The weaponisation of antisemitism in the US

Pro-Israel groups’ campaign against Linda Sarsour targets another progressive institution — New School

Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss

Linda Sarsour. (Photo: Ford Foundation)

Eight days from now, the New School in New York is scheduled to host a panel on antisemitism featuring two activists who support boycotting Israel, Linda Sarsour and Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Because that panel will denounce the ways that anti-Semitism is used to shield Israel from criticism, the New School is under attack from pro-Israel groups; it is under pressure to shut the debate down.

The Anti Defamation League is opposing the event, saying that Sarsour and Vilkomerson foment anti-Semitism. The very blackmail that the panel is about! Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, wrote a week back:

Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism. These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.

He continued:

Seriously there’s not a single Jewish organization that studies this issue and/or fights this disease (such as @adl_national) would take this panel seriously, let alone the institution that put it together. It’s a sad day for the @theNewSchool.

I am told that Jake Tapper of CNN and Pam Geller retweeted the Greenblatt tweet; and that the Zionist community is organizing a protest in front of the New School the day of the event.

Greenblatt echo-chambers Israel supporter Liel Leibovitz, who writes in Tablet that Jewish Voice for Peace is “odious” and a cover for anti-Semitism.

Alongside Sarsour will be Rebecca Vilkomerson, who heads the odious Jewish Voice for Peace. The group, as an ADL report aptly put it, “uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of antisemitism and to provide the movement with a veneer of legitimacy.”

The panel is important because Linda Sarsour represents the main threat to the Democratic-left consensus in support of Israel today: the real possibility that the Democratic Party might begin to reflect its progressive base, and call for sanctions on Israel. Sarsour is threatening because she has been able to gain mainstream prestige– as a leader of the Women’s March against Trump– even though she is also an unapologetic advocate for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Traditionally, pro-Israel forces have been successful in marginalizing such voices. James Zogby, for instance, has just been thrown off the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee.

But Sarsour keeps gaining prominence. She will get another honor on December 6, when she is to be feted by Jews For Economic and Racial Justice (JFREJ) at its Marshall Meyer Risk Taker Award (“for her bold leadership of Arab and Muslim communities, her steadfast commitment to standing with the Jewish community…”).

No wonder Sarsour gets attacked in the New York Times. As does Jewish Voice for Peace. Pro-Israel writers see that leftwing voices are gaining acceptance in the Democratic Party.

The New School panel will examine the ways that antisemitism is used to blunt criticism of Israel.

Antisemitism is harmful and real. But when antisemitism is redefined as criticism of Israel, critics of Israeli policy become accused and targeted more than the growing far-right.

Join us for a discussion on how to combat antisemitism today.

The event is cosponsored by Jacobin magazine and Haymarket Books, which published JVP’s new book On Anti-Semitism. It will be moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (And it will be livestreamed at

The ADL’s Greenblatt is worried that the disruption of the discourse is making it harder and harder to be both pro-Israel and progressive. He is trying to thread that needle himself on his twitter feed. Praising neoconservative Bret Stephens as “wise” one minute, while extolling Ta-Nehisi Coates in the next breath.

The concern is that the bipartisan consensus on Israel is breaking up. Many in the official Jewish community are trying to keep leftwingers off the stage. Here, for instance, Jeremy Burton of the Jewish Community Relations Council denounces the alleged anti-Semitism of the left.

It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that we face an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized.  Or that dismissing the fact of our people’s historical origins in and enduring connection to our homeland is inherently anti-Semitic.

It is a sign of the Palestinian solidarity movement’s strength that it is drawing such attacks.

Comments (4)

  • Philiph35 says:

    Jeremy Burton says “It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that we face an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized.”

    Maybe. But I am more concerned about the following statements by Matti Peled from this website:

    “It’s about the limits of tolerance: we don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks; and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing.
    Promoters of racist ideologies should not be given a public platform, and to me that does include people who promote Zionism – which is a racist ideology whose followers have committed and continue to commit crimes against the people of Palestine.”

    Are there any limits to the hostility that can be expressed about Zionism? And what does this forebode about the fate of Zionists under a future Labour government? What would you say Justice for Zionists should look like?

  • Sheldon Ranz says:

    The statement you quoted was not said by the late Matti Peled, a life-long Zionist, but by his son.

  • Philiph35 says:

    Son Miko. Sorry. But as to my questions, any thoughts?

  • Sheldon Ranz says:

    Miko is a hypocrite – he’s OK for having a debate on whether the Holocaust happened, but not a debate on Zionism.

    I don’t know if this will work for everybody, but declaring oneself a Zionist for BDS lowers the temperature of the discussion when Jews and Arabs are in the same vicinity.

    I attended the New School panel and Ms. Sarsour said she doesn’t have a list of requirement in order to work with someone on a common cause (unless that person is of the Far Right), so she’ll work with Zionists even if they oppose BDS. She was an alternative delegate for Bernie Sanders last year, for example.

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