The Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party held a forum recently called “A Dialogue with Rising Activists, Xenophobia-Islamophobia-Transphobia-Colorism-Racism.”
We noticed that antisemitism was left out of the mix and that no Jewish speakers were listed, but we figured antisemitism and other Jewish issues weren’t the focus, nor did they have to be. But since we are both members of the Progressive Caucus, we decided to attend, to listen, learn, and maybe engage.
Early on it did become clear that Jewish issues were a part of the forum; and though she was not listed on the promotional flier, Estee Chandler, the founder of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) LA, was the sole representative of the Jewish community.
What did we learn?
We learned that Estee Chandler hates Zionism, that antisemitism on the left does NOT exist—unless it is against people who share her views—and if Jews don’t agree with Chandler, then they are the oppressors. We also learned that money given to congressional candidates she doesn’t support is (((Zionist money))).
We wondered whether Chandler was concerned with the rise of antisemitic hate crimes and the rise of hate crimes in California in general. After all, this is the Progressive Caucus of CALIFORNIA! We also thought it might have been of interest to participants to learn that based on the FBI’s 2019 report of hate crimes, anti-Jewish incidents were the second-most common type, with California reporting the highest number nationally. But no mention of any of this from Ms. Chandler.
However, she did share something deeply troubling that happened to her when she was forming JVP LA. She was the recipient of a right-wing smear campaign that included a “Wanted” poster with her photo and naming her associates and young relatives. This is unacceptable and we condemn it entirely.
Unfortunately, we would never receive the same solidarity from Estee when Jews face open harassment from anti-Israel activists in the California Democratic Party. Not once has Chandler spoken up or expressed concern about conspiracy theories, ancient libels, and dual-loyalty claims directed at Jewish Democrats, for example: “Israel has no right to exist”, “Zionism is racism”, “No civility to Nazis and no civility to Zionists”, “The state of Israel is a terrorist organization”, or “Be scared Zionist, the sword of the oppressed is being sharpened.”
Additionally, when PZC hosted a solidarity rally against antisemitism at the November 2019 California Democratic Party Convention, the large contingent of JVP members present, though invited, were nowhere to be found.
But if left antisemitism doesn’t exist in the mind of Estee Chandler, then perhaps everything intended to demean and harass certain Jews is also fine according to Chandler.
As members of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, we call on its leaders to better represent the diversity of the Jewish and Democratic progressive community, to stop demonizing Jews on the condition of their Zionism, and to feature Jews who support both Israel and Palestine; who stand against human rights abuses on either side, and who will work together with our Palestinian and Arab brothers and sisters to build a lasting peace in the region. This cannot be accomplished by alienating the great majority of Jews in the party, by refusing dialogue, and advocating not for negotiations and a lasting peace but for unilateral actions that would destroy the one Jewish state in the world.
Progressive Zionists of California would be pleased to work with the Progressive Caucus leadership on this effort.
This blog was written by Matthew Finkelstein and Susan George.