From its inception, the Occupy Wall Street movement has faced attacks from those who resist its agenda. Some of the strongest attacks have come from pro-Israel groups on the right, who focused on some isolated incidents and sign-holders to tar the entire movement as anti-Israel and worse. By proudly rejecting an explicit platform and formal leadership structure, OWS has left itself open to such attacks.
Now the movement is facing a challenge from some pro-Palestinian groups who are insisting that their one-sided anti-Israel agenda deserves to be heard among the movement’s various talking points on domestic economic disparities. Happily, a number of Jews who share the OWS agenda are fighting back. One such activist, Dan Sieradski, has collected signatures from over 1,000 sympathetic Jews, including New Yorkers Mark Green, Eliot Spitzer, and Randi Weingarten, defending OWS against charges of anti-Semitism. In a fascinating exchange on the pro-Palestinian website Mondoweiss, Sieradski tries to make the perfectly reasonable — and tactically obvious — point that the Occupy movement would lose mainstream Jewish support by promoting a specifically anti-Israel cause, and that it should remain tightly focused on its core issue: economic justice. It is depressing how his interlocutor, Adam Horowitz, pushes back, accusing Sieradski of maintaining a “hard line” over the issue.
Sieradski, a New Jersey native, is a Jewish insider (he was webmaster at JTA) who, as he puts it, “spent the last 10 years working inside the Jewish community to change attitudes about the occupation and to create a more open space for dissenting voices.” Left-wing Zionists like him have walked a fine line. It is heartening to see him take the fight for sanity on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict directly to the other side.
For now, Jewish Occupiers have kept the movement from being co-opted by anti-Israel forces. These activists, too, are fighting against the forces of de-legitimization. They deserve thanks, and support, from a Jewish community that may have mistakenly thought the battle was lost.