An Environmental Group Refused to Join a Protest So Long as Jewish Organizations Were Participating

October 26, 2021 | Daniel Gordis
About the author: Daniel Gordis is the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem and the author, most recently, of We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel.

Last week, the Washington, DC chapter of the environmentalist group Sunrise Movement announced that it would not take part in an upcoming rally in favor of statehood for the District of Columbia, because of the involvement of three left-wing Jewish groups that it described as “in alignment with and in support of Zionism and the state of Israel.” Subsequently, the national organization issued a very tepid apology, followed by a statement from the DC branch admitting that its original decision had “fueled anti-Semitism,” but then going on to explain that, while Palestinians and Washingtonians deserve “statehood and political sovereignty,” Jews do not.

Daniel Gordis comments on the affair:

If [the national organization’s] statement makes you feel better, it shouldn’t. Because note what they said. They’re opposed to anti-Semitism and “anti-Palestinian racism.” It’s a deft move, but an important one. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (is there any other issue regarding which people in the United States think about Palestinians?), they’re now suggesting, is not territorial, or national, or even military. It’s a conflict about race.

That, of course, is ludicrous. If Israel had a problem with Palestinians’ “race,” it would have a problem with the race of Egyptians or Jordanians, too; but the conflict with those countries is over. . . . What stands between Israelis and Palestinians is the Palestinians’ commitment to destroying Israel (Hamas and Hizballah are explicit, Fatah a bit less so until you scratch the surface). What stands between Israelis and Palestinians are, from Israelis’ perspective, Palestinian terror, and from Palestinians’ perspective, occupation. But whatever one may think about those issues, none of them has to do with race.

Why, then, would Sunrise want to frame the conflict in terms of race? Because . . . race is a trump card. Once you’re accused of racism, you’re forever on the defensive. . . . If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about race, there are not two sides with narratives that need to be heard. . . . If you’re a Zionist, you’re a racist. If you’re involved with the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement (aligned though it is on many important liberal issues in America), you’re racist. If you’re affiliated with the National Council of Jewish Women, which feels positively about Israel, you’re a racist.

Zionists are racists. Jews are oppressors. We’ve been here before.

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