The Blue and White Elephant in the Room


Sunrise Movement protest, screenshot from a demonstration video of the organization.

Sunrise Movement is a group of young activists dedicated to stopping man-made climate change. The organization has over 400 branches, most of which are located in the US. One of the political branches of the organization located in Washington DC (DC chapter) announced on October 20th on Twitter that it refused to attend the voting rights rally in Washington DC due to the inclusion of Jewish organizations that hold different levels of support for Zionism: Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.  

The Sunshine Movement’s National account and only two of its branches (George Washington University and NYC) condemned the branch’s statement for its antisemitism. The Sunrise Movement’s National page included an additional condemnation against anti-Palestinian racism. They added, “We are against any sign of discrimination, including anti-Semitism or anti-Palestinian remarks”. But not a single condemnation was heard in the statement regarding the extreme anti-Zionist lies spread against Israel.  

In response to the accusations of antisemitism, Sunrise DC issued a clarification regarding their intentions to boycott the three Jewish organizations for their support of Israelnoting that it was wrong of them to only speak out against Jewish groups that support Israel and not also include “other organizations …with similar positions” in their condemnation. However, the real problem is not their hypocritical apology, but the continued adaptation of the false narrative against Zionism. Their opposition to Zionism is itself an antisemitic stance because opposition to a Jewish state is an attack on millions of Jews inside and outside Israel and the erasure of their ethnic identity. 

The DC chapter continues to group “Zionism” with other bigoted positions by stating that they will stand against Zionism, anti-Semitism, anti-Palestinian racism, along with other forms of oppression.” Their lack of understanding of the historical background and hypocrisy they reveal is part of the growing problem worldwide. By only receiving condemnation for boycotting Jewish Zionists organizations and not all Zionists organizations, they and other anti-Zionist entities are encouraged to continue to spread false, defamatory propaganda against Israel, her citizens, and supporters without any retribution. But, according to archeological findings, journals, various religions, and scholars, the birthplace of the Jewish people is in the Land of Israel. There, a major part of the long history of the Nation occurred. There, its cultural, religion, and national identity was formed. And there, its physical presence has been preserved for centuries. During the many years of exile, the Jewish people never forgot its connection with the land. With the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence, which had been lost 2,000 years earlier, was renewed.  It is impossible to break the connection between the Jewish people around the world and the state of Israel. 

As for their accusation that Israel has declared Palestinian organizations affiliated with the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” as terror organizations just so that Israel can easily cease its activities, they forgot to mention that the “Popular Front” has targeted Israeli citizens in terror attacks for decades. In fact, the terrorists connected to this terror organization are responsible for some of the largest and most severe terror attacks against Israel. For all these reasons, the “Popular Front” has been declared a terror organization by many countries all over the world, among which are the European Union, the United States, Canada, and more. Among these horrific terror acts was the heinous murder of the Fogel family in 2011, in which 5 members of the family were murdered: the parents- Ehud and Ruth and three of their young children- Yoav (age 11), Elad (age 4) and Hadas (a 3-month-old baby). In 2019, an explosive device planted near a spring where an Israeli family was hiking led to the murder of Rina Shnerb (age 17) and injured her father and brother.  

In addition, the Sunrise Movement’s DC chapter claimed in its original statement that “Israel also treats all Palestinians, as well as black Jews, as second-class citizens who in fact have no representation in the government, and are often subjected to extreme policing and cruelty.” This claim suffers from a lack of awareness. Israel’s democracy and the Israeli legal system care about preserving the rights of minorities and taking care of them in matters of justice and fairness. Even according to the Economist’s Democracy Index, Israel is in 27th place compared to the rest of the world. On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas commemorate and glorify terrorist acts, who murdered Israeli citizens. For example, in 2018, a new textbook was written for fifth graders that included an entire chapter dedicated to Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist member of Fatah. who participated in the infamous Coastal Road Massacre in 1978 that led to the murder of38 Israelis, including 13 children. 

The political branch D.C. chapter also claimed that “Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank cannot vote in Israel, even though these territories are effectively occupied and managed by the state.” But they forgot to mention that following the 2006 elections in Gaza, a conflict broke out between Fatah and Hamas, leading to Hamas taking power by force in the Gaza Strip, creating a political rift between the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority controlled territory. There hasn’t been an “election” since in Gaza. We should also mention that the Palestinian Authority elections were canceled last May by the PA chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, who has been in office since 2005. If there was a proper democratic procedure in the Palestinian Authority then there would be elections every four years, but there hasn’t been even one election in the last 16 years. We do not hear organizations  like the Sunrise Movement’s DC chapter and other “justice fighters condemning Hamas or the Palestinian Authority for restricting the right to vote for their residents. 

One of the problems of such organizations is that they take on a struggle that many agree with, such as the climate crisis, LGBQT movements, Black lives matter and more, and along the way disseminate to thousands of followers false information about Israel. Calls for a boycott of Jews only based on their identification with the Jewish state, is just a cover for antisemitic discrimination that should have been uprooted from the world long ago. The saddest part is that even in the condemnation messages of the other branches of the Sunrise Movement and within the clarification message of D.C. chapter, there wasn’t a slightest hint of acknowledgment or remorse for the egregiously distorted “facts” written about Israel. 

This article originally appeared in Hebrew at Zman Yisrael, the Times of Israel’s sister publication. You can read the Hebrew version here 

About the Author
Tom Yohay is a CAMERA on Campus Fellow at the Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, where he is pursuing his BA in Politics and Environmental Studies, and also serves on the university’s student council. Tom is the Head Recruiter for Sela (students for workers), an organization which promotes workers rights and community-based initiatives. He also interned for Lobby 99, an NGO aimed at promoting the interests of the public in the Knesset and the government, and was the Head of event and finance for Model UN at his university.