Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Michelle Alexander ignited a controversy by stating her support for Palestinian rights. In her piece, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” Alexander used the act of confronting her own silence on this issue to encourage others to break theirs. She made the case that “criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic,” while also affirming that
Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017, and many of us are still mourning what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history… We must be mindful in this climate that, while criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, it can slide there.
That statement was not nearly enough for the “pro-Israel” community in the United States. The Israeli-American former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, called Alexander’s column a “strategic threat.” The American Jewish Committee had the audacity to accuse Alexander—a prominent African-American civil rights lawyer and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness—of “appropriating” Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. Numerous other voices, conservative and liberal, defended Israel from Alexander’s “attacks.”
The bad faith attacks on Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour have reached new heights in recent days. They have been revived and risen in intensity after the massacre of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue late last month. I’ll have more to say on this very soon, but right now, I wanted to share the message below that was distributed by Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center. Rabbi Waskow bracketed the statement with some comments of his, and you can see these here.
It is important, to be sure, to hear Sarsour’s own words, in full context rather than as happens to often, framed by others. But it takes on a greater importance right now. The very real escalation in attacks on Jews in the United States have had absolutely nothing to do with Israel and its human rights violations, but have a very strong connection to the hateful, anti-Semitic ramblings of Donald Trump. The Jewish right has tried to distort this reality because they support Trump–not only in his anti-Semitism, but in his broader racism and authoritarianism–and because they never miss an opportunity to try to frame all criticism of Israel as being based in anti-Semitism, despite the clear reality that this is rarely (not never) the case.
Linda Sarsour is, in many ways, the lightning rod for all of this. If we are to understand what is going on in America right now, and if we are to stop this rapid rise in anti-Semitism and all that goes with it (it is certainly true that anti-Jewish violence and hate speech tends to be a canary in the coalmine for the rise of broader hate movements like white supremacy), hearing Sarsour’s voice in full and clearly, is crucial. She is the very epitome of the reality that dedication to equal rights for all–a dedication that even progressives and liberals all too often find reasons to exclude the rights of Palestinians from–is the only way to guarantee equal rights for any of us. Here, then, is Linda Sarsour’s message.
On Saturday, Robert Bowers, a right-wing gunman strode into a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh and began shooting. When he was finished, he’d murdered 11 people.
Donald Trump led the quick march to bizarrely defend one of the most prominent U.S. cult symbols, the gun, by blaming the synagogue itself for not having an armed guard at the synagogue, as if such a guard would have fared better than the three Pittsburgh police officer that Bowers shot.
Trump later blamed the media for violent attacks, saying, “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news.” That was to be expected, given the increasing attention to Trump’s own lengthy history of anti-Semitic dog-whistling and the scrutiny it was finally coming under in the wake of the terrorist attack in Squirrel Hill.
But the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history was not going to remain a domestic issue for very long. Given the disdain the government of Israel has been showing to the U.S. Jewish community for so long now, it was difficult to imagine that Israel’s response to the Squirrel Hill massacre would be positive. But few could have anticipated its cynical and opportunistic response. Read more at LobeLog