One of the first people to comment on the antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric at the “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) protest camp in lower Manhattan as well as at several of its clones in cities across the United States and Europe, was Sean Spicer, communications director of the Republican National Committee. In a memorandum dated October 18, Mr. Spicer wondered how Democratic leaders could endorse the OWS movement while remaining silent “in the midst of protesters’ extreme antisemitic, anti-Israel comments.”
“Where’s the outrage?” asked Mr. Spicer, singling out President Barack Obama; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL); and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steven Israel (D-NY) for declaring their support for the demonstrations.
“Is Steve Israel standing with those calling for the killing of Jews? Does Debbie Wasserman Schultz agree with the various calls for Jews to be ‘run out of this country’ and to oppose and ‘destroy’ the state of Israel?” said Mr. Spicer.
In fact, in and around the OWS protesters’ general message that rich people need to pay much more in taxes to help spread their wealth and make things “fair,” and that they—the protesters and their allies—need more from the government, are signs that Jews are being targeted.
While Mr.Israeldenounced Mr. Spicer’s statement, calling it “outrageous” and intended to “distract” from the Republicans’ “economic policies,” there is no denying that some OWS protesters have proclaimed that “Zionist Jews need to be run out of the country.”
A great deal of the information on the antisemitic component of the OWS movement has come from videos of OWS protesters supplied by the Emergency Committee for Israel, a group co-founded by William Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard; Gary Bauer of the pro-Israel conservative Christian group American Values; and Rachel Abrams.
In one widely circulated video, an OWS protester maintains that “almost all the bankers and hedge fund managers on Wall Street are Jewish” and that “there is a conspiracy in this country in which Jews control the media and finances.”
The protester insists that a “Google” search for “Wall Street Jews,” “Jewish Billionaires,” or “Jews and the Federal Reserve Bank” would be revealing.
“The Jews who represent two percent of the population, a small ethnic minority, they have pooled their money together, amassed their money to take control of America’s finances. Jews dominate American politics,” he says, adding that “almost all the Federal judges on the East and West coasts, are Jewish.”
“There’s a Jewish group in this country and it’s a conspiracy that everyone’s afraid to talk about,” he says.
And not only in America. InRussia, he says, “Jewish billionaires…are already attempting to take over Russia like they’ve taken over America.”
In another video, an OWS supporter is shown arguing with a man wearing a kippah. The protester says, “You got the money, that’s why you’re fighting. Jewish man, you can’t even speak English. You Israeli? Go back toIsrael.”
Still another OWS protester maintains that “the Jews commit more white-collar crime than any other ethnic group on the earth, and they go unprosecuted because they can buy their way out of it.”
“Whenever there’s a billion-dollar fraud, there’s a Jew involved,” says the protester.
At many of the OWS demonstrations, there have been posters such as: “Gaza supports the occupation of Wall Street,” “Hitler’s bankers—Wall Street,” and depictions of dollar bills attached to Stars of David.
At the Occupy Los Angeles protests, Patricia McAllister—a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District—appeared on reason.tv to say, “The Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, which is not run by the federal government, they need to be run out of this country.”
“Jews have been run out of 109 countries throughout history, and we need to run them out of this one,” she said.
When the embarrassed school district dismissed the non-tenured teacher, many of her fellow demonstrators denounced school officials for firing her and marched in her support.
When a reporter asked Ms. McAllister, an African-American woman, if she regretted her remarks, she said, no, and that she stood by them. To the reporters’ suggestion that such remarks directed against African-Americans would be seen as racist, Ms. McAllister said, “If we were guilty of such tactics, we should be thrown out of this country, too.”
The Los Angeles schools superintendent John Deasy said that although freedom of speech is a protected right of public employees, “the LAUSD can’t set a good example for students while tolerating disrespectful, intolerant, or discriminatory behavior.”
Communists and Nazis
There is no question that the OWS movement has brought together strange bedfellows, some of whom have nothing in common except hatred of Jews and Israel. Among the OWS protesters’ most vocal supporters have been Communist groups, the government of Iran, and the American Nazi Party.
“The Wall Street protests are the beginning of the ‘American Spring,’ ” said Iran’s Deputy Chief of Staff Masoud Jazeyeri, who predicted that the demonstrations against “greed” and gaps between rich and poor are the beginning of a revolution that will cause the collapse of the Western capitalist system.
“The latest events inNew Yorkand other cities show that the security forces in the US act more harshly than those in the Arab countries of theMiddle East,” he said.
Offering his support, Rocky Suhayda, head of the American Nazi Party, said, “Who holds the wealth and power in this country—the Judeo-Capitalists. Who is, therefore, the Number One enemy who makes all this filth happen—the Judeo-Capitalists.”
Nevertheless, MJ Rosenberg of the left-wing Media Matters Action Network dismissed the charges of antisemitism. Writing for Al-Jazeera, Mr. Rosenberg charged conservatives, such as Mr. Spicer, with “exploiting antisemitism to break the backs of popular movements that threaten the power of the wealthiest one percent of our population.”
By the end of October, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, had seen enough. He called on local and national Democratic leaders to denounce the antisemitic and anti-Israel posters and rhetoric at the OWS demonstrations.
“The US Constitution guarantees the right of people to peaceably assemble. OWS demonstrators are entitled to exercise this right, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. But OWS protests cannot become a haven for antisemites to congregate and espouse their hateful rhetoric,” he said.
He asked “Democrats at every level” to express publicly their outrage “and send a clear message to those who carry these antisemitic signs that their vile messages will not be tolerated.”
“History bears out what happens when good people remain silent in the face of evil,” said Mr. Hikind.
Supporters of OWS—many of them Jewish—deny that the number of antisemites among the protesters is significant or that they are in any way representative of the vast majority of protesters.
Writing in The Forward, Eric Alterman, a professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and a columnist for the far left-wing magazine, The Nation, sought to prove that the charge of antisemitism against OWS is “errant nonsense.”
“The fact that a few antisemites have congregated among the protesters is no more significant than the fact that they also tend to congregate in Times Squareor Grand Central Station. Should Jewish Democrats condemn them as well?” said Mr. Alterman. “The question to ask about antisemitism is not whether it exists, but whether its existence has any significant political or cultural implication.
He insisted that the “crazies with the silly signs” at the OWS protest “are easily ignorable.”
High “Comfort Level”
Ben Shapiro, a nationally syndicated conservative political commentator and Harvard Law School graduate, acknowledged that most of those occupying Wall Street are not antisemites.
“But there is far too high a comfort level among those in the movement for antisemitism. If the Tea Party had been even one-tenth as laced with racism as the OWS movement is with antisemitism, it would have been put out of business by the mainstream press long ago,” he said.
Many Jews and their pro-Israel supporters who have seen the antisemitic posters and frequent Arab headscarfs, a number of them with the pattern popularized by the late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, and heard the antisemitic rhetoric agree with Mr. Shapiro.
Mr. Spicer recalled that during the Tea Party demonstrations against national healthcare and irresponsible government spending, “Democrats were quick to single out any instances of perceived extremism, but with Occupy Wall Street, they turn a blind eye.”
“President Obama claimed that Martin Luther King would support the OWS demonstrations. But surely Dr. King would have called out these ugly displays of bigotry,” said Mr. Spicer.
Mr. Hikind joined the call for Democrats to denounce the antisemitism.
“Where are my fellow Democrats?” he asked. “Where are all the Tea Party critics? Why is there a double standard when it comes to denouncing obscenely offensive and patently untrue posters depicting Jews and Zionists as ‘greedy bankers’ who are allegedly responsible for the current economic crisis? Even one such sign is too many.”
According to Alana Goodman, an editor at the conservative Commentary magazine, the antisemitism at the protests represents more than the ravings of a few lunatics.
She noted that one of the major organizers of the protest movement was Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters, a Vancouver-based, advertisement-free, not-for-profit publication, which identifies as “anti-consumerist and pro-environment.” Founded in 1989, Adbusters has carried a number of articles and commentaries which flirt dangerously with antisemitism.
Ms. Goodman recalled that, in 2004, in an article entitled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” Mr. Lasn “peddled some of the more feverish theories about American Jews, neoconservatism, and the Bush Administration.”
In a piece entitled “Jazz and the Jihad,” Adbusters published comments insisting that Jews (“Ziocons”) had forced the US to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and were trying to compel the US to invade Iran.
“The Ziocons have some big appetite to satisfy. The same lobbies that led America towards this disastrous invasion in Iraq and Afghanistan are now doing whatever they can to push America towards intervention in Iran and Syria. For those few who still fail to realize it, America has been operating officially as an Israeli mission force. It currently fights the last sovereign pockets of Muslim resistance. Often enough, the true aim of the Zionist lobbies is concealed. Instead the Zionist lobbies promote some righteous phony humanitarian alternatives. The American Jewish Committee (AJC), for instance, is aggressively lobbying against human rights abuse in Iran and Darfur. Since human rights issues are really close to my heart, I find myself wondering whether the Jewish organization shouldn’t rather be concentrating on the colossal war crimes that are daily repeated by Israel in Palestine,” said a published comment.
In 2009, Adbusters published a photomontage comparing the Gaza Strip to the Warsaw Ghetto.
In an article entitled “Enough Boycott Israel,” it suggested (without mentioning that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005) that “the best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid inSouth Africa.”
“Call to Arms”
In June 2011, Adbusters issued a “call to arms,” floating the idea of motivating “20,000 people” to flood into lower Manhattan to set up tents and kitchens, for an “occupation” demonstration to protest “the growing disparity in wealth and absence of legal repercussions for the bankers behind the global financial crisis.”
Urging readers to take to the streets to demand change, Adbusters suggested September 17 as a starting date to coincide with America’s Constitution Day.
The idea quickly spread online with help from a hacker group calling itself “Anonymous.”
Another key founder of OWS is “October 2011,” an umbrella group made up of 164 organizations, many of which are anti-Israel.
“They don’t just disagree with the Jewish state, they seek to demonize Israel and make it the scapegoat for all that is wrong with the world,” said Jeff Dunetz, editor and publisher of the conservative blog, Yid with Lid.
The October 2011 organizations include All Education Matters, which, on its blog, complained that “not a single Democrat member of Congress has had the guts to…tell Israel to go swing in the breeze. It’s not about economics, it’s about America’s stupid…wars for oil and empire andIsrael.”
Answer and Appalachian Peace
The Answer Coalition, another “October 2011” group, takes the position that “what we are witnessing today in Gaza is collective punishment against the population as a whole.”
“It is just one part ofIsrael’s colonial policy toward the Palestinians. In historic Palestine, whether the West Bank, Gaza, or inside the 1948 borders of Israel, an apartheid system is in place, where many rights reserved for Jewish Israelis are denied to Palestinians. More than six million dispossessed Palestinians are denied the right to return to their homeland,” said Answer.
A third group, Appalachian Peace Education Center, was part of the recent attempted Gaza Flotilla.
Dr. Jacob George, who, as an independent blogger and a member of “A Ride to the End,” is part of “October 2011,” summed up the Middle East conflict like this: “On one hand, it is about a homeland, human dignity, and the right to statehood for a community of people who have endured suffering, genocide, war crimes, theft of land and property, and, on the other, the awful reality of the Jewish lobby, Israel’s cannibalism, bullying, and a US veto.”
25 Letters to Go
Mr. Dunetz, who reported on these groups, said he was not “cherry-picking” the “October 2011” alliance, looking for anti-Israel statements.
“Truth be told, I looked only through the ‘A’s; who knows what venom is in the 155 groups I didn’t have time to research,” he said.
The problem is much greater than these “few nuts within the OWS movement who are bashing Israel and the Jews,” he said.
“It is the leadership and founders, yet our President and the rest of the Democratic Party are practically tripping over their underwear in a rush to embrace these haters,” he said.
Others who have taken leadership roles in the supposedly leaderless OWS protests also have histories that may raise eyebrows.
For example, Occupy Orlando seems to be led by Shayan Elahi, an attorney linked through the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Last year, in a widely reported custody battle, Mr. Elahi unsuccessfully represented the parents of a 17-year-old Ohio-Muslim girl who said she converted secretly to Christianity and fled her parents’ home to avoid being subjected to an “honor killing,” the murder of a family member whose behavior conflicts with traditional Muslim-religious standards. The parents sought to have her returned, but the young woman wanted to stay in Florida with a pastor and his wife who, she said, had given her assistance. Before the case could be settled, the girl, Rifqa Bary, turned 18 and was able to make her own decision to stay inFlorida.
According to the “Occupy Orlando” FaceBook page, the organizers “plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America.”
Asked by the Florida Independent newspaper about his involvement with Occupy Orlando, Mr. Elahi, who serves as the “Affirmative Action chairman” of the Orange County, FL, Democratic Party, said he was at the protests “volunteering my legal service as just another proud American and a member of the movement.”
But on a video report submitted by Tom Trento of the conservative groups, Florida Security Council and The United West, Mr. Elahi repeatedly tried to intimidate the reporter, pulling away those he stopped to interview and pointedly calling Mr. Trento a “racist bigot.”
Mr. Trento suggested that, after losing Ms. Bary’s case as well as recent election for a judgeship, Mr. Elahi may be trying to “co-opt an incoherent movement primarily made up of hippies and anarchists so that he can build a political base for his Islamist goals.”
On October 21 in New York, CAIR issued an invitation to OWS protesters in Zuccotti Park to participate in traditional Islamic Friday Jummah prayers. The purpose was to conflate Muslim demands with those of the OWS protesters. But the Muslims were much more specific that OWS has been.
“Over the past several weeks, it has become clear that many of the demands of Occupy Wall Street parallel those of the New York Muslim community. Especially in light of the recently exposed NY Police Department surveillance in Muslim Student Organizations, we need to unite in our repudiation of government corruption and our rejection of the political effort to marginalize our voices,” said the invitation. “It is time for the New York Muslim community to assume its place in the fight for political and economic equality in the country, and it is vital that the youth lead the way.”
At the prayer service, Imam Aiyub Abdul Baki of the Islamic Leadership Council, delivered a talk that seemed to be about social justice, based on the Last Sermon of the Prophet Mohammed. In an inference to Wall Street Bankers, which some saw as veiled reference to Jews, Mr. Baki noted the Prophet’s commandment against usury.
“We are also suffering, suffering racism and discrimination. Islam-bashing is on the increase,” Mr. Baki told the protesters.
Some Jewish activists have also held prayer services at the New York OWS protest. In addition to Lubavitchers seeking out Jews who might be interested in putting on tefillin, some young Jews, led by left-wing activist Dan Sieradski, originally from Bergen County, managed to organize an almost-impromptu Kol Nidrei service erev Yom Kippur as well as a “freedom sukkah” and Simchat Torah celebration.
According to Mr. Sieradski, on October 14, NYC police asked the group, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, to dismantle a tent they had set up to facilitate a Shabbat dinner. Mr. Sieradski said the protesters told police the tent was actually a sukkah, but the knowledgeable New York City officers knew better. The police told the protesters that, from the tent, stars were not visible.
Josh Nathan-Kazis, writing in The Forward, discussed Kobi Skolnick, a 30-year-old Israeli whom he met in Zuccotti Park. Originally from a Lubavitch family, Mr. Skolnick left the hareidi world to study at a nationalist-religious yeshiva in the Samarian community of Itamar, before leaving religion and devotion to the Jewish state altogether.
He told Mr. Nathan-Kazis the turning point for him came after serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, making contact with Palestinians, and watching some of his friends die in the Israeli army.
Having relocated to the US, Mr. Skolnick now leads workshops on the Middle East conflict, often with a Palestinian partner, in presentations that have been sponsored byJ Street.
“It Does Exist”
Mr. Skolnick did not deny that there is antisemitism at the OWS protest. “It does exist, but it’s like three people,” he told the Forward. “They’re not articulate enough. You bring facts, and they get stressed.”
He also acknowledged that some of the activists were “critical of Israel.”
“People don’t like the occupation” of the Palestinian territories,” he told the Forward. “I myself don’t like the occupation.”
According to the Forward, Mr. Skolnick arrived in Zuccotti Park in September, one day after the protest began. He had planned to be back in Israel, but, he said, he lacked sufficient funds for a ticket.
To participate in the OWS protest over lack of employment, he quit his job in a Brooklyn restaurant. Now, he told the Forward, he “works” for OWS 12-16 hours a day, going home only to sleep. He said he is committed to the cause at least until January 2012,when he is scheduled to begin a master’s program at Columbia University in negotiation and conflict resolution.
Occupy Boston-Not Palestine
All too often, ostensibly Jewish groups have participated in the anti-Israel message surrounding the OWS protests. In the middle of October, a group of about 40 people from a group called “Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine” came to Dewey Park, where Occupy Boston is based, for an anti-Israel rally they called “Occupy Boston—Not Palestine.”
One of the organizers, Anna Shenk, told the Daily Free Press, aBoston University student publication , that she and the others had come “to give voice to the Palestinians.”
“I lived in Jordan for two years, working to provide food and clothing to Palestinian refugees,” she told the paper. “I learned firsthand what being chased out of your home does to you, no matter who you are, and it’s outrageous.”
She had no comment when asked why she thought Jordan and other Arab countries refused to grant citizenship to the Arabs who left Israel in 1948—and their descendents—after being promised by their leaders that they would return shortly to take over Jewish homes when the nascent state of Israel was destroyed.
Demanding Funding Cut
Ms. Shenk’s group argued that the US spends “8 million tax payers’ dollars on military aid and support to Israel per day.”
“America, open your eyes,” demanded protest participant Nancy Murray. “It’s because of your tax dollars that Israel occupies Palestine.”
Ignoring the fact that the only buildings destroyed by the Israeli government in Judea and Samaria in recent years have been Jewish homes, Ms. Murray insisted that “we need to build houses in the US instead of destroying houses in Palestine.”
“The occupation has gone on for so long because the US vetoed 41 UN Security Council resolutions. They’ve given Israelthe green light to abuse human rights,” she said.
Breaking the Law
While “Jewish Women for Justice” were demonstrating, MassResistance, a Boston-based conservative group, toured Dewey Park to see what kind of flyers were being passed around. The group found a popular one which announced that the protest was “Arab Spring Meet American Fall.”
The rest of the flyer was less jovial. It admonished protesters not to “festishize obedience to the law. Laws serve to protect the privileges of the wealthy and powerful; obeying them is not necessarily morally right—it may even be immoral.”
“Not everyone is resigned to legalistic pacifism; some people still remember how to stand up for themselves,” said the flyer.
Nevertheless, said the MassResistance spokesman, the local media has portrayed “Occupy Boston” as “merely noble young citizens who’ve had enough and are using their First Amendment rights to protest.”
“No Tea Party ever gets that treatment, that’s for sure,” said the MassResistance report.
Alerting the Media
The lack of media scrutiny has disturbed many critics of the OWS movement. Even though there is wide-spread admission about at least some degree of antisemitism at the protests, there has been very little mention of the issue in the mainstream media. For the most part, such reports about any of the OWS demonstrations are confined to the Internet.
This is in stark contrast to media reports on Tea Party events, when even a hint of antisemitism made headlines,. According to Brent Bozell, president of the politically conservative Media Research Center (MRC), most press outlets have given a biased, “genial” view of the OWS protests, often comparing them to the “Arab spring” demonstrations in the Middle East.
After MRC captured on video an OWS protester engaging in an antisemitic tirade, Mr. Bozell sent certified overnight letters to the presidents of ABC, CBS, and NBC News as well as to CNN Worldwide, demanding that the networks report the antisemitism.
He pointed out that while the networks are “turning a blind eye” to the antisemitism, they have been “obsessed with alleged racist smears by members of the Tea Party,” even though most of the allegations against the Tea Party activists and participants “have never been corroborated and there’s not a scintilla of video or audio evidence to back them up.”
Telling the network presidents they “must report this,” he added the warning that, if they do not, “your network will be guilty of a glaring double-standard: reporting baseless accusations of racism coming from the Tea Party as news; but not reporting documented evidence of antisemitism coming from the OWS crowd.”
“If you choose not to report this, you are deliberately covering up an act of antisemitism,” he wrote.
Mr. Dunetz pointed out that while some reports have tried to compare the OWS movement to the Tea Party, the two groups not only have little in common, but they have behaved differently especially in their responses to Israel and Jews in general.
For example, while there may or may not have been some antisemitic statements made at Tea Party events, there is no question the leadership as well as the rank-and-file quickly disavowed any connection between such rhetoric and the movement. At OWS, there have been no denunciations of the anti-Israel or antisemitic statements issued by any group or individual.
Writing in the London Mail, journalist Charlie Wolf noted the irony in the Occupy London demonstrators’ claim to be an “occupying force,” while, at the same time, carrying signs denouncing Israel as an “occupier.”
Acknowledging that even in London, there are many Jews among the OWS protesters, Mr. Wolf said, “Jews should be shocked to join any movement that has received endorsement from both the Communist and Nazi Parties.”
“The OWS movement is anti-Zionist and antisemitic,” he said, insisting these are “more than just insinuations, but signs equating Jews with banks and the rich, protesting US foreign relations with Israel—especially defense funding—and mention of the Rothschild family.”