On Monday, I merited to take part in the New York March Against Racism sponsored by TroopsOutNow.org in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

Co-sponsored by literally dozens of co-signing organizations and leaders, the march began at 32nd and 7th Avenue at the headquarters of WABC Radio, to protest the re-hiring of Don Imus (to the tune of a $5-million-per-year contract). Proceeding down 32nd to 8th Avenue, the march’s final destination was Columbus Circle, to CNN’s New York headquarters. There, the subject of protest would be Lou Dobbs, whose commentary on immgration has raised more than a little ire among working class minority communities.

The march was a testament to the diversity of New York. Literally every ethnic group and minority had some organization or representative there at the march, interacting in solidarity. Under the banner “Black, Latin@, Asian, Arab, Native, White: Unite Against Racism”, the march was but one of a series of marches planned throughout the country on the holiday, from Boston to San Diego.

The frigid afternoon began with marchers assembling and tables setting up around 1pm. By 1:10pm the kick-off speeches were in full swing, with TroopsOutNow.org, Katrina organizers, Palestinian activists, and minority empowerment leaders all pitching in their inspirational words to the frostbitten crowd of about 100 which had begun to assemble. By the time we were ready to walk at about 1:50, while I had lost 70% of the feeling in my toes, the crowd grew by what seemed to be at least 400%. From the middle of the crowd where I was, I could only surmise the size of the group I was in.

At about 1:50, we set off for 8th Avenue to a rousing chant of “the people! united! will never be defeated!” set to a nice Parliament/late James Brown-esque funk backdrop. Grooving at this point, I encountered a group of punk rockers crossing 7th Avenue holding “Hands Off Black Youth” signs, singing the chorus to Antifa Hooligans by Los Fastidios. Joining them on the chorus, I began to walk with their group.

It was around this time I noticed the diversity of the organizations. I was sandwiched in between Domestic Workers United (an advocacy group which fights for the rights of household workers), a Filipino human rights organization fighting for visibility for the Sentosa 27 (victims of human trafficking and labor exploitation), a Chinese-American anti-racist organization……and the “Free Palestine” group. This is where the afternoon began to get a bit complex.

First of all, I should more accurately call the group “the second installment of the ‘Free Palestine’ group”, because people in kaffiyehs and holding Palestinian flags were quite prominently in the front of the march, and “Free! Free Palestine!” was a chant I heard more than once. Lagging behind a bit due to the lack of blood circulating in my feet, I was overtaken and enveloped by the pro-Palestinian crowd soon after we turned onto 8th Avenue.

The anti-Israel sentiment was in full effect. One of the organizers from TroopsOutNow.org (who was Jewish, as were about 70% of the organizers from most of the organizations, including one of the “black power” organizations) and I began to talk about Israel and I realized soon into our exchange that, while we were both critical of Israel, we were not on the same page about its existence.

The omission of “Jews” from the banner didn’t even begin to hint on precisely how overlooked anti-Semitism would be at the march. Once I had a glimmer of hope: as we marched past the New York Times building, one lone protester screams “BOO!”. Turning around, I was waiting for him to say what I had been thinking — Holocaust omissions? Anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli spin? Maybe even an accusation of anti-Semitism? Something? “Why did you just scream ‘boo!’?”, another protester asks.

“Because I heard that the building was owned by some Zionist jeweler who works up on 5th Avenue.”

Sigh…Not once was anti-Semitism the buzz-prejudice on anyone’s lips. While I was ecstatic to sound off against racists, the fact that anti-Semites were off the radar was disturbing to me. And the fact that so many of the organizers were Jews made this fact even more striking. Considering how pro-Israel and pro-Jewish Dr. King was, this omission is not only potentially offensive to victims of anti-Semitism, but borders on historically inaccurate.

Still, all in all, a wonderful march, comprised of many wonderful activists I was privileged to meet. May the light of Dr. King’s legacy live on. Talk about a man who truly helped to bring the world closer to Moshiach.

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About the author

Y-Love

A modern charedi Jew-by-choice since 2000, and igniting headphones with Torah hiphop since 2001.

Originally from Maryland and now holding it down in the shtetlach of New York, won the Jewish Music Awards for "Best Hiphop" in 2006. Vocally anti-prejudice and pro-unity.

Love me, hate me, or debate me, know you can't ignore me, though.

31 Comments

  • When you begin to see that some anti-racists are racists themselves, then it will all begin to make sense.

  • “There, the subject of protest would be Lou Dobbs, whose commentary on immgration has raised more than a little ire among working class minority communities.”

    Hey, I’m kind of insensitive, so could you highlight for me what in that article was ire-inducing? Thanks.

    “Still, all in all, a wonderful march, comprised of many wonderful activists I was privileged to meet. ”

    Really? From your description, it doesn’t sound very Jew-friendly.

    Glad you had a good time anyway.

  • Not that it was anti-Jewish, don’t get me wrong — it’s just that anti-Semitism was sorely overlooked.

    And the anti-Israel prejudice was in full effect. (Or would you say that that organizer, for example, was an anti-Semitic Jew?)

  • I spent the day working with an ethnically, racially, religiously, internationally diverse collection of coworkers; you spent it marching around with a bunch of repellent bigots, directing rage at Don Imus, Lou Dobbs and “some Zionist jeweler”. We can disagree about which Dr. King would have preferred.

    So these “Katrina organizers” do what to help people, exactly…? And “STOP foreclosures Housing is a RIGHT” would be implemented how, exactly?

  • You are right about the anti-Israel sentiments on the Left. It’s lamentable.

    But Don Imus, in the words of one speaker, was only “revealing that which what in his heart” by “letting” his unprovoked comment about the Rutgers basketball players “slip”. Knowing that a racist is getting paid millions yearly to “analyze news” offends many people. (Why this particular racist? Ein hacha namei, I don’t know.)

    And Lou Dobbs offended many people by speaking out for tighter borders — and being offended is an inalienable right in America. 🙂

    Do not think that there was any anti-Semitism at the march, far from it. In fact I wish it could have at least gotten brought up. (So many of the people speaking against Israel were Jews though!)

  • I don’t get it. If you were particularly proud of this activity, then so be it. But you’re obviously upset about hanging out with these reptiles yet feel the need to justify it.

    I’ll break the cognitive dissonance for you: you don’t need to hang out with scum like this to be “anti-racist”. On the contrary, being around hate-filled, confrontational, race-obsessed extremists is antithetical to being a tolerant, welcoming person.

  • Maybe you were standing in the wrong section of the parade? Maybe somewhere else there were actually people who were fighting against racism and hate in all of its forms–including anti-semitism?

    It is twisted though–hate the Jews as part of an anti-racism campaign.

    Gila

  • From the sound of it, I’d expect a more civil, thoughtful discussion with Imus over one with the typical person in attendance at this “march against racism.” Imus may call me a dirty Kike, but at least he won’t argue against Jewish right to sovereignty, or advocate or excuse the actions of people who blow up good-natured Jews, such as Shiri Negari, minding their own business, riding the bus to work as they do every day.

    The Jenna 6 “controversy” is another one of those crackpot issues intended to engage reasonable-minded people in the latest distortion of liberalism. Let’s see, we have a white kid (who was not even involved in the noose incident that took place months before his assault, not that the attack would be justified if he were) beaten unconscious in an unprovoked attack by six black people. Then, assailants are convicted of battery, and I’m supposed to feel sorry for them, treat them like heroes, and overturn their convictions. Nevermind that investigators determined that the prosecutions were not racially-motivated, which activists all too conveniently ignore. You’re damn right it’s racist; had the victim not been white, there’d be no controversy. So thanks for marching in support of the Jenna 6.

    And thanks for marching against “all” racism, especially among such a diverse group of people, many of whom ironically have the same ideology, and cannot support the existence of a Jewish state. Tell me, do they hate Israel because there are too many “whitie” Jews there. That’s a swell bunch of people you marched with.

    I take it TroopsOutNow.org is protesting on behalf of the Kurds, who are finally liberated, now prospering like never before – and haven’t been gassed in a while.

    Racial activism has become a conglomerate of extremist causes, most of which support violent, oppressive actions, which alone attract only the most repulsive, blood-thirsty people.

    But you joined hands with these monsters, and so took them one step closer to the mainstream.

  • Anyone who thinks racism isn’t everywhere (and all other -isms) is just living in a cave and has no inkling about reality. Granted, this isn’t Selma, Alabama but just do a search on any news search engine for “hate crime” or “swastika” or any racial epithet.

    Now it is wholly possible I happened to be in the “wrong” part of the parade. (And don’t get me wrong, I support Palestinian causes but, as we know, expelling and/or killing Jews does nothing for Palestinian people.) I actually at the time was schmoozing with the woman from Domestic Workers United, and was learning about those issues. I had been trying to make my way to the Filipino group and eventually to the Chinese group because, in general, I know very little about anti-Asian racism, etc., but most of the Filipino group was speaking Tagalog and it was way too cold to try to run past them to get to the Chinese group.

    Then I start to lag behind and…..well yeah.

    And what’s also odd is that very few of the groups were yelling the “free Palestine” chants but most of the groups also weren’t the size of the “free Palestine” group. (Who is doing the PFLP’s PR? When did they begin to get this huge groundswell of support in America and why b’davka them? But I digress.)

    The point with the Jena 6 was the unfair treatment of the defendants under the judicial system. Anti-racist activism does involve extremists and it involves housewife Oprah demographics. From the most mainstream NAACP chapter to the weird spinoff fringe groups. We as individuals can choose which organizations to be down with. But at a nationwide network of parades, it seems everyone shows up.

  • Absolutely, “anti-racists” can choose to march with whomever they like, but was it appropriate to march in this protest? Why wasn’t a separate event organized by actual anti-racists. When TroopsOutNow.org organized the event, people knew what to expect, yet they prefered to further their particular cause over actual anti-racism. Your point that it was an opportunity to protest against racism is absurd; should I march with neo-nazis because (hypothetically) I like their activism on behalf of family values?

    “The point with the Jena 6 was the unfair treatment of the defendants under the judicial system.”

    Again, independent investigators determined they were treated fairly.

    “…do a search on any news search engine for ‘hate crime’ or ‘swastika'”

    I just did a search with “hate crime swastika” and was not in the least surprised by the results. Nearly all of the links on the first page mentioned “anti-semitism” and “jewish” in the summary. As you know, this parade excluded antisemitism, even though it trumps in number of incidents nearly all the “racism” protested against at this rally. In addition, Jews are disproportionately targeted by bigotry, maybe second only to blacks. Can you imagine holding an anti-racism march that does not condemn racism against blacks, where many of the activists hate blacks? Why should one fly, but not the other?

  • See though you’re making the jump in logic that these people were themselves anti-Semitic — and I wouldn’t go that far, if for no other reason than how much Jewish representation there was at the march.

    “Actual anti-racism”? You can’t deny the validity of an organization like Domestic Workers United wanting visibility, or of people wanting cases like that of the Sentosa 27 to have people pay attention to them. These are people who are victims of racism — no less justified than any abuse survivor’s story or anything else. I just did, incidentally, a search for “hate crime” on Google News and got black victims, disability abuse, and this case of anti-Latino abuse in the top 10 (that case was number 1), in addition to anti-Semitism.

    The omission of anti-Semitism is what I’m talking about. That’s what I was criticizing. It’s sad. But IMO, the Jews on these boards of these organizations should be putting anti-Semitism at least on the table.

    See here for one person’s account of how the Jena 6 was a case of racism playing out through events; NOW agrees, noting inequity in punishments administered during the chain of events leading up to the assault. One NGO director even said “the new Jim Crow is the criminal justice system.”

  • Y-Love,
    Big up to you for doing what you felt was necessary to honor Rev. Dr. MLK Jr. on Monday. But please don’t fool yourself. Troops Out Now .org is part of the umbrella group Int’l A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and I supported them wholeheartedly and marched w/them several times in the anti-war protests in ’02 and ’03 trying to ignore some of the most obvious antiJewish and anti-Israel sentiment until I just couldn’t stomach it any more, and it was a painful decision to make, because I’m on the same page with just about everything else they stand for. But when one of their organizers marched on Washington SC with a loudspeaker singling out various war supporters as Jews specifically, and no one complained, I knew something was deeply, deeply wrong with this group. Pretty soon even other organizations like United for Peace and Justice started distancing themselves from them because of their blatant anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment.
    Y-Love, once I let these guys go from my life I began to discover all sorts of organizations who are fiercely critical of Israeli and U.S. foreign policy and are very effective in changing it (such as Brit Tzedek and Americans For Peace Now, which are giving AIPAC a run for its money) but are fully accepting of Jews and the legitimate existence of Israel, as well as groups who are less about pointing fingers and more about finding solutions (such as Combatants for Peace and a few other groups whose names I can’t remember right now).
    Y-Love, I fully support where you’re coming from ’cause I’ve been there myself. But the A.N.S.W.E.R. emperor has no clothes… just ’cause they’re in denial about their own anti-Semitism doesn’t mean it’s not there. Like they say, “If it looks like a snake, and acts like a snake, and sounds like a snake, it’s a snake.” And while I actually rather like snakes, I’d prefer to spend my time with the non-poisonous ones.
    Still, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself and wish you well in your ongoing quest for peace and justice. Just remember that an injustice to one (including a Jew) is an injustice to all. Like Dr. King said.

  • I wouldn’t call them anything; I don’t know them personally or what their own agenda is, if they have any. But I do know what I heard and saw, and at the end of the day it was unforgivably offensive. And discriminatory. And if they can’t put a stop to hate and bigotry w/in their own organization how the hell do they think they’ll put an end to it in the world at large? “We have to be the change we want to see,” right?
    Let me ask you this: do you think by virtue of having Jews on their organizing committee that automatically absolves an organization of charges of anti-Semitism?

  • I should correct something I said: if they took responsibility for the anti-Semitic statements that their group has made on their behalf, or refused to clarify or repudiate, then yes, I would call them anti-Semitic, whether they’re Jewish or not. Whether they can live with themselves at the end of the day or hate themselves or are “self-hating Jews” is on them.

  • I rly had no idea. I just went to an ANSWER website — no mention of any anti-Semitic anything anywhere.

    But Jews are prominent in virtually all of their coalition member organizations! If there’s really anti-Jewish sentiment there then I don’t understand this.

  • You mean organizations put their antisemitic tendencies on their websites? I don’t think so, YLove.

    Even The Nation has the scoop on this.

    As to your question about Jews having leading roles in groups affiliated with ANSWER or in protesting Israel, that doesn’t make them antisemitic. Their actions may sometimes be antisemitic – because it is antisemitism to single out Israel time and again for perceived offenses that are far smaller than those by other countries which aren’t protested – but may simply be antithetical to Israel. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that they need the support of the larger community of organizations for their organization to receive maximal exposure. This means that they’ll do what you did: appear at demonstrations or shake hands with groups that have a deep bias against Israel (and often for its Jewish supporters) and claim that they’re upset at the treatment Israel or Jews receive at the hands of these individuals or groups but since their agenda is served, they’re willing to plug their nose at the stench of bias and play along anyway.

    When ANSWER negated his appearance because of his Zionism, Rabbi Lerner complained but did not boycott them or ask others to boycott ANSWER. His reasoning was that promoting the anti-war message which he endorsed was more important than the fact that he was excluded because of his Zionism…and his criticism that groups on the Left like ANSWER “for using antiwar demonstrations to put forward what he considers to be anti-Israel propaganda.”

    The problem, the real problem, is that it isn’t just the far Left that is offering us the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric but it’s now filtering to a broader and more mainstream public.

  • Y-LOVE,
    They’re not going to post blatantly anti-Semitic or anti-Israel rhetoric on their website, you’re not going to get a lot of followers if you do that up-front. Subscribe to their newsletter & see what they send you. I’m still on their e-mail list, I rarely attend any of their events anymore b/c of the past experiences I’ve had w/them.
    Here’s a link you might want to check out; just to show that I’m not some crazy paranoid they’re-all-out-to-get-us type:
    http://www.forward.com/articles/9242/
    But ultimately it’s up to you. If you’re ok with this organization, well I’m glad you found it & continue to fight the good fight.
    But your original post indicates otherwise.
    It’s apparent that at the day wore on, things went down at the march that made you feel uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, in fact, that you let someone else ask a question that you were thinking but were too afraid to ask. (“Why did you boo?”)
    Let me ask you, do you think any Asians, Arabs, Latinos, white Christians, or those of the African Diaspora felt the same discomfort you did? Gays and Lesbians? Why not?
    Are you secretly some right-wing homophobic racist neocon who wasn’t really there to celebrate the legacy and message of MLK? 😉
    So how come you alone were made to feel uncomfortable?
    You’re the only one who can answer that, but speaking from personal experience, you owe it to yourself (and to the struggle) to find a place where you can feel secure and be at ease with you are. Otherwise, you wind up spending more time fighting what you believe in than fighting FOR what you believe in. Think about it.
    Shalom

  • But ultimately it’s up to you. If you’re ok with this organization, well I’m glad you found it & continue to fight the good fight.
    But your original post indicates otherwise.
    It’s apparent that at the day wore on, things went down at the march that made you feel uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, in fact, that you let someone else ask a question that you were thinking but were too afraid to ask. (”Why did you boo?”)
    Let me ask you, do you think any Asians, Arabs, Latinos, white Christians, or those of the African Diaspora felt the same discomfort you did? Gays and Lesbians? Why not?
    Are you secretly some right-wing homophobic racist neocon who wasn’t really there to celebrate the legacy and message of MLK?
    So how come you alone were made to feel uncomfortable?

    Well said, sheela!!

    It’s ironic. All these well-meaning Jews who seek to “heal the world,” “repair the world,” “bring about peace,” etc. are willing to compromise some of their feelings and subvert their own values for a supposed greater good. One can help to repair the world without taking any part in events or with groups that attack Israel or its supporters.

  • See, you can’t use that steadfast “it is antisemitism to single out Israel” rule when you’re talking about Jews. Look at all the religious non-NK anti- and non-Zionist people for example. On paper, most non-modern Orthodox organizations are at best complicit with the State of Israel. Even Chaba”d. You can’t just brush the word “anti-Semitic” over Chassidic sect after Chassidic sect and Litvish yeshivot. Men fiert zich nisht mit die Tzionim (one doesn’t deal with Zionists) is not a totally uncommon Yiddish expression one hears in Brooklyn.

    I felt uncomfortable because I felt like anti-Semitism wasn’t being addressed (why do I have to say the same thing 4 and 5x on post after post?), obviously I didn’t hear “the Jews do X” or “those damn Jews” or anything — that would have made me leave instantly and my entire post would look drastically different.

    But you’re saying that the omission of anti-Semitism from the agenda is symptomatic of a larger anti-Jewish MO, and that makes me wonder how Jews can run these subsidiary organizations.

  • Here is an example. Many people like to claim that the Neo-Cons are Jewish and therefore we are in Iraq because of Jews. This premise has been pushed further to indicate that these Jewish Neo-Cons took the US into Iraq because of their real agenda which was support for Israel. In other words, Israel and Jews screwed the US. This claim has been made by many on the Left and has become one of the focal points of vocal groups on the Left. Just go to Daily Kos, The Nation or similar sites to see these claims bandied about as if they’re obvious. By the way, they aren’t fair or correct claims, just to be clear.

    There are many Jews, Lerner among them, who have bought this version of events. They feel a little uncomfortable when it comes up but overall, they subscribe. In the meantime, their real interest might be to stop the Iraq war or for the Palestinians to have a state or for the US to act differently in South America or in Africa. They make the calculation that it’s better to argue their case or support organizations arguing the case than to worry about their discomfort regarding accusations against Israel, Jews or Israel’s supporters.

    Sometimes, however, when they believe the logic of, for example, the claim that a Jewish lobby drives American foreign policy with respect to Israel, they feel entirely justified in pointing that out publicly, and will in fact use their own Jewishness to indicate the justness of their claims.

  • But Jews are prominent in virtually all of their coalition member organizations! If there’s really anti-Jewish sentiment there then I don’t understand this.

    Because they’re just like you. It’s important to them to remain part of this crowd, so as long as people say “Zionist” and not “Jew”, they’re willing to pretend that comments like “some Zionist jeweler who works up on 5th Avenue” are just expressing differences with Israeli policy.

    Like I said, this isn’t a problem for me since I don’t for a second believe that being “anti-racist” requires hanging out with filth like this. And if it’s not a problem for you, than leave it be. But you’re obviously unhappy about it and you’re obviously unwilling to face the simple reality of it.

  • the state of the discussion in these comments is really upsetting.
    it seems like only Y-Love knows what’s up in this country.

  • The Middle,
    Thanks for your kind words above. And I agree that it’s ironic, unfortunate (and ultimately foolish) to believe that one can keep silent when one’s own people is being disparaged, and yet fight for the rights and liberty of others.
    To all my Black, Latino and Asian and/or gay & lesbian Jewish brothers and sisters, in my post above, I didn’t mean to imply that all these groups are mutually exclusive from one another. I should know…
    Y-Love,
    I can’t help but get the feeling you’re conflating issues and, quite frankly, trying to pick a fight. No one is saying that Jews who are critical of Israel (or even deny its legitimacy) are necessarily anti-Semitic or “self-hating”, but that’s not to say that just because they’re Jewish, they can’t be anti-Semitic for other reasons. The guy who booed the “Zionist Jeweler upon 5th Avenue” (and you’re incredibly naive if you don’t know what that really stands for) was a Jew. (Or so you say.) Who cares? So was Bobby Fischer. I suppose he wasn’t anti-Semitic because he was born and raised a Jew?
    But what really kills me is that you complain you “have to post the same thing 4 or 5 times,” yet you’ve asked the same question 4 or 5 times: what about the Jews in A.N.W.E.R.? Are they self-hating? And one more time I’ll respond: how the hell should we know? Why don’t you ask them yourself? Better yet, ask them why they didn’t include “Jews” on the banner in question, or what is their feeling towards Jews who DO accept the legitimacy of Israel, and why do they always seem to conveniently schedule rallies and marches on the Jewish High Holy Days?
    And if you’re not going to ask them this, then therein lies the problem. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy by admitting your discomfort, and move on. (Or better yet MoveOn.org)
    As controversial as Sister Souljah can be, she has a few words of wisdom I choose to live by: “If you can’t say [or ask] what you really feel around your friends, then they’re not really your friends.”

  • Y-Love,
    Just to be clear, I didn’t mean to come off as belligerent in my above post, it’s just that too often in the past I’ve had to deal with the stale, outdated paradigm of “Pro-Israel=Anti-Palestinian=Neocon=Pro-war,” and it’s exhausting and demoralizing to have to fight two battles (against anti-Semitism and racism) on two separate fronts, when they ought to be the same battle. (And as a woman, I can assure you a lot of my sisters of every heritage know where I’m coming from on that.) And while I admit there are Jews who are quick to equate ANY criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, there are just as many Jews and non-Jews who interpret any charges of anti-Semitism as a knee-jerk defensiveness of all things Israel.
    Anyway, I still wish you success in your struggle to fight for civil and human rights everywhere and sorry everyone for the long-ass posts!

  • I followed the links. The list of supporters reads like a veritable who’s-who of the leftover left. That’s the problem with the “anti-war movement” and
    ”anti-racism movement” these days, the more moderate voices are absent and all that remains are the rants and ravings of the radicals.

    I don’t doubt that people were not chanting “Kill the Kikes” but I’m sure if you spent some time reading the publications of these radical groups you’ll find that the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is very thin indeed. I’m not talking about Domestic Workers United, etc. but of the overtly political groups and organizations like ANSWER, the ISO, etc. that organize these marches and demonstrations. These people are the ideological heirs of those who despised Dr. MLK, Jr. while he was alive. They thought he was too soft for promoting compromise instead of “revolution.” Check out what Bayard Rustin and others who were part of King’s camp thought of these dangerous fools.

    As far as the anti-Jewish sentiment held by Jewish communists and other radical leftists all I can say is read your peoples history. There are plenty of examples where Jewish people were more committed to some universalist notion of identity (i.e. “class consciousness”) than the particularity of being Jewish. Start with Karl Marx’s “On the Jewish Question” and then proceed…

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