The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion In D.C., American Jews continue to face antisemitism unabated

The “Freedom to Vote” rally at the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon in Washington on Oct. 23. (Shuran Huang/Reuters)

Brooke Goldstein is a human rights attorney and founder and executive director of the Lawfare Project.

A hemmed-in territory surrounded by a sea of unbounded states.

Citizens “subjected to systemic inequality and denied the full rights of citizenship” otherwise granted to their neighbors.

A lack of voice or representation in governing bodies.

A budget and flow of resources controlled by others.

This is how the D.C. statehood movement views its mission.

It is also how Sunrise DC, local affiliate of a national youth-led organization focused on climate change, views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Though I wouldn’t in any way agree to disagree with that dangerously erroneous perspective, Sunrise DC took its political positions to a new level last month, wading into the ugliness of bigotry and Jew-hatred when the organization backed out of a voting rights rally organized by Statehood DC because of the participation of three Jewish organizations that support Israel. Calling Israel a “colonial project,” Sunrise DC conveniently called out just the Jewish organizations participating in the rally without commenting on the countless other participating groups that also support Zionism and the state of Israel.

In a democracy, everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. That’s what makes the United States great. However, even with Sunrise DC’s non-apology apology that followed several days later, any attempt to discriminate against Jews using a political litmus test is racist.

In a commercial context it’s also illegal.

In the name of a forum run by Statehood DC — a movement that claims that any stance against D.C. statehood is racist because “the District’s lack of representation is a wider oppression and disenfranchisement of Black Americans” — Sunrise DC decided to grab cheap headlines by taking a shot at Jews, the world’s favorite historical punching bag.

About 300,000 Jews live in the D.C. area. Many of them live and work in D.C. itself and support statehood for D.C. They also support the state of Israel. These political positions are not diametric opposites.

Sunrise DC does not agree.

Instead, Sunrise DC believes that those 300,000 Jews are less than, belonging in a box and undeserving of a role in a movement like Statehood DC taking place 6,000 miles to the west of Israel that could not have less to do with what is going on in the Jewish state today.

A Jewish presence in Israel is not a form of “oppression.” Israel is the Jewish ancestral homeland and Jews are indigenous to Judea. Zionism is the political movement ensuring Jewish sovereignty in a land Jews have continuously called home for nearly 6,000 years. Asking Jews to reject their identity to participate in interfaith communal events is bigotry, pure and simple.

Telling Jews not to identify as Zionists is like telling Black people not to identify as African or telling people of Chinese descent not to identify as Asian.

Being anti-Zionist is the antithesis of supporting indigenous rights and statehood for indigenous people. Zionism is the ultimate of progressive values in its recognition of Jews as indigenous to the land of Israel.

Anything else would be contradictory, all in the name of a “commitment to racial justice, self-governance, and indigenous sovereignty.”

Where is the uproar from the left? Why haven’t progressives who embrace the Statehood DC movement decried the hate speech aimed at Jews by this local chapter of a national organization committed to fighting climate change? It took the national Sunrise Movement days to reproach its D.C. affiliate, at first ducking a response to Sunrise DC’s racism and antisemitism by citing its practice of no oversight over local affiliates’ statements before they are published.

In our nation’s capital we have the opportunity — the obligation — to do better. At the seat of our government, in the city that boasts Black Lives Matter Plaza, American Jews continue to face antisemitism unabated.

Discrimination against a people for their faith disguised as a political movement is racism, plain and simple. So why doesn’t anyone seem to care when Jews are the ones being targeted?

Statehood DC, when will you decide to push back against racists using your space to exclude people because of their ethnic, cultural, and religious identities?

Blatant antisemitism under the guise of “racial justice” has gone unchecked for too long.

Let’s end it now.