The Woman Driven from Her Job for Condemning Anti-Semitism

July 13, 2021 | Kat Rosenfield
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On June 11, in response to a series of attacks on Jews in the U.S., the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)—the major professional organization of its kind—posted a condemnation of anti-Semitism and other “forms of hate” on its Facebook page. Soon an outraged response swelled on social media over the absence of any explicit condemnation of violence against Palestinians, although the statement made no mention of Israel. The virtual mob focused its ire on April Powers, the SCBWI’s “chief equity and inclusion officer” and the author of the post. As a result, Powers—a Jew—resigned, and the organization’s director apologized for the original defense of Jews. Kat Rosenfield comments:

What disturbs Powers the most wasn’t the harassment or the threats. It’s that when she tried to do the job she was hired to do, her Jewishness was seen as inherently suspect—and, for some, as a reason to discredit her. “It was, ‘You’re Jewish, you can’t be in a role like this,’” she said. “I lost credibility in that exchange because I’m Jewish.”

What happened to April Powers demonstrates how high-minded ideals about intersectionality and social justice now operate in practice. . . . According to the tenets of social justice, Powers’s “lived experience” and multiple minority status [as a black Jew] should have made her unassailable on the topic of her own people’s oppression, and anyone who tried to use Powers’s identity to discredit her should have been roundly condemned. According to the tenets of social justice, the continuing violence—vandalism, harassment, a rabbi stabbed in broad daylight just the other day—means that “we” should be listening to the [Jewish] community now more than ever. But [because] that community is Jewish, progressives suddenly have very different ideas about who deserves to be heard.

For the moment, at least, Jews are Schrödinger’s victims; they may or may not be deserving of sympathy, depending on who’s doing the victimizing. When a group of tiki torch-wielding white nationalists chant “Jews will not replace us!,” the condemnation is swift. But replace the tiki torch with a Palestinian flag, and call the Jews “settler colonialists,” and the equivocations roll in.

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