The last year (or more) has been a trying time for those of us - as Jews, and members of the American "left", who believe in the civil rights and equality of every human being. We've been following with fear, anxiety, and horror, as our friends and colleagues come under attack for their innate characteristics, be it skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, etc.
But many of us have been so preoccupied fighting for the rights of others, that we have overlooked explicit, anti-Semitic attacks intended to exclude us from progressive and feminist movements because of our innate characteristics, as Jews who believe in the safety and security of the Jewish state.
For example: The January 2017 Women’s March was a powerful moment for American democracy –- but its organizers declared shamelessly that Zionists could not be feminists and therefore should be ostracized. On March 8, the same organizers sponsored the “Day Without A Woman,” organized by convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh. At the Chicago Dyke March in June, three longtime queer activists were ejected from the event for publicly displaying a Star of David on a rainbow pride flag -– deemed by the march’s organizers to be an unacceptable “Zionist symbol.” To these women, the star was simply representing another layer of their intrinsic identities as queer, Jewish, human beings. Jews have been subjected to political litmus tests on college campuses around the country, and have been dismissed and ejected from various social justice groups and causes because they have proudly declared their support for Israel and their belief that the Jewish state has a right to exist. Other times, Jewish students and young professionals have had to make the false choice between fighting for civil and human rights for all in America, and standing up for the rights of Jewish people to independence and self-determination in Israel. Without anyone supporting or empowering these individuals, they have been forced to abandon their Jewish, Zionist identities in order to fight selflessly for others.
Those who call Stars of David "Zionist symbols" are not differentiating between Judaism and Zionism. Make no mistake: Language like this targets Jews, as Jews, without any regard to their geopolitical or foreign policy positions. No one asks Jewish students how they feel about Israeli settlement construction or counter-terror activities before targeting or discriminating against them as "Zionists" if they simply believe that the Jewish state has a right to exist. No one asks LGBTQ women or feminist women bearing Jewish stars what their political positions are vis-a-vis Palestinian women before denying them the right to participate in progressive activism.
Make no mistake, too, that Jews have always been on the forefront of social justice movements across the country and the world, and that there is a totally natural alliance between Jews and other marginalized peoples fighting for equality and human dignity. As the world's most enduring persecuted community, we have the experience -- and the obligation -- to seize our own history and apply it to advance the rights of others. We cannot, and will not, be deterred by those who try to kick us out or leave us behind.
That's why I have been working so hard with friends, colleagues, community leaders, politicians and other professionals to launch the Zioness Movement, declaring that the same values of human rights and self-determination at the heart of progressive causes also underlie Zionism: the movement for one of the world’s historically oppressed minorities to achieve self-determination through the creation of a Jewish State. The Zioness is a fierce, unrelenting advocate for marginalized peoples and an activist who understands, from history and experience, what it means to fight for justice. The Zioness asks not only to exercise her or his own protected rights — the opportunity to speak, assemble, and advocate for things that matter — but also demands acceptance as a supporter and activist for marginalized and oppressed communities in the United States and around the globe. Just as she combats anti-Semitism with Zionism, she stands in solidarity with other minorities as they work to reclaim their own agency.
We as Jews must reclaim our seat at the progressive table. We have a president and an administration who refuse to unequivocally denounce Nazis and white supremacists, and we have a resistance movement that actually calls us, Jews and Zionists, white supremacists. It's a terrifying time; the only way to change the tide is to stand up proudly for who we are and what we believe in. Seeing events like Charlottesville puts into perspective how crucial it is that we engage with the national community and stand up for ourselves -- as we fight for the basic rights of all others.
I know a lot of you have been following these developments with the same fear that I have, and I know we all agree that it is up to us -- the sincere, passionate liberals and proud Jews and Zionists of our generation -- to stand up, like many of our heroes did before us. If not us, who? If not now, when?
If you want to learn more about this phenomenon of deep and pervasive anti-Semitism underlying our progressive communities and the movements that we care so deeply about, I would suggest reading the below, to begin: