ABOVE THE FOLD: The Women’s March and antisemitism

When it comes to antisemitism and leftist movements logic plays no role.

By
January 3, 2019 21:42
4 minute read.
ABOVE THE FOLD: The Women’s March and antisemitism

Women's March . (photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)

 
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Two years ago, as a reaction to the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, a very vocal group of women organized a protest called the Women’s March. Thousands of women – almost entirely from the political Left – joined ranks and marched through the streets of Washington and their home cities. This year, the third annual Women’s March was scheduled to be held on January 19th. Over the weekend, it was canceled.  

Organizers explain the cancellation by saying the march had become “too white.” You see, a march for women was not interested in the participation of white women, especially in the participation of white women who are Jewish. Although it was not the reason for the cancellation, the march had become rife with antisemitism.

The American press has been covering the Women’s March ideology for the past few months. Even the venerable New York Times ran a front-page story describing the antisemitic character of the third Women’s March titled “Women’s March Roiled by Accusations of Antisemitism.”

How did this happen? How could a march, organized by those on the political Left, primarily by black women – a minority group clamoring for equality and critical of bias – turn its collective back on another minority and hurl criticism at that group? One would think participants and organizers of the Women’s March would join hand-in-hand in condemning antisemitism.  

But no. They were the people responsible for spewing forth and perpetuating antisemitic bias in the context of women’s rights. Their thinking is convoluted and wrong. If you can make no sense of this, it is because it makes no sense. It goes like this: Because the majority of Jews are white, they are viewed as the white oppressors.

Letty Cottin Pogrebin, the founder of Ms. magazine and a person whose feminist and Jewish bona fides are without question, confirmed this attitude in a letter to the editor of The New York Times. In her letter, Pogrebin pointed out that antisemitism in the liberal movement is not new. Forty years ago, she wrote, she confronted the exact same antisemitism.

When it comes to antisemitism and leftist movements logic plays no role. We see it historically. We saw it in the period that heralded the rise of Zionism. 

The socialist and communist movements were ideal homes for Jews in Europe. Jews were an oppressed minority and, by definition and doctrine, socialism and communism offered protection from the oppressor. Jews, however, were not welcomed into those movements. From the very beginning, there was tension with the Jews. Ironically – and thankfully for the future of the future State of Israel – that tension was extremely positive for the future of Jews and Jewish socialism.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, co-authors of The Communist Manifesto – the guide book to communism and socialism – originally partnered with another philosopher and thinker. Moses Hess was the third member of their triumvirate and a member of the inner circle. The man who went on to father Labor Zionism and conceptualize socialist-Zionist philosophy was forced out and denounced as a “utopian socialist” by Marx.

Movements founded on the principle of unity against racism and hatred have often featured one caveat: Everyone is equal, everyone but Jews!

The socialist movement and socialist literature were heavily based on the German language. But it was only the elite who wrote and spoke in German. The masses were not in Germany, and Jews were part of that rank-and-file population. Those Jews spoke Yiddish, and those “Jewish” Jews were not welcome. As a result, two Jewish socialist groups emerged. One was composed of Jewish Socialists and called the Bund. The other was called Zionist socialism. 

Jewish socialists embraced Yiddish as a language and as a socialist message. They created organizations like the Workman’s Circle and opened schools, newspapers and radio stations. The ideology that began in Europe was later transplanted to America as members immigrated to the goldeneh medina, “the golden country,” the United States.   

Socialist Zionists felt the best response was excising Jews from Europe and bringing them to Israel/Palestine and, once ensconced in this Jewish enclave, establishing a socialist utopia. These were the socialists who founded and created the modern State of Israel. They came with their biases and they built a socialist state.

They came about it from slightly different directions, but the goal of both movements was the same. These Jewish revolutionaries were trying to solve problems, the biggest among them the problem of antisemitism. 

This story has a bittersweet ending. Had Jews been welcomed into the original communist and socialist movements, much of the impetus to create a state for Jews would have been diluted. As for achieving the goal of solving the problem of antisemitism, well, we’re still fighting that one – witness the Women’s March of 2019.

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