If I am not for myself…

Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

In a magnificent response to the hulking darkness of the new Trump presidency, our nation rose up in demonstrations across the country, joined by sympathetic protesters throughout the world. Americans came together in support of basic human rights and against racism. And, ultimately, to display the power of our democratic foundations by tangibly exercising our rights of free speech and assembly…Yes, it was magnificent.

Many of the speeches successfully gave voice to the least enfranchised among us, primarily people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, Muslims and immigrants fearful of deportation by or discrimination from the new administration.

However, no one mentioned the primary targets of religious hate crimes. If your hunch is that Muslims lead the list, you’d be mistaken. In 2015, the last year for which FBI statistics are available, Jews were the chief victims of religious hatred (52.1%), while less than half that figure-21.9%-were Muslims.

These facts are cited, not as masochistic one-up-man-ship, a wrongheaded claim to moral martyrdom, but rather to underscore Progressive silence when the same deeds that are perpetrated against other groups are directed against Jews.

Anti-Semitism by white supremicists and other pro-Trump segments is being called out by the media. But on the Left, the Progressives who so courageously rallied against Trump are blind to anti-Semitism in their own camp. Or worse, feel it is somehow justified. This is especially the case when it takes the form of “criticism against Israel.” We see it in hate filled campus demonstrations calling for “peace” and “freedom” for Palestinians as swastikas are drawn on walls, speakers shouted down and students who disagree are threatened. Jewish kids are facing abuse on American campuses. Where are the Progressives protesting on their behalf?

And it’s not just colleges. “Occupy Wall Street. Black Lives Matter. Recent progressive movements have included in their statements of mission and goals prominent denunciations of Israel.” In fact, Angela Davis did raise the “Palestine” banner as did another March leader, Linda Sarsour, despite assurances to groups like the National Council of Jewish Women that these issues would not be part of the March.

The NAACP has been actively lobbying against the nomination of Trump candidate, Jeff Sessions, for Attorney General because of his history of racism. This fight has been picked up by Progressives who have joined the NAACP protest by signing petitions and calling their congressional representatives.

Meanwhile, Keith Ellison is being promoted as Chair of the Democratic National Committee by party leaders, among them Senators Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), after initially backing Ellison later raised “serious concerns” about him when a recording of Ellison emerged in which he says, “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. [Israel].” The ADL asserts, “Rep. Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying. His words imply that U.S. foreign policy is based on religiously or national-origin based special interests rather than simply on America’s best interests. Additionally, whether intentional or not, his words raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government, a poisonous myth that may persist in parts of the world where intolerance thrives, but that has no place in open societies like the U.S…”

And, like Sessions, Ellison has a history of bigotry. Included are “early ties to the Nation of Islam and its anti-Semitic leader Louis Farrakhan. As documented today in careful detail by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, in his youth, Ellison organized events for Farrakhan and defended him from charges of anti-Semitism. He similarly vouched for Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) after he delivered a speech claiming ‘the Zionists joined with the Nazis in murdering Jews, so they would flee to Palestine.'”

American Jews have been on the front lines of every significant Progressive movement in this country, including founding and funding the NAACP in 1909. Civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, Muslim rights, immigrant’s rights-Jews have been and will continue to be there. With Trump in the White House, do we dare allow an anti-Semite to become DNC Chair?

Where are the Progressive voices raised against anti-Semitism? Where are the Jewish voices?

About the Author
Dr. Judith Davis is a wife, mother, grandmother and a retired clinical and organizational psychologist, graduate of Hadassah Leadership Academy. Having spent a lifetime studying individuals, groups and other human systems, she is an irreverent observer of details that may be unremarkable to others.
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