Issues

When Condemning Anti-Semitism Is Just Too Much

The fall of the Women's March, and the virus infecting progressivism

(L-R) Bob Bland, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Tamika Mallory
(L-R) Bob Bland, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Tamika Mallory / Getty

On January 21, 2017, the day after Donald Trump's inauguration, millions of people took to the streets across the country to protest the 45th president and support a host of progressive causes. The Women's March, as the protests were called, became a broader, unified movement of the political left, and the darling of so many in the media and Democratic politicians who called for resistance against societal "oppression" in the age of Trump.

Fast-forward two years, and the Women's March has fallen from grace. Accusations of anti-Semitism against the leaders of the Women's March have devastated the movement. Indeed, many local march organizations recently had trouble fundraising and were forced to cancel or alter their planned marches. Others splintered from the national group and now note on their websites that they are unaffiliated with it. These troubles reached a new low this week, when the Democratic National Committee withdrew its support for the Women's March, following the example of several other prominent left-wing organizations.

This trend has not caused the movement's leaders to rethink some of their actions. Just look at Women's March co-founder Tamika Mallory, who on Monday failed to condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for his virulent anti-Semitic comments.

Farrakhan has compared Jews to termites, warned against "Satanic Jews who have infected the whole world with poison and deceit," and has described Adolf Hitler as a "very great man," among countless other remarks.

Appearing on ABC's "The View," Mallory defended her decision to label Farrakhan as the GOAT, an acronym for the "greatest of all time," in a previous post on social media. "I didn't call him the ‘greatest of all time' because of his rhetoric; I called him the ‘greatest of all time' because of what he's done in black communities," she said.

Mallory then refused to denounce Farrakhan's anti-Semitism when repeatedly pressed by co-host Meghan McCain.

"I don't agree with many of Minister Farrakhan's statements," Mallory said.

"Do you condemn them?" McCain asked.

"I don't agree with these statements," Mallory said. "At the end of the day—"

"But won't you condemn them?" McCain interjected

"No, no, no. To be very clear, it's not my language. It's not the way that I speak," Mallory responded. "And I think it is very clear over the 20 years of my own personal activism, my own personal track record, who I am, and I should never be judged through the lens of a man."

Mallory and her three Women's March co-chairs—Bob Bland, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour—have been unable to escape their close ties to and refusal to condemn Farrakhan. The nefarious details of their unholy alliance with one of America's leading anti-Semites have been widely reported—from words of praise to smiling selfies.

Denouncing anti-Semitism should be so easy, especially for leaders of a progressive movement that supposedly champions equality and social justice. Unless it is politically inconvenient to do so, or, worse, those called upon to make the denouncements hold, in some respects, similar conspiratorial thoughts. And here is the bigger problem.

The accusations of anti-Semitism against the Women's March leadership are not just about Farrakhan. Indeed, the movement's leaders have tried to redefine what it means to be a feminist. Sarsour, for example has said that Zionists, those who support the survival of Israel as a prosperous Jewish state, cannot be feminists. Moreover, Tablet magazine reported last month that, in 2016, Perez and Mallory said that "Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people—and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade." Perez and Mallory denied making the comments, but one of the women present for the comments confirmed the report.

Anti-Semitism is somehow not viewed in the same dark light as other forms of bigotry. Imagine replacing all of the accusations against Mallory and her comrades with "black" or "woman" or "Hispanic" rather than "Jew" and "anti-Semitism." Would they be so reluctant to proclaim full-throated denunciations? I doubt it.

Of course devout supporters of the Women's march accuse the Jews of loyalty to outside, nefarious forces, or of using the charge of anti-Semitism to avoid criticism and protect their interests.

The Women's March, and increasingly the broader progressive movement, is becoming hostile territory for Jews. Those who remain loyal soldiers are either unable to see what is happening or are so self-righteous that they genuinely do not believe their side is capable of what they are accused of; anti-Semitic incidents are dismissed outliers, rather than central to a larger ideology.

Regardless, Mallory showed on Monday that condemning anti-Semitism is just too much, continuing the center-left's slow and painful excommunication of the Women's March. But of course the mainstream center-left does not seem to be the future of left-wing politics in America. The passion, the energy, the loudest voices—those all reside in the progressive movement, whose influence expands as the more centrist Old Guard rolls over in submission.