We are as encouraged as everyone else about the Occupy Wall Street movement—but we continue to be disturbed by anti-Semitic elements within the movement, and even more disturbed by the fact that nobody else seems disturbed by it. Seth Weiss, writing on the website of the Marxist-Humanist Initiative, brings more such ugly examples to light. Weiss asks us to consider Nathalie Rothschild's account in the Huffington Post of the noxious response elicited by her unflattering portrait of protesters in the online journal Spiked. According to Rothschild:
I received a string of indignant emails and tweets about my Jewish, kleptocrat banking connections; demands that I reveal the details of my pay checks and that I come clean about my not-so-hidden agenda. I was told that my family name disqualifies me from having any opinion about the protest and that I have 'the karma of a demon'. One reader posted my article online, headlining the post 'Journalist & Jew – Nathalie ROTHSCHILD'.
Weiss also notes reports of protestors at Wall Street holding signs with clearly anti-Semitic statements—like one instructing passersby to search on Google for "Wall St. Jews," "Jewish Billionaires," and the like. And was there (as we would hope?) immediate and widespread repudiation of this faux pas? Weiss finds:
A recent post on the online Public Forum of the NYC General Assembly, the decentralized grouping that has emerged as the leadership of the movement, notes that "It is common for statements to be made, placing overwhelming blame and responsibility on Jews for the economic crisis" and asks "what can be done about the existence of anti-Semitic statements made by so-called supporters of the protest?" The post has received responses accusing the author of pursuing a "witch hunt" and others suggesting that readers "Look into who was involved in setting up the Federal Reserve in 1913."
And Weiss recalls that the initial call for the Sept. 17 Wall Street protest came from the Canadian-based AdBusters, an activist publication focused on "culture jamming" and anti-consumerism—which once published a list of prominent neo-conservatives with the names of the Jewish ones flagged by asterisks.
The list appeared as part of a March/April 2004 piece, entitled "Why won't anyone say they are Jewish?" and written by AdBusters' co-founder and editor-in-chief Kalle Lasn, which alleges that neo-cons have a "special affinity for Israel" that shapes U.S. policy in the Middle East. Lasn, claiming to "tackle the issue head on," offers up "a carefully researched list" of "the 50 most influential neocons in the US" and stresses that "half of the them [sic] are Jewish."
We'd be more willing to overlook this if elements of the same kind of ugly thinking were not percolating up in the current Wall Street protests, seemingly to little concern of fellow activists. Weiss concludes:
The NYC General Assembly, in its "Principles of Solidarity – working draft," includes "Empowering one another against all forms of oppression" as a "point of unity." The General Assembly, and all supporters of the Wall Street occupation, would do well to pay this more than lip service. To do so demands not only unequivocally condemning anti-Semitism in all of its manifestations in movement, but struggling to get at its roots, too. Anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism have a long, complex, and intertwined history — and it is with good reason that August Bebel, one of the founders of German Social Democracy, described anti-Semitism as "the socialism of fools."
Let's hope principled voices in the Occupy Wall Street movement will start to call out their comrades on their foolishness.