Accountability for contributing to the weaponization of antisemitism
IfNotNow is a decentralized movement with a diversity of opinions among its members. In the spirit of coalition building and holding ourselves accountable, the Austin, University of Chicago, and Northeastern University chapters of IfNotNow, along with many individual members from other chapters, want to address the first paragraph of IfNotNow’s previous statement about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. It wrongly suggested that her tweet played into an antisemitic trope and lent credence to a viciously Islamophobic campaign to discredit her. For this, we apologize.
Our initial assessment, while wrong, was offered in good faith. Our Jewish community has a heightened sensitivity to certain language and tropes, which is borne of historical trauma. We have seen a resurgence of antisemitism in the Trump Era, including public use by Republicans, particularly by Congressman Kevin McCarthy, of antisemitic tropes regarding Jews, money, and undue influence, and this led some members of IfNotNow to respond reflexively to Congresswoman Omar’s tweet. However, this was a misinterpretation, and was based on an uncharitable and incorrect reading of her words.
In this political climate, where too many seek to destroy the political career of a progressive Black Muslim woman, our statement inadvertently played into the bad-faith accusations of antisemitism from right-wing reactionaries and establishment Democrats. Moreover, we lent support to the false notion that criticism of Israel (or its lobbyists) is tantamount to criticism of Jews — a fallacy that has been advanced by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Evangelical Right, and others who aim to shield Israel from scrutiny, thereby grievously impeding the struggle against actual antisemitism.
Worse still, we hurt many activists and allies of color who, like Congresswoman Omar, are constantly accused of antisemitism from bad-faith actors. When those same actors — who value upholding the occupation more than they do protecting Jews — attacked her, we should have pushed back unequivocally. Instead, we let down both Congresswoman Omar and the Palestinian community.
We must now move forward with a renewed sense of communal responsibility, allyship, and solidarity. This means doing the hard work of holding ourselves accountable for our missteps, while forging and maintaining strong relationships with those who share our goals of justice and liberty. Though her apology was unnecessary, Congresswoman Omar demonstrated incredible sensitivity throughout this unfortunate episode. Moving forward, we must hold ourselves to a similarly high standard and demand the same sensitivity of ourselves.
IfNotNow Northeastern University
IfNotNow University of Chicago
Abby Schottenfels — IfNotNow Philadelphia
Willie Burnley Jr — IfNotNow Boston
Amanda Kaminsky — IfNotNow Detroit/Ann Arbor
Jesse Einhorn — IfNotNow Detroit/Ann Arbor
Miriam Saperstein — IfNotNow Detroit/Ann Arbor
Shawn Danino — IfNotNow Detroit/Ann Arbor
James Schneider — IfNotNow Detroit/Ann Arbor
Brian Flescher — IfNotNow New York City
Cricket Kauget — IfNotNow New York City
Gabriel Aaron Katz Reichler — IfNotNow New York City
Ilana Cruger-Zaken — IfNotNow New York City
Tali David — IfNotNow Los Angeles
Mariyama Scott — IfNotNow San Diego
Dylan Lazerow- IfNotNow Boston
Mimi Tohill- IfNotNow Digital