Are Jews who refuse to renounce Israel being excluded from “progressive” groups?
by Alan M. Dershowitz
August 24, 2016
Hard left activists are trying to exclude Jews who do not renounce Israel from “progressive” organizations.
Last year, Rabbi Susan Talve, a longtime activist on race issues in the St. Louis area was told that her advocacy for Israel was incompatible with the objectives of Black Lives Matter: “Solidarity from Ferguson to Palestine has become a central tenet of the movement” she was informed, because “Israeli and U.S. state oppression are deeply interconnected.” Similarly, a student who attended a Black Lives Matter rally at Northwestern University last year was told “you support Israel, so you cannot also support us.”
Recently, that seems to be the response of many of the hard left activists who dominate so-called “progressive” social justice movements.
Over the past several years, progressive Jews, and progressive supporters of Israel have had to come to terms with the reality that those who do not reject Israel and accept Boycott Divestment Sanctions (“BDS”) and its unique brand of bigotry are no longer welcome in some progressive circles. And while both Democratic and Republican parties have embraced the importance of the U.S. alliance with Israel, that dynamic is under threat more so than at any point in my lifetime.
The self-described “progressive wing” of the Democratic Party — represented by radical and often repressive organizations such as MoveOn, CodePink, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter — has become openly opposed to the nation state of the Jewish people. Increasingly, these organizations demand that their members and “allies” renounce support for Israel and for Zionism in order to belong. Using the pretext of intersectionality — a pseudo-academic theory which insists that all social justice movements, except those supportive of Jews or Israel, are inexorably linked — anti-Israel activists have successfully made opposition to Israel and support for BDS a litmus test, especially for Jews, to belong to “progressive” movements focused on a wide range of issues.
Earlier this year, supporters of the LGBTQ community in Israel learned this lesson the hard way, when BDS activists together with a local Black Lives Matter chapter broke up a gay pride event, because it featured a presentation by an Israeli group. The protestors claimed that the event organizers had engaged in “pinkwashing” the Israeli occupation by showing solidarity with the Israeli LGBTQ community.
Members of the National Women’s Studies Association (“NWSA”) who also support Israel have been similarly excluded. Last year, that organization voted to endorse BDS, and as one pro-BDS activist explained: “What is significant about this particular resolution is the rationale; the fact that the resolution makes it explicit that BDS is a feminist issues… that one cannot call themselves a feminist… without taking a stand on what is happening in Palestine.” (Apparently, one can call oneself a feminist without taking a stand on Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other nations that grossly violate human rights).
This type of repressive ideological packaging has left progressive Jews, and liberal supporters of Israel in an increasingly uncomfortable position. On the one hand, they care deeply about causes such as women’s rights, criminal justice reform, income inequality, environmental protection and LGBT rights. On the other, they find themselves excluded from the groups that advance those very causes, because — while they are often critical of specific Israeli policies regarding settlements and the occupation — they refuse to renounce Israel as a national liberation movement of the Jewish People.