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Antisemitism Among Progressives

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Antisemitism Among Progressives, Liberals and The Antiwar Movement.

Rob Kall  OpEdNews.com  May, 16, 2003   This op-ed piece was inspired by an article a reader pointed out to me from a small paper, the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.

Jewish 'Raging Grannies ' protest Peace Movement 's anti-Semitism


This article talks about a few women past 50, who attended an anti war rally, only to be vilified by anti Zionist pro-Palestinian demonstrators who went a bit too far, in my opinion, treating these Jewish women as though they were Zionists, even though they really agreed on most issues. Part of the problem is in definitions of Zionism. These women see it as support for a Jewish homeland. They feel that they can support Israel, yet oppose Sharon's brutal tactics.


Here's a brief, representative remark by one of them:  "I support the position that Israel should get out of the occupied territories immediately; I oppose Sharon 's policy of seeking revenge after every suicide bombing against Israelis. "But the suicide bombers are terrorists. Israel does have a right to exist. I support moderates on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict who seek a peaceful solution."


But that's not the way most of the world sees it.  To most of the world, a Zionist is a person who supports settlements in the west bank, Sharon's brutality and continuing mistreatment of the Palestinians.  

I see a scary situation developing. People at peace demonstrations, on listserves, on email forwardings are saying nasty things about Jews. I'm Jewish. I don't support the settlements in the West Bank. It hurts me every time I read about another suicide bombing, another killing of innocent Palestinians....  And yet, I read, from kindred progressive spirits, messages of hate.


They say they're talking about Zionists, but too often, they are talking about all Jews. I need to make this clear. If a person attacks the treatment of Palestinians by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) I will probably agree with him or her. If a person attacks fundamentalist Jews who insist on building new settlements in the west bank, I agree this is wrong.


 If a person says Jews are behind the neocon movement, this is anti-Semitism, even if there are Jews amongst the neocons. If a star of David-- a symbol of Judaism for thousands of years--  has a swastika superimposed on it, this is anti-Semitism. If the Poet laureate of New Jersey suggests that 4000 Jews left the WTC buildings because they were warned by Israel, this is anti-Semitism.     

  So don't be too quick to tell me that I am guilty of labeling anyone who criticizes Israel an anti-Semite, as some on the moveon discussion boards have been quick to do. I DO understand the nuances. I will agree that Jews have to be careful not to over-react and use the Anti-semitism label to deflect accusations about Israeli abuses of the Palestinians. But supporters of the Palestinian cause must also be cautious not to paint with too broad a brush, attacking Jews when they mean to attack those Israelis and their supporters who back the abuse of Palestinian civilians.


If you are a progressive in the US, this rise in anti-Semitism should scare you too, because the Jews have been among the most reliable supporters of liberal, progressive causes and the Democratic party. This new outpouring of anti-Semitism is partly due to people's understandable compassion for the Palestinian cause. But when that kind sentiment is translated into venomous hate talk aimed a US Jews, this is a dangerous situation. It's dangerous for such hate to be growing and it could be deadly to any hopes of electing a Democrat in the 2004 presidential election-- or democrats in general-- because the Jewish voting bloc, long pro democrat, if alienated, so it votes Republican,  could doom the democratic hopes for years.  

My theory is that much of this hate comes from two sources--

  -people who are not so much anti-war as anti- war which involves Arabs or Palestinians. These people would have been happy to see Iraq attack Israel.

  -racists, neo-nazis, etc. who are not really anti war and more anti-anyone different than them. They're just riding the coattails of the movement to spread their poison.

  Of course, there are people who are antiwar who oppose the way the Israelis treat the Palestinians (who hopefully also oppose the suicide attacks on civilians in Israel..) But if they're really anti-war and for the fair treatment of the Palestinians, then they will not be anti-Semitic. They might be opposed to the fundamentalists on both sides of the situation who tend to aggravate the situation.

  I fear that the combination of the anti-Semitism in the peace movement and the Hawkish support for Israel that the Bush Administration has demonstrated will cost the Democratic party a serious loss in Jewish support come election time. This is an issue that Democratic and anti war movement leaders need to work through. Failure to do so could have a drastic effect on future efforts to reverse the rightward trend of American politics. The solution is clear on both sides. Jews must be careful not to use the term anti-semitism to fend off criticism of Sharon-type Israeli aggressions. And supporters of the Palestinian people must be careful not to confuse all Jews with right wing, fundamentalist and violence supporting Israelis and their allies. Not all Arabs are Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda supporters. Not all Jews are supporters of the Sharon tactics. More subtle lines must be drawn. Just taking this step will help bring the Middle East closer to peace.

Rob Kall rob@opednews.com  is publisher of progressive news and opinion website www.opednews.com and organizer of cutting edge meetings that bring together world leaders, such as the Winter Brain Meeting and the StoryCon Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story This article is copyright by Rob Kall, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.

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