Today is the three year anniversary of the Unite the Right Rally, in which neo-Nazis with tiki torches stormed the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia chanting violent anti-Jewish and anti-Black slogans, and murdered an innocent woman, Heather Heyer. It’s also the three year anniversary of the launch of Zioness at the Chicago SlutWalk, where we encountered vile bigotry as Jews and Zionists who refused to cede our right to participate in a movement to fight patriarchy, misogyny, victim-blaming and slut-shaming. In both Charlottesville and Chicago, Jews faced horror and violence for the sin of existing. It was terrifying then, and remains so now, that the dehumanizing, bigoted, racist language that Jews encountered in both spaces, from the far left and the far right, was nearly identical.
Fast forward three years, and we are experiencing another collective assault in yesterday’s reprehensible attack on one of America’s most respected Jewish and civil rights institutions, the 107-year-old Anti-Defamation League. Activists who claim to speak as progressives are once again targeting the ADL in a deliberate attempt to inject poisonous antisemitism into social justice spaces; erect yet another artificial wedge into the powerful and historic Black-Jewish alliance; erase Jews of color; and undermine one of the most important organizations protecting vulnerable Jews as well as vulnerable members of every other minority community.
Make no mistake: the far left organizers of this campaign are peddling white supremacy by pushing antisemitism in the name of anti-racism. They are making common cause with neo-Nazis, just as the leaders of the Chicago SlutWalk did 3 years ago. They are following in a long line of white supremacists who have taken extreme steps to attempt to undermine the ADL’s legitimacy. And they are spreading the same message that inspired the murderers of innocent Jews and a law enforcement officer at a kosher grocery in New Jersey several months ago.
It is expressly racist to attempt to destroy the reputation of an organization which has fought for racial justice for more than a century. It is expressly racist to push committed activists away from the fight for civil rights, equity and equality for all by making justice spaces viscerally hostile to them on account of their Jewish identities. It is expressly racist to exploit one’s platform as a “progressive” “leader” to divide and destroy progressive coalitions, especially while an authoritarian white supremacist controls our country. We need the letter’s signatories to understand: there is *nothing* progressive about this.
We are at an urgent moment in the fight for justice and in the story of America. The groups behind this campaign have continually failed to advance civil rights because they focus on burning, not building, bridges––and this is an unacceptable outcome for those genuinely committed to the pursuit of equity and freedom. We must all unequivocally denounce their cynical strategy, today and every day, and join empowering, authentic social movements like Zioness, where Jews can maintain our commitment both to our own community and, simultaneously, our siblings facing intolerance and injustice in other marginalized communities. We must stand against all forms of prejudice, including antisemitism, which has an insidious way of poisoning everything it touches.
The future of our progressive movement depends on this work––on the creation of diverse coalitions made up of Jews, African-Americans, Muslims, Latinx, Indigenous people, LGBTQ, immigrants, refugees and all other marginalized peoples––to defeat the shared threat of white supremacy in America. Zioness stands with the Anti-Defamation League and every organization truly fighting for equality, while also fighting the hatred espoused in Charlottesville, Chicago, and cities and towns across this nation and the world.