A storm of protest failed to overshadow a diverse, progressive panel on anti-Semitism held in New York, featuring Linda Sarsour and Jewish Voice for Peace head Rebecca Vilkomerson.
In the end, the controversy, threats, protests and endless scandalized op-eds were unable to derail a diverse, progressive panel on anti-Semitism that took place in New York on Tuesday evening. The event, held in front of 500 people at the New School (with a further 1,200 watching via a livestream) was moderated by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, and featured Linda Sarsour, Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson, Leo Ferguson and Lina Morales.
The panel, a collaboration between Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Haymarket Books and Jacobin Magazine, drew out the complexities of acknowledging and challenging the genuine threat of anti-Semitism from diverse sources, while simultaneously rejecting its exploitation for political gain. In a wide-ranging discussion, the panelists addressed, among many other issues, the intersection of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and how anti-Semitism does and doesn’t differ from other forms of racism.
The ferocious opposition the event provoked was primarily due to the presence of Sarsour, who is unceasingly smeared as a Jew-hater, despite consistently speaking out against anti-Semitism, and being a long-time partner of Jewish social justice organizations in New York. Among those decrying her inclusion was Zionist Organization of America head Mort Klein, whose “J’accuse…!” on Breitbart, of all places, belied the fact that he had personally invited Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka to the ZOA’s annual pageant in New York earlier this month.
JVP Deputy Director Rabbi Alissa Wise, introducing the event, warned of potential interruptions, and she proved correct. But ultimately, a feeble protest outside the auditorium and a couple of minor audience disruptions at the end of the evening failed to reflect the storm of outrage that had threatened to overshadow the proceedings.
Instead, what took place was a nuanced, complex, challenging debate, among a panel whose racial, gender and religious diversity added considerable depth to the discussion. It was exactly the kind of conversation our communities on the Left need to be having, and seem to be increasingly willing to have in public: the event followed the publication earlier this month of JFREJ’s excellent primer “Understanding Antisemitism,” as well as...Read More