Friday, July 14, 2017

The Ethnicity that Dare Not Speak Its Name

The speed with which anti-Semitic attacks memes, tropes and philosophies have become common place occurrences is truly astonishing. As a proud, secular, leftist, lesbian Jew, I have been around long enough to know and expect anti-Semitism from the right. Growing up in Ohio of the nineteen fifties, outside of my community, I heard the word “Jew” most often used as a verb. But even though, I was perpetually warned by my family that, one day, this prejudice would resurface with a vengeance. I never truly believed it, until now.

The Chicago Dyke March organizers, after turning away three marchers holding rainbow flags with six-pointed stars on them, have repeatedly stated that now that “Anti-Zionist” Jews are welcome at their events while “Zionist” Jews are not. July 13, 2017 the Chicago Dyke March Committee re-tweeted David Duke, former grand earthworm of the KKK. They stated, "Zio tears replenish my electrolytes." I can't believe that the dyke community, my community could stoop to this level of name calling using Neo-Nazi slurs! On July 9th in Berkeley at a meeting:“United Against Hate – A forum on how to combat the increase in racist violence,” I and about 250 others listened as speakers addressed various issues as well as the need to fight the rise in white supremacist violence. Most speakers were inclusive, trying to build a diverse, left-wing coalition. One speaker was confusing however, using the words, Zionist and White Supremacist together and somewhat interchangeably, without really defining either.

In other instances regarding racial, ethnic, religious and national groups, individuals are separated from their current, former or ancestral governments in a way which American Jews are not. It would be considered prejudiced and misinformed to blame Chinese-Americans for imperialism in Tibet or Turkish-Americans for Erdogan’s encroaching authoritarianism. What makes it okay to conflate Jewish Americans with Israel? Why should Jews have to face extra political scrutiny that NO OTHER group faces?

Jews are in a uniquely vulnerable position, targeted by foes on both the right and left. Like individuals of any group, there is no universal agreement on politics or strategy. What does it mean, concretely, to divide Jews into good ones and bad ones in a time of increasing anti-Semitism? Say, for example, if a Jewish home is targeted with some form of anti-Semitic harassment or violence, must we must first ask whether anyone in the home is “Zionist” before defending them?

Stereotypically Jews are seen as enemies from both sides. Depicted as the ultimate capitalists, bankers, Hollywood moguls, intellectual elites and privileged rich. And conversely Jews are seen as the embodiment of Bolsheviks, race-mixers, trade unionists and the muck-rakers? In a scary time, full of hatred, Jews walk a line between mine fields. 

The best way to undermine “Zionist” cries for a Jewish state, is to fight like hell to make the USA a safe haven for Jews as well as other minorities. Just as we are trying to defeat all the other isms that are coming to prominence in the time of upheaval. As we battle racism in all its insidious forms, can’t we as leftists just say we are opposed to antisemitism too without qualifying it? If some Jews get thrown under the bus, that bus is going to mow down a lot of other folks too. History has taught us that what Ben Franklin said is true: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”