- Published on Tuesday, 31 January 2012 17:43
When it became clear that the Occupy Wall Street movement was not going away, and was even growing, those who represent the entrenched powers launched their counter attack.
From malicious, organized efforts from the financial sector, documented in a leaked memo from Washington lobbying group Clark Lytle Geduldig Cranford, prepared for the American Bankers Association, to digging into age old ethnic racism, the rise of slander against the movement has correlated to its rise in America.
But the smear campaign against the OWS and Occupy movement in general reached a fevered pitch when a group of conservative commentators began raising the flag of anti-Semitism as a way to discredit the message of the movement.
The charge of anti-Semitism has long been a tried and true tactic to discredit and delegitimize change-seeking or revolutionary movements. Of course, anti-Semitism is a very real and very serious issue. From Czarist Russia to Nazi Germany, Jews have historically been the standard scapegoat for all things “evil.” The prevalent anti-Semitic sentiments in Russia were consciously exploited to create a distasteful association between anti-revolutionary movements and the Jewish population in order to undermine popular support for those movements.
And, such anti-Semitism was rampant in the United States until the end of WWII. For example, the conservative forces that opposed progressive reforms of the New Deal Era likewise suggested that it was “those Jews,” the champions of socialism and civil unrest, who were behind the "Jew Deal" and who were "whispering in the ears of the President." Indeed, some went so far as to suggest that Roosevelt himself was a “secret Jew,” whose real name was Rosenfeld, or Rosenberg, or Rosenbaum, and who was aligned with socialist forces to undermine the Christian values of this nation (sound familiar?).
However, after the atrocities of the Holocaust came to light, anti-Semitism in the US began to wane. Countless Americans had given their lives to fight the Nazis. How could Americans share in that evil ideology? For the most part, anti-Semitism in the US became distasteful and un-American, and anti-Semites have become pariahs (as they rightly ought to be).
Yet in a strange twist of circumstances, this historic smear tactic has now become the go-to tool by those who oppose change and/or progressive reform. From the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Occupy Wall Street Movement, anti-Semitism has now become a stock accusation of the far right.
Make no mistake, most of those in the OWS movement, like most Americans in general, are blind to the color, creed, race, and ethnicity of those perpetrating injustice at home and abroad. What difference does it make to the American being kicked out of his home whether the person responsible is a Christian or a Jew? Is it of any consequence to the American who lost his entire retirement savings whether those responsible for their plight are black or white or brown? Is it any consolation when those who committed fraud are gentiles rather than Jews? Can you imagine someone saying, "Well, they destroyed the economy, looted the public treasury, committed mass fraud, bought off the politicians, but at least they weren't Jewish!?"
By now, most people have completely rejected the accusation of anti-Semitism in the Occupy Movement. After all, if the allegations were true, you can be sure that the Anti-Defamation League, which has in the past been lambasted for being too alarmist, too quick to ascribe anti-Semitism, would have condemned the movement. Instead, the ADL released a statement saying that though “there are manifestations in the movement of anti- Semitism…they are not expressing or representing a larger view."
In any case, when the ADL called upon the OWS movement to publicly denounce anti-Semitism, the movement responded. The Occupy Los Angeles branch of the movement, which had established an on-site Jewish prayer space, that is, before the LAPD moved in to dismantle the encampment, released a public denouncement of the Los Angeles schoolteacher who has figured prominently in the propaganda campaigns, stating,
Ms. Mc Allister in no way reflects the thinking of anyone I’ve spoken to since the beginning of this experiment in direct democracy. If someone with similar views makes themselves known, they will be asked to find another venue…consider this a formal denouncement.
Other efforts within the movement to combat anti-Semitism have also been made. A Facebook page called "Anti-Semitism & Occupy Wall Street: Our Commitment," which seeks to address any possible anti-Semitism within the movement, was recently launched and has already garnered thousands of "likes."
The ADL made the point that there may in fact be some manifestation of anti-Semitism in the movement is not surprising since roughly one in six Americans today hold some anti-Semitic views. But, noted Abraham Foxman, the head of the ADL, “The movement is not about Jews; it’s not about Israel. It’s about ‘the economy, stupid.’”
Another prominent Jewish organization known for its efforts at combating anti-Semitism is the American Jewish Committee. They are responsible for stopping the anti-Semitic publications of Henry Ford, and are credited with playing a central role in convincing the Catholic Church to overturn some of its anti-Semitic stances, which it did with the 1965 document Nostra Aetate. Recently, the AJC released a statement saying,
...recent complaints from partisan quarters and in the media alleging widespread anti-Semitism are unfair. They attempt to paint the episodic incident as routine and ignore both the repudiation in instances of anti-Semitism, as well as the hospitable environment for Jews…A picture may be the equivalent of a thousand words, but it should not be taken as reflecting the ideas of thousands of participants…There is no evidence that anti-Israel elements are playing a significant role.
Furthermore, as Joseph Berger pointed out in his New York Times article, Jews have figured prominently in the movement, and numerous of the 'Occupy' protests held Jewish celebrations during Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah, with attendance in the hundreds.
My own experience with the movement has only substantiated how ludicrous and unfounded these allegations are. While I have not yet run into a single protester expressing anti-Jewish sentiments, I have run into many, many Jews. I even bumped into one of my favorite Israeli artists, Dvir Cohen from Diwan HaLev! It is clear the Jews at these protests vastly outnumber the anti-Semites, many times over.
It is a testament to the untruth of the allegations that out of the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have joined OWS over the past two months-- all over the world, these yellow journalists have only been able to document and produce cases of anti-Semitism within the movement that number in the single digits. Indeed, the global nature of the protests further asserts the "non-racists nature" of the Occupy movement, as the mantle of the movement’s democratic principles have been taken up by everyone from Europeans to Middle Easterners, to even Israelis. Indeed, many of the same economic issues driving OWS put hundreds of thousands of individuals into the streets in Israel alone (a country of just 7 million) but a few months prior to the Occupy movement.
Moreover, the fact that those who oppose OWS have resorted to using this underhanded tactic is testament only to the frailty of their position. They know that they cannot bear scrutiny, cannot honestly counter the message driving these protests and have therefore resorted to attacking the messenger. In so doing, they reveal only the rotten, crumbling foundation of their edifice.By V. Judah Khaykin, Aslan Media Contributor
*Photo Credit: _PaulS_
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