Caroline writes here about how the progressive climate-activist group Sunrise DC just withdrew from speaking at a D.C. statehood rally over the participation of Jewish organizations:
The Washington, D.C., chapter of climate activist organization Sunrise movement canceled its speaking appearance at a rally for D.C. statehood and federal voting legislation over Zionist Jewish groups’ participation in the event.
Sunrise DC cited the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism as groups that support Zionism and the State of Israel in its withdrawal letter.
“Given our commitment to racial justice, self-governance, and indigenous sovereignty, we oppose Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology,” the statement read.
The organization then accused Israel, which it called a “colonial project,” of illegally occupying Palestine and engaging in “violent oppressive tactics that go against the values we advocate for as a hub.”
Sunrise DC also urged a sponsor of the march to revoke the groups’ membership in its coalition.
This reminds me of an incident over the summer when organizers of a Philadelphia food festival disinvited the cooks behind an Israeli food truck, apparently fearing protests over their presence. In the fallout from this decision, the event, which was supposed to celebrate diversity, was canceled. An organizer also claimed they had to shut things down because a Palestinian food truck couldn’t also attend — creating a presumably unacceptable imbalance in what style of falafel people would chew.
The entire episode was idiotic and smacked of anti-Semitism. The same is true here.
Let’s look at the groups that Sunrise DC finds to be “incompatible.”
Jewish Council for Public Affairs: They support a two-state solution along with a strong U.S.–Israel relationship; they oppose the BDS movement; they speak out on behalf of climate justice and racial justice; they oppose policies like the Muslim travel ban.
National Council of Jewish Women: They seek to empower Israeli and American women; they advocate for abortion access; they fight “xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-refugee policies.”
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism: They advocate for racial justice, economic justice, and reform of the criminal-justice system . . . as well as “religious pluralism within Israel” and foreign aid for Israel’s security.
This is standard progressive-advocacy fare. The only areas out of alignment concern their focus on anti-Semitism and their open support for the existence of Israel and for its security (not necessarily for every action taken by the government of Israel), often balanced out with support for democracy, pluralism, and the peace process.
But that’s not enough. Groups such as Sunrise DC appear incapable of viewing Jewish-aligned groups — even chefs! — in America as distinct from the Israeli government and its policies. It’s the kind of generalizing they’re supposed to stand against. These outfits support Israel and its right to exist, without being in lockstep all the time; just this month, one organization affiliated with the Religious Action Center condemned attacks by West Bank settlers on Palestinians and pressured the Israeli government to investigate.
Surely, the many colors of the progressive rainbow could find room in their tent for such a group. Instead, they perpetuate a self-defeating and self-refuting cycle. Rigid enforcement of a narrowly defined doctrine of inclusivity and equality ends up excluding anyone holding even slightly differing views, in this case amounting to that one particular type of discrimination that just doesn’t rate these days.