Jewish media activist Daniel Sieradski, left. [Photo: Jared Malsin]
The Emergency Committee for Israel, a conservative Republican group dedicated to criticizing President Obama’s Middle East policy, released an ad Thursday accusing the Occupy Wall Street movement of anti-Semitism.
The ad was the latest in a series of accusations from mainly right-wing pundits and organizations alleging bigotry on the part of the economic justice protesters, who have been camped out in New York and across the country for more than three weeks.
New York Times columnist David Brooks noted on Monday that Adbusters magazine, which was involved in the initial organizing of the protest, published in 2004 an article titled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” about Jewish neoconservatives in the Bush administration.
Riffing on Brook’s suggestion, right-wing talk radio stalwart Rush Limbaugh went on to suggest that the slogan “We are the 99 percent” was a variation of the anti-Semitic trope that financial system is controlled by Jews.
In New York’s Zuccotti Park (Liberty Plaza), where the main Occupy Wall Street encampment is located, there is no evidence that the handful of anti-Semitic signs and utterances featured in ECI’s ad are anything other than an isolated fringe, spurned by the rest of the protesters. On Wednesday, one man holding a cardboard sign reading “Google: Zionists control Wall St.” was followed around by another protester with his own sign reading “This guy does not represent Occupy Wall Street. à” with an arrow pointing to the offensive demonstrator.
Protesters also note that Jews have participated in the demonstration from day one. One group, Occupy Judaism, has organized religious services at the protest camp during the Jewish high holidays. Organizers say a thousand worshipers turned out to a Yom Kippur service last Friday.
The prime mover behind Occupy Judaism is new media activist Daniel Sieradski, who was at Zuccotti on Thursday, standing outside a tent which served as a Sukkah, a traditional structure erected by Jews on the holiday of Sukkot.
For Sieradski, the allegations of anti-Semitism highlighted what he sees as a double standard. He told me: “I think it’s really despicable that the media, and in particular the conservative media, is going out of it’s way to falsely represent the activities here, which are not at all incongruous from the tea party protests, which they adamantly defended as not being anti-semitic, despite the fact that there were way more people holding up anti-Semitic signs to the tea party protests.”
He added: “You’re going to tell me that we’re antisemites? My mom grew up ultra-orthodox.”
He also said: “We’re people who care about social and economic justice for all americans. And we’re not clowns.”