We have long been dismayed by the role some of our fellow Jews play in movements and organizations that self-describe as humanitarian and progressive but which espouse and champion anti-Jewish or anti-Israel themes. While we generally respect ideas and can acknowledge several sides to an issue – even if we have our own ideas on the topic – we also believe that sometimes plain hate is masqueraded as principle.
So we were intrigued by a remarkable development this past week concerning the so-called “The Women’s March,” which is a purported civil-rights group at the center of protests against the Trump presidency. In January, for the second straight year, tens of thousands of women took to the streets around the world to protest the Trump presidency and to advocate legislation and policies relating to human rights, women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, and freedom of religion. But apparently, some Jewish supporters are taking strong issue with the group’s acceptance of anti-Semitism as not being such a big deal.
Last week in these pages (“Jews As Targets of Opportunity,” Editorial), we noted the chumminess some Women’s March leaders seem to enjoy with the notorious Rev. Louis Farrakhan who regularly engages in anti-Semitic rants. In particular, we mentioned that Women’s March leader Tamika Mallory apparently attended a particularly rabid anti-Semitic diatribe by Rev. Farrakhan – among other things he called Jews “Satanic”; claimed they run the governments of U.S. and Mexico; and said they are perpetrating a “pot plot” designed to spread marijuana use among black men – which prompted no objection from her either during the event, or afterwards. To the contrary, Farrakhan noted Ms. Mallory’ presence and she later posted photos of the event.
According to the New York Post, which has reported extensively on the Farrakhan-Women’s March connection, Mallory dismissed criticism of Rev. Farrakhan’s speech by saying that while she acknowledged the “validity” of the feelings of those offended, she hoped that her presence at the speech would not “lead anyone to question [her] beliefs.”
Another Women’s March leader , Carmen Perez, explained the Farrakhan remarks away by saying, “There are no perfect leaders.” Still another Women’s March leader, the inflammatory Linda Sarsour, who was a featured speaker at a Farrakhan event in 2015, had nothing negative to say about Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic remarks.
In fact, we have not heard of any criticism of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic remarks from any Women’s March leader. Indeed, we find it most amusing that Bob Bland, a Women’s March Board member, tweeted, in defense of Mallory, Perez, and Sarsour that “being held directly accountable for the words of any man is misogynistic.”
(And there are now reports that several black activist groups including Black Lives Matter, the New Black Panther Party, and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, are organizing a protest against a resolution recently introduced in Congress by Republican Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita that formally condemns Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism.)
But within the past few days as the issue of The Women’s March and Farakhan’s anti-Semitism has continued to roil, there have been reports of significant Jewish defections from the Women’s March. Alyssa Klein, heretofore the group’s social-media director called it quits. She called Farrakhan “a dangerous troll” and said that Women’s March leaders are “turning a blind eye to hate spoken about a group of people.”
Tali Goldsheft, a former supporter of Women’s March, is now organizing a petition that calls upon Women’s March sponsors to cut ties to “hate” and seeks to purge the movement’s current leadership. She said if “these Women’s March leaders are attending [Farrakhan’s) sermons and cheering him on, they should be called out and remove from their roles immediately.
Former Women’s March supporter Nisi Jacobs said this: You feel stabbed in the back. It feels like someone you trust punched you in the gut…I’m really wounded….I’ve had enough.”
It’s not that we think the millennium is upon us. But we do find this glimmer of Jewish self-respect rather refreshing and encouraging.