Statement: Congresswoman Omar, bigotry and the voice of Zioness

March 9, 2019

 

Dear Zionesses,

 

Zioness has been viscerally appalled by the language from Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the response from those in our progressive political spaces who have been so quick to denounce our attempts to communicate our pain, or deflect the conversation with gaslighting and what-aboutism. Tropes of dual loyalty, foreign allegiance and Jewish influence are not new or unique; they cannot be declared in a vacuum divorced from their historical context and consequences; and they cannot be explained away as “criticism of Israeli policy.” Not a single Israeli policy has been described by Rep. Omar in any of these outrageous statements. Rep. Omar’s language exemplifies the contemporary manifestation of anti-Semitism, one of history’s deadliest and most virulent forms of racial animus.

The fact that this needs to be stated, over and over again, and that our pleas for understanding and allyship are somehow not being digested by so many of our ostensible partners on the left, is a horrifying reality for the vast majority of American Jews who find our political home there.

 

There is no nuance here. Those who are abandoning us in this time of urgent need are contributing to the dissolution of coalitions that we’ve tried desperately to protect in the hopes that our vision of a more just and equal America may still come to fruition. And yet, instead of learning from our compatriots in the British Labour Party and standing against prejudice of any kind, American Jews are being scapegoated and then tarred for daring to stand up.

 

We want to be unequivocally clear: Our concern emanates from the employment of the poisonous language itself; we would be equally as concerned no matter who vocalized and gave life to it. It is intolerable and unconscionable to impose a binary whereby anti-Semitism can only be condemned through the lens of Islamophobia. We can and must unflinchingly demand a zero tolerance policy on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at the same time.

 

We are so far past the “he said, she said.” We are so far past the finger pointing at the “other side” which has somehow excused our community from acknowledging the gravity of the problem in our own movements and spaces. We expect this and other forms of hatred to manifest from the right, which has embraced radical white nationalism––so when it appears in our home, from someone we sincerely want to cheer on, it is anguishing. The pushback from the left over the last several days to the Congressional resolution on bigotry exposed with utter clarity how deeply anti-Semitism is misunderstood and how recklessly it is dismissed.

 

In this moment, American Jews are afraid, we are voiceless, we feel politically homeless and thereby disenfranchised. As we believe for every other community, it is up to us, and no one else, to define what bigotry against us feels like, and we are shouting from the rooftops: this is bigotry against us. This is the kind of bigotry that has sparked humanity’s worst impulses and resulted in some of history’s most profound tragedies. Today in America this bigotry is being normalized.

 

Zioness exists because this week’s unbearable reality was predictable two years ago. Zioness exists because American Jews need a political and activist home where we can stand with all of our authentic selves, without checking any piece of our identities at the door, without subjecting ourselves to litmus tests or false choices, and without succumbing to others’ definitions of what a “good Jew” looks and sounds like.

The vast majority of American Jews can find an ideological home with Zioness––and we hope that all the Zionesses in our midst will make sure your friends and family members know that there is a home for them here, too. We will work to unite and amplify the voice of American Jews who are both proudly progressive and unabashedly Zionist––many of whom criticize the Israeli government and its policies regularly and unreservedly––and we will not tolerate the suggestion that anyone else can define our pain or speak in our name. We will hold our heads high, while simultaneously holding our leadership accountable and ensuring the protection of our community––which has persisted for millennia, in the land of Israel and in the diaspora, despite all the odds.

 

With love and solidarity,
Team Zioness

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