Pro-Israel groups’ campaign against Linda Sarsour targets another progressive institution — New School

US Politics
on 21 Comments

Eight days from now, the New School in New York is scheduled to host a panel on anti-Semitism featuring two activists who support boycotting Israel, Linda Sarsour and Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Because that panel will denounce the ways that anti-Semitism is used to shield Israel from criticism, the New School is under attack from pro-Israel groups; it is under pressure to shut the debate down.

The Anti Defamation League is opposing the event, saying that Sarsour and Vilkomerson foment anti-Semitism. The very blackmail that the panel is about! Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, wrote a week back:

Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism. These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.

He continued:

Seriously there’s not a single Jewish organization that studies this issue and/or fights this disease (such as @adl_national) would take this panel seriously, let alone the institution that put it together. It’s a sad day for the @theNewSchool.

I am told that Jake Tapper of CNN and Pam Geller retweeted the Greenblatt tweet; and that the Zionist community is organizing a protest in front of the New School the day of the event.

Greenblatt echo-chambers Israel supporter Liel Leibovitz, who writes in Tablet that Jewish Voice for Peace is “odious” and a cover for anti-Semitism.

Alongside Sarsour will be Rebecca Vilkomerson, who heads the odious Jewish Voice for Peace. The group, as an ADL report aptly put it, “uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and to provide the movement with a veneer of legitimacy.”

The panel is important because Linda Sarsour represents the main threat to the Democratic-left consensus in support of Israel today: the real possibility that the Democratic Party might begin to reflect its progressive base, and call for sanctions on Israel. Sarsour is threatening because she has been able to gain mainstream prestige– as a leader of the Women’s March against Trump– even though she is also an unapologetic advocate for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Traditionally, pro-Israel forces have been successful in marginalizing such voices. James Zogby, for instance, has just been thrown off the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee.

But Sarsour keeps gaining prominence. She will get another honor on December 6, when she is to be feted by Jews For Economic and Racial Justice (JFREJ) at its Marshall Meyer Risk Taker Award (“for her bold leadership of Arab and Muslim communities, her steadfast commitment to standing with the Jewish community…”).

No wonder Sarsour gets attacked in the New York Times. As does Jewish Voice for Peace. Pro-Israel writers see that leftwing voices are gaining acceptance in the Democratic Party.

The New School panel will examine the ways that anti-Semitism is used to blunt criticism of Israel.

Antisemitism is harmful and real. But when antisemitism is redefined as criticism of Israel, critics of Israeli policy become accused and targeted more than the growing far-right.

Join us for a discussion on how to combat antisemitism today.

The event is cosponsored by Jacobin magazine and Haymarket Books, which published JVP’s new book On Anti-Semitism. It will be moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (And it will be livestreamed at Facebook.com/JacobinMag.)

The ADL’s Greenblatt is worried that the disruption of the discourse is making it harder and harder to be both pro-Israel and progressive. He is trying to thread that needle himself on his twitter feed. Praising neoconservative Bret Stephens as “wise” one minute, while extolling Ta-Nehisi Coates in the next breath.

The concern is that the bipartisan consensus on Israel is breaking up. Many in the official Jewish community are trying to keep leftwingers off the stage. Here, for instance, Jeremy Burton of the Jewish Community Relations Council denounces the alleged anti-Semitism of the left.

It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that we face an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized.  Or that dismissing the fact of our people’s historical origins in and enduring connection to our homeland is inherently anti-Semitic.

It is a sign of the Palestinian solidarity movement’s strength that it is drawing such attacks.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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21 Responses

  1. Citizen
    November 20, 2017, 3:55 pm

    Merkel just lost her coalition; Germany is reevaluating its “special relationship” with Israel, and this is ALSO HAPPEnING IN USA.

  2. JosephA
    November 20, 2017, 6:30 pm

    That the racist Pamela Geller re-tweeted means the original tweet was not to be taken seriously.

    • Lillian Rosengarten
      November 21, 2017, 1:27 pm

      Why no outcry? Could be we are tired of pushing against the downright lies by the Zionist agitators who are themselves responsible for creating the rise of true anti-Semitism. They are a disaster, a bitter, destructive , vile , dehumanized and twisted ideology, another from of racial purity. Every attempt to call out the crimes of Zionism is met with false cries of anti-Semitism. Wake up US and Germany for you are complicit in war crimes of enormous dimension. The only answer is a bi- National country and the end of Zionism.

    • JWalters
      November 21, 2017, 7:55 pm

      The Zionists are a classic example of the boy who cried “Wolf!” Their endless, baseless, mindless cries of “Anti-Semitism!” are becoming background noise to the honest discussion. At some point they deserve to be hit with an irrefutable libel suit.

  3. Dan Walsh
    November 20, 2017, 9:48 pm

    @ ADL-Greenblatt

    “Seriously there’s not a single Jewish organization that studies this issue and/or fights this disease (such as @adl_national) would take this panel seriously…”

    Herzl said it was “futile” to attempt to “combat” antisemitism and the ADL appears to embrace his deeply insulting cynicism. Its efforts do nothing to actually reduce antisemitism. Don’t think so? Consider that the ADL itself claims that antisemitism is “on the rise” thereby, ironically, publicizing its own ineffectiveness.

    Were he alive today Herzl might be amazed to learn how political Zionism, and by extension, Israel, have become (the) major engines of anti-Jewish resentment. This reading obtains, at least in the US, because most Americans are not well versed enough in the history of contemporary Palestine to distinguish between Israeli/Jewish/Zionist identities and unfortunately fall into the trap of blaming Jewish people (many of whom loathe/reject Zionism and Israel) for the crimes of Zionism.

    The ADL believes that the way to “combat” antisemitism is to repress/delegitimate/censor any discussion of the issue that it does not control or condone. The voices of Linda Sarsour and Rebecca Vilkomerson and the communities they represent resonate with an ever-widening demographic which CAN distinguish between Zionist/Israeli/Jewish identities and which refuses to accept outdated and self-serving definitions of antisemitism.

    For these courageous and humane activists, antisemitism is defined as the refusal or unwillingness to confront Zionism. They believe that the way to protect the interests of Jewish people is to stand for the rights of Palestinian people. For this “betrayal” of Zionist precepts they are attacked personally and their rights to free speech and expression are threatened. The ADL’s idea of firefighting is to throw gasoline on a raging fire. It will not work.

    In a healthy democracy, any attempt to silence one’s critics is the surest way to ensure that their voices will be heard even more widely.

    The ADL and its collaborators have a choice: evolve or fade into irrelevancy.

    388 Palestine posters/events that have been cancelled, censored, compromised or criticized:

    http://www.palestineposterproject.org/special-collection/cancelledcensoredcompromisedcriticized-exhibitsposterscultural-events

  4. Ronald Johnson
    November 21, 2017, 9:15 am

    There is an analogy, I suppose, from my long-ago, 1943, attendance at a Catholic grammar school, where, starting at about the fourth grade, we were given to believe that we were part of the “Church Militant”, under threat from the Protestants. Tertullian had declared that “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church”. – and we were given to know that martyrdom was better than apostasy. At public high school, with my parents under an edict of sinfulness, I unlearned that nonsense.
    It seems that the concept of “anti-semitism” is a device to resist Universalism, or, Humanism.

    • JWalters
      November 21, 2017, 7:48 pm

      Thank you for that parallel case. Ironically, organized religion can get captured by pathological money-grubbers. They terrify and abuse children as a standard method of keeping control. This abuse of religion and people’s trust, especially children’s, is a vile evil, if the term “evil” is to have any meaning.

  5. eljay
    November 21, 2017, 9:59 am

    … Jeremy Burton of the Jewish Community Relations Council denounces the alleged anti-Semitism of the left.

    It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that we face an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized. Or that dismissing the fact of our people’s historical origins in and enduring connection to our homeland is inherently anti-Semitic.

    Denying a “national identity” to people who choose to be/come Jewish is not an existential threat. As long as people choose to be/come Jewish, Jewish people will continue to exist.

    And there’s nothing anti-Semitic about debunking the notion that the choice to be/come Jewish creates a magical link to geographic Palestine and entitles all people who have made that choice to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in that region.

  6. biggerjake
    November 21, 2017, 4:52 pm

    Without anti-Semitism both Israel and the ADL are just relics of a different time. Both of them NEED anti-Semitism to justify their existence.

    From Yaron London of Israel’s channel 10:

    “To do the Netanyahu government justice, let me qualify my statement by saying that all forms of Zionism hold the perception that a certain extent of anti-Semitism benefits the Zionist enterprise,”

    “it would be good to have some anti-Semitism in America. Not serious anti-Semitism, not pogroms, not persecutions that will empty America from its Jews, as we need them there, but just a taste of this pungent stuff, so that we can restore our faith in Zionism.”

    That is why they find it under every bush, under every rock,,, everywhere. If it doesn’t exist, they have to invent it or they will become irrelevant.

  7. pabelmont
    November 21, 2017, 6:23 pm

    Jeremy Burton writes: “we face an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized. ”

    Who’s he mean by “we”? He evidently has two groups in mind: [1] first, he is thinking of himself and his friends (the American Zios), that is, the folks who very well might feel bad and even, just perhaps, also feel threatened in some sense, even “existentially so, by criticism of Israel and one of its raisons d’etre; and [2] second, he is pretending to speak for all American Jews, the folks he wants his listeners to suppose feel threatened.

    He like so many Zios arrogates to speak for all American Jews. The nerve! The very nerve! Makes me feel existentially threatened to be in the same sentence in the mouth of such a guy!

    Well, Jeremy, no matter how much you try, you do not speak for me. Or a lot of others. And WE do not feel threatened by left or right suggesting that there’s something phony about any self-proclaimed (sorry, soi-disant) Jewish nation. Got that, Jeremy?

    • yonah fredman
      November 21, 2017, 9:25 pm

      pabelmont- I actually agree that the rhetoric is overheated, but I wonder what this surrender by israel will look like and rather than mandela in south africa, i think of the helicopter off of the embassy grounds in south vietnam and this type of defeat is what you envision for israel, and that i suppose is also overheated rhetoric.

    • NorthCascadian
      November 22, 2017, 12:37 pm

      Where is the break away Jewish movement of Rabbis that reject Zionism? Is Nuturei Karta the only one?

      • Mooser
        November 22, 2017, 5:10 pm

        “Where is the break away Jewish movement of Rabbis that reject Zionism?”

        Things being as they are,( in the US, anyway,) it may be easier and more practical to reject Zionism by breaking away from Judaism.
        That may speak to what Judaism offers Jewish people as a religion besides Zionism.

  8. Kathleen
    November 21, 2017, 11:53 pm

    Sounds like it will be an honest discussion, Goodman moderating, she is one of the best, No nonsense, digs right down to the roots of an issue. Hopefully New School does not back down.

  9. RoHa
    November 22, 2017, 3:36 am

    ” an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized. ”

    Does this mean that if some left-winger “denies their national identity as a Jewish people”, Jews will cease to exist? If so, it is patently false. I’ve done that several times, but there still seem to be Jews around.

    (Look, Mooser! I didn’t make a joke about Kierkegaard, Heidegger, or Sartre.)

    “Or that dismissing the fact of our people’s historical origins in and enduring connection to our homeland is inherently anti-Semitic.”

    How is that anti-Semitic? Can anyone explain?

  10. Kay24
    November 22, 2017, 6:11 am

    No surprise here. Jared Kushner (the so called miracle worker who would be bringing peace in the ME), is being investigated by Robert Mueller for doing the zionist’s dirty work.
    Honest broker eh?

    US investigator Mueller said probing Kushner over bid to help Israel nix UN vote
    Special counsel’s team seeking information about overtures Kushner made to foreign leaders to thwart anti-settlement Security Council resolution in December, WSJ reports

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-investigator-mueller-probing-kushners-contacts-with-israelis-report/

    • Kathleen
      November 23, 2017, 12:54 am

      Kushner, Fynn, Manafort, Don Jr going down unless they roll over on the Donald. The only person who can pardon them before resigning since he will not want to go through an impeachment. Ok I can dream

  11. Rusty Pipes
    November 22, 2017, 6:31 pm

    Just to be clear, Linda Sarsour is not universally admired among Arab Americans, supporters of Palestinian rights, Progressives and feminists. For over six years, these communities have been deeply divided over the Syrian conflict. Sarsour’s strong vocal support for the Syrian opposition has put her at odds with many Arab Americans (the majority of whom are Christians), Syrian Palestinian refugees (the majority of whom oppose the insurgency), Progressives who oppose the neocon (Bush)/neolib (Obama/Clinton) agenda for taking out seven countries in the Middle East (including Syria) and feminist Bernie supporters who are concerned that the pink pussyhat march and the Resistance are efforts of Establishment Democrats to divert energy away from reforming the Democratic Party into simple anti-Trump rhetoric.

  12. Dan Walsh
    November 23, 2017, 10:28 am

    @ Rusty

    You said: “Just to be clear, Linda Sarsour is not universally admired among Arab Americans, supporters of Palestinian rights, Progressives and feminists.”

    So what? Name, if you can, a single person alive (or dead) who was “universally admired”.

    The list of leaders who were not/are not “universally admired” stretches to eternity. Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Abraham Lincoln, Yasser Arafat and hell even the Beatles and Elvis were not without their detractors. It goes with the territory, sad to say.

    The points you make about Syrian refugees, Progressives, et. al., MAY be legitimate but I sense you put them in there to smear Sarsour. Bear in mind that Linda Sarsour is not running for office nor does she hold one: she is an individual person doing what she feels called upon to do to make the world a better place. Her special courage is that she does so in defiance of Zionist preferences that she be silent. Though she may have what you consider to be wrong/misguided opinions or policies they are hers and if you want to be credible you should deconstruct them and teach us exactly why her policy choices are wrong rather than mask your distain under the claim that she is not “universally admired”. That’s cheap and weak thinking.

    Just to be clear, I assume you hold personal policies on all the issues you listed that are diametric to Linda Sarsour’s: has that made you “universally admired”?

    2,200 Palestine posters depicting women:

    http://www.palestineposterproject.org/iconography/womanfemale

    • gamal
      November 23, 2017, 1:32 pm

      “The list of leaders who were not/are not “universally admired” stretches to eternity”

      you make a key point, isn’t the first thing why Linda Sarsour, given the weight of political opprobrium she already carries, might have taken the she position she has in regards of the Syrian crisis.

      marginal people, like me, if they are going to do any political, radical political, activity, have to take account of allsorts of real contingencies, I can mouth off as I please because ” I dun dead already” and have no real world calculations to make

      do you remember the Fannon, Satre, Arent spat, really Satre Arent, about his “on violence” I think,

      assuming we can dispense with context and everything else, she wrote one thing that was really striking, about “The Struggle of Detachment” or some such, whose main characteristic was to place “impossible moral demands on those struggling”, and thus neuter oneself.

      what is the correct universally admired position on Syria and what bearing does that have on anything?

      Always a way to avoid a discussion of substance in favour of impertinent opinion, sad to say but in the Mcarthyite environment that can we say “You” have allowed to develop, Arabs and Muslims have to be very careful what they say and when, and as one of the Zionists pointed out this includes school children as young as 7 in Belgium being monitored for signs of radicalization,

      which some claim to have seen RT did a report I am not going to search or link, as you know even kids with digital clocks can find themselves in hot water,

      so in this situation a responsible person would quote Sarsours views and examine why she might express such and indicate precisely what is condemnable about them, if one was sincere, as you point out.

      Lastly, not to rain on any parade, as Arabs, one thing Sarsour and I know full well, is that there is no victory in Syria, its suffering and conflict will continue, America and her satraps can not back out, perhaps Lebanon will collapse into war, it’s not like anything we say will have any real effect on the unfolding catastrophe and the truth is Sarsour must prioritize her local and specific struggle over the general Arab catastrophe which is anything but over and likely to get much worse very soon, on balance. We can be made to pay, often unfairly, for anything we say, look at Arafat during the 1st gulf war.

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