The important battle of explaining to people that opposing Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism was dealt a terrible blow this past week with the exposure of anti-Semitic tweets by a leader of the Free Gaza Movement, Greta Berlin. Wherever your line is for what’s acceptable speech about Jews, Berlin’s statements and attitude were over the line and have done great damage to the cause of ending the siege of Gaza and working towards justice in Israel/Palestine.
Berlin has done great work with vigor and creativity to try and free the besieged and imprisoned people of Gaza — and this work must continue. We tried to serve her efforts on several occasions, and that’s our only excuse for taking so long to speak out emphatically. We were hoping for clearer explanations of how and why the videos she distributed were being used, and they haven’t come. We apologize to readers for not having said sooner what we’re saying now, this speech is offensive and must be condemned.
Ali Abunimah and Jewish Voice for Peace have distinguished themselves by taking a clear stand here. They deserve great honor, as do our own Alex Kane and Annie Robbins and Allison Deger, all of whom jumped on this incident at the start and did not try to wish it away.
The sadness of this incident is that it has exposed substantial support for Berlin in the community that is criticizing Israel. These attitudes have to be taken on and rooted out — there is no room for racism in a movement working for equality, justice and freedom for all in Israel/Palestine. Neither liberation, nor oppression, is a zero-sum equation and this incident has revealed a disturbing tendency to vilify Israelis, and Jews more broadly, out of an apparent desire to challenge the occupation and Israeli policy. Ironically, this base racism accomplishes the very opposite, and only confirms the false assumptions of Israel’s defenders that the movement for Palestinian rights is simply a front for an anti-Semitic crusade against Jews. Hannah Arendt and others long ago predicted that the establishment of a militant garrison state on others’ land in the Middle East in the name of all Jews would result in anti-Semitism. That era seems to be upon us. While it was predictable, it is not excusable. These attitudes are repellent, and any movement for human rights must give them no quarter.