS implies acceptance, regardless of any organizational attempts at disavowal.
Numerous websites purport to represent the movement, including that of the New York City General Assembly (“NYCGA”), which describes itself thus:
“The NYC General Assembly is composed of dozens of groups working together to organize and set the vision for the #occupywallstreet movement. This is our official website.”
(http://www.nycga.net/about/) This website contains a number of features and links to various working groups, including the “Occupy Wall Street Global Justice Group,” whose agenda regarding Israel can be inferred from this post, entitled, “No More Tears!” which appeared on March 30, 2012:
No More Tears! – Land Day Arabic edition of our tear gas comic
Palestinian Land Day was initiated in 1976 after Israeli forces shot and killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured many more in an attempt to crush (with tear gas, among other weapons) popular protest against the ongoing theft of Palestinian-owned land. On Land Day 2012, also the global day of action for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), the Global Justice working group is pleased to share the War Resisters League’s Arabic translation of our tear gas comic, with a special preface for Land Day.
This statement clearly advances the libel that Israel has stolen “Palestinian land,” and evidences acceptance of the revisionist Palestinian narrative concocted in the late 1960s and premised on a repudiation of Jewish history. Just as clearly, it indicates support for the anti-Israel BDS movement, which presumes the truth of the Palestinian creation myth and the illegitimacy of ancient, verifiable and irrefutable Jewish historical claims.
This website also contains meeting minutes that show a perverse fascination with AIPAC. These entries include the following exchange, which discusses how budgetary constraints would affect the ability to support protestors at AIPAC’s annual meeting in Washington:
- Now! Activist Legal WG is asking for $200 to travel to protest AIPAC in DC…
- We think we can’t bring funding proposals due to the spending freeze…
- This body passed a spending freeze and we have to respect this…
- Someone says this proposal necessitates us talking about the spending freeze…
- Someone else says no, this is about AIPAC and let’s talk about it! …
- I think we should talk about brainstorming other ideas of how to get people to Occupy AIPAC and then talk abt the spending freeze…
- Legal is taking a couple ppl to protest AIPAC and we are paying hotels, food, etc out of pocket. We are just asking for …
- Proposer from Legal gives background on how AIPAC is a gigantic, very problematic lobbying group…
- Have you been in touch with anyone from Occupy DC? …
- Yes, we are in touch with … others involved with this…
- Lots of people are expressing support for this trip and protesting AIPAC. “We should all go!” someone says…
- Proposer clarifies to someone that AIPAC is the most powerful Israel lobbying group in the U.S…
- Someone else: If you were against the Iraq war, you should be for this, and $200 is not much! …
- I have decided we are taking out the budget and are just asking for #OWS to stand in solidarity with Occupy AIPAC…
- This is the first I am hearing about this and just hope you can document your trip b/c I support it…
- That this proposal could also express it’s not anti-Semitic…
- Yes! That we are standing in solidarity with the Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jewish people, and nonbelievers…
- … But that we stand in solidarity against AIPAC…
- Any blocks? No! We have consensus about standing in solidarity against AIPAC…
(The full text of this exchange appears at http://www.nycga.net/news/?s=AIPAC.)
The apparent obsession with AIPAC smacks of Jewish conspiracy theorism – a hallmark of classical antisemitism (and indeed, this colloquy even contains discussion of how this preoccupation could appear antisemitic). Interestingly, a search of this website reveals no similar concerns regarding Arab or Muslim lobbying groups with ties to extremist organizations, not even those named unindicted coconspirators in criminal prosecutions of Hamas-linked Islamic charities.
The demonization of AIPAC, the predilection for Palestinian propaganda, and the expressions of support for the BDS movement, all contradict apologetic assertions that Occupy has no anti-Israel bias. This is not to say that all OWS supporters hate Jews and Israel. But there can be no dispute that this “official” website contains viewpoints that are hostile to Israel and Jewish interests; that Occupy tent villages have become magnets for extremists of all stripes; and that anti-Jewish conspiracy theorists seem drawn in like moths to a flame. Thus, it is disingenuous to say that Occupy bears no responsibility for fostering a hostile climate, particularly considering the disturbing comments posted by its supporters, even if on websites identified as “unofficial.” If the NYCGA’s “official” website reflects the movement’s more reasonable public consciousness, some of the “unofficial” sites invoking its name may well represent the unfiltered expression of its supporters’ collective id.
Sites such as www.OccupyWallSt.org provide an outlet for many who identify with OWS and who seem unabashed in their extremism. This website is described by its creators thus:
OccupyWallSt.org is the unofficial de facto online resource for the growing occupation movement happening on Wall Street and around the world. We’re an affinity group committed to doing technical support work for resistance movements. We’re not a subcommittee of the NYCGA nor affiliated with Adbusters, anonymous or any other organization.
(http://www.occupywallst.org/about/.) While this website disclaims any official status, it nevertheless directs potential donors to fundraising sites, and has direct links to other Occupy-related sites and the NYCGA’s “official” homepage. Despite its “unofficial” character, this website seems to service the movement’s acolytes and foot soldiers.
A scroll through this website’s forum section using the search terms “Jew” and “Israel” turned up the following disturbing posts, among many others:
- Israel nuclear facilities are BOMBED
- Break over. Now get back to work, guys, Israel needs $20 Billion more from you
- Abe Foxman and the ADL take the Israel debate off the table by lobbying (bribibg/blackmailing) congress into signing ‘contracts’ of support – no israel debate for the 2012 presidential race
- US Troops going to Israel
- ’Occupy AIPAC’; Oil and the Israel Lobby, Iran and the Occupy movement
- Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt banned from the media for exposing the Israel lobby – MIT video
- Usa is not ruled by Israel!!
- Israel has new war for us prepare
- Occupy the Israeli Embassy / Consulate!
- US government take sanctions against the United Nations. That was a direct order from Israel.
- ABSURD: to defend Israel, USA cuts funds of Unesco!! World’s historic and cultural heritage at risk!
- An Occupy Boston protester says they occupied the Israeli consulate in Boston on Friday to voice their anger at Israel’s “war crimes” and “illegal actions” in besieged the Gaza Strip.
- C’Mon People This Is Not A Forum For Telling the Truth About Jews – We Have To Remain Co-Dependent On Jews And Apologize As They Beat & Rob Us – Like Since America’s Beginning.
- Even Though Jews Dominate The Media, Finance, Judiciary, Lobbyists, Military You Can’t Blame Them Because Jesus Was Jewish (even though he wasn’t) So They Have ‘A Get Of Blame Free Card’
- Great To See The jews Taking A Licking On The Message Boards Tonight
- Not One Word From jews (sic) Denouncing jewish (sic) Supremacy Or Zionism. So Shut Up!
- We Agree At Least That You Believe In: “Government Of The People, By The Jews, For The Jews (and no one else) Because They Are Tiny & Small & No One Else Has Suffered Like They Have – I Mean No One! So They Deserve All The Wealth.
It is certainly possible that Occupy’s masters do not control these unofficial websites; but its self-proclaimed status as a “leaderless” movement would seem to necessitate reliance on such independent but allied resources for assistance with organization, fundraising, and information flow. If OWS does not officially endorse these websites, neither does it seem to reject them with focused clarity.
The resources used by constituents of the movement clearly include anti-Israel and/or antisemitic content. Thus, we are left to wonder why establishment leaders seem so reluctant to challenge the ideology that utilizes them, and how liberal Jewish commentators can extol the movement while belittling reports of antisemitism. When Thomas Friedman describes Occupy Wall Street as “an effective movement,” or when Richard Cohen pronounces it free of antisemitism after observing a rally or two, one has to ask why they ignore what others have documented. But then again, the Jewish left has a history of ignoring bad progressive behavior and even rationalizing antisemitism as a reaction to Israel’s imaginary sins. When a pundit like Friedman argues that the “Israel lobby” wields undue influence over government, as when he wrote that Netanyahu’s standing ovation from both Houses of Congress last year was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby,” he is giving voice to classical antisemitic canards, and in so doing crosses the lines of honesty and common sense.
Those who are perplexed by the ideological blindness of the left should not discount the power of Jewish self-hatred. Throughout history there were Jews who identified with their aggressors and rejected their people. This paradox has troubled many, including Berl Katznelson, the early 20th Century Labor Zionist leader, who asked: “Is there another People on Earth so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful, while every murder, rape, robbery committed by their enemies fill their hearts with admiration and awe?” The phenomenon today seems to permeate a Jewish left-wing that assails Israel and traditional values at every turn, and which is only emboldened by the timidity of the mainstream.