Occupying the Jewish Question

The effort to smear Occupy Wall Street as an anti-Semitic movement came to a head last week, when The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) released an ad, following, as they do, the Anti-Defamation League’s demand for an apology and condemning the month-old movement as a proponent of hate speech. (The next day, it is worth knowing, Rachel Abrams, who sits on the ECI’s board, called for genocide to include Palestinian children, and the Anti-Defamation League didn’t bat an eyelash.) It would seem there have been some anti-Semites, spouting the same Jewish banker insinuations that have plagued the last few centuries of Western life, down at Liberty Plaza Park.

That may be, and on at least one occasion, the population of the park at large decided to shout down an anti-Semite, impressing upon him in satisfyingly hostile ways the importance of inclusion. This “anti-Semite” brouhaha has arisen largely on disingenuous grounds. The corporatist right wing, unable to counter Occupy Wall Street’s charges of corruption and depravity, has decided to change the subject and attack Occupy Wall Street’s character instead, resorting to that old favorite, charges of anti-Semitism.

For the right wing, determined to be offended notwithstanding the absence of offense, the vigorous participation and endorsement of prominent Jews is inadmissible evidence on Occupy Wall Street’s behalf. As Jeff Sharlet, himself Jewish, points out, Jewish signatories to the Occupy Writers list include Elisa Albert, Steve Almond, Eric Alterman, James Atlas, David Bezmogis, Max Blumenthal, Randy Cohen, Morris Dickstein, Kira Brunner, Janice Eidus, Eve Ensler, Kiera Feldman, Nell Freudenberger, Mila Goldberg, Myra Goldberg, Arthur Goldwag, Matthew Goodman, and just a few others. According to the good folks at Commentary and its comrade publications, appearances and speeches at the park by everyone from Joseph Stiglitz to Naomi Klein are irrelevant.

But that’s just the point: to them, even anti-Semitism is irrelevant. Does anyone think that Bill Kristol and D.G. Myers and the rest of the Wall Street-financed bloc would be supporters even if Occupy Wall Street were a specifically Jewish organization? Of course not. The deranged conspiracy theorist with his sign is merely the latest trial balloon the right wing has floated in its mission to deflect attention from substantive critiques of our economy’s overfinancialization, the extremely active revolving door, drastic recent increases in wealth inequality, callous budget cuts targeting programs of critical value to the most vulnerable Americans etc. When they stop arguing the points and start attacking you personally, you know you’ve hit a nerve.

They called us hippies at first; then labor joined us in solidarity. They called us an angry mob; then we nonviolently marched and got the hell beat out of us for the offense. They called us drum-circle freaks; then the general assembly unanimously approved good-neighbor rules limiting drumming hours. At every turn, the strength of Occupy Wall Street’s moral grounding and public appeal have overwhelmed the measly attempts to smear us. This anti-Semitism charge will pass as well. As eager as the Fox-Beck-Limbaugh axis is to sell the charge, the public doesn’t buy it, as the favorable polls continuing to roll out go to show.

On Yom Kippur, roughly 1,500 Jews elected to atone by visiting Occupy Wall Street and participating in a Kol Nidre service there. On that same day, the war in Afghanistan, championed by the selfsame shrieking commentariat that now accuses Occupy Wall Street of hate speech, turned ten years old, making it the longest-running war in American history. Their client government in Afghanistan has engineered a situation that a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan described this way on Democracy NOW!:

These claims [that the US liberated Afghan women] were all extremely false. If they have brought to power the misogynists, the brothers in creed of the Taliban to power, who are the exact copies of Taliban mentally and have just been physically changed, then I don’t think the women’s situation can improve.

Not a peep on that from a corporate right busy devoting column inches to one guy with a sign. Surely, they will understand if we in Liberty Plaza charge that they have some answering to do regarding hatred, and not us.