Carly Pildis

Hate is pushing Jews out of progressive justice movements when we need them the most

We can and must beat the rhetoric of Louis Farrakhan

March 07, 2018 10:24

Louis Farrakhan could win. 

Minister Farrakhan – along with the estimated 20,000 to 50,000 members of the Nation of Islam and Final Call, their newspaper that claims a circulation of 2.5 million – does not need mainstream media or politicians to spread his antisemitic agenda. 

To push antisemitism into justice movements, all he needs is the complicit silence of the leaders in those movements. The hatred then seeps into the mainstream. 

This is how hate works. 

It sneaks into inclusion platforms and marches, and creeps into Twitter feeds and op-eds. 

A variety of events that have made American Jews feel nervous about their place in progressive movements: hate is pushing them out of these movements when we need them the most. 

These include a breakdown in relationships over the Black Lives Matter platform, and BLM’s failure to call out dog whistle politics from coalition members. Then there was the Chicago Dyke March expelling Jews wearing Stars of David – which cost a transgender Jewish journalist her job – and longstanding tensions with Women’s March Leadership

At the same time, American Jews are feeling more vulnerable than ever before.

We are seeing a rising tide of antisemitism and are frightened by the relative quiet from groups that defend against hatred. 

According to the ADL, antisemitic incidents in America surged by 57 per cent in 2017.  

The Jewish community was deeply shaken by last summer’s events in Charlottesville, where white nationalists chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and local police refused to respond to threats to the synagogue, leaving volunteers and private security to protect local Jews. 

Jews have experienced desecration of cemeteries; Nazi iconography near and around their places of worship, including four instances near my own synagogue; and approximately 140 threat bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) around the country. 

It is worth noting that the largest programme in most JCCs is the preschool. Several Jewish preschools housed in JCCs were hit with repeated bomb threats, which has terrorised Jewish communities.  

As Jews grow increasingly fearful about the safety of our children in our own schools, the silence from groups that stand against hatred was deafening and heart-breaking. 

American Jewish women faced a litany of offenses and slights from the Women’s March. 

There was silence on JCC bomb threats and silence on Blaze Bernstein’s murder – all while the Women’s March leadership praised Minister Farrakhan, declared that Zionists couldn’t be feminists, declared antisemitism wasn’t systemic, and excluded Jews from their platform. 

American Jewish women were collecting their toddlers from bomb threats at nursery school for the third or fourth time while feminist leaders were belittling their struggle. 

Progressive leaders have failed to honour their intersectional values, forgetting that there are LGBTQ Jews, immigrant Jews, Jews living in poverty and Jews of colour. 

Finally, after Women’s March leadership attended an event hosted by the nation of Islam that received national coverage for its extremist antisemitic rhetoric, American Jewish women erupted in anger this week.

Those who defended leadership quickly felt the heat. 

After days of fierce pressure, the Women’s March issued a statement. They acknowledged their blind spots, the hurt they had caused and the work they were doing privately and publicly to address it. 

It wasn’t everything we need to heal, but it was a start. 

If we see more beginnings like this nationwide, we can beat back the antisemitism that progressives have allowed to grow in their midst. We must continue to raise our voices and demand accountability and change. 

We can and must beat the rhetoric of Minister Farrakhan, who wants the civil rights movement to abandon us as the white nationalists knock at our door.  

Carly Pildis is a political organiser and advocacy professional based in Washington, DC

March 07, 2018 10:24

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