Op-ed: No, Occupy is not anti-Semitic
To charge this very boring, very predictable uprising with such a hateful motivator would be missing the point. Because there is no point.
By Craig Colgan
WASHINGTON – Recent criticism of coverage of Occupy Wall Street demonstrations has included charges that the media is ignoring the movement’s supposed true anti-Semitic nature. The reality of the character of this movement however is less scaldingly hateful and more annoyingly entitled, safe, and marginal.
Instead of focusing on the signs and tweets produced by a fringe, the American media should instead focus on this movement’s single uniting characteristic: Hate the rich.
Anti-Semitism as a driving motivator of more than a tiny minority of Occupier participants is not supported by evidence. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has, in numerous interviews, refused to label the movement as a whole as anti-Semitic. The ADL has instead pointed to the few movement participants who have shown up in videos and on Nazi websites toting anti-Semitic signs as merely a “fringe element” of the movement.
One Wall Street demonstrator participant even led a Yom Kippur service across the street from the Wall Street park’s main camp. His goal: “to expand the movement.” Another demonstrator, Daniel Sieradski, “a new media activist,” is working to confront any Jew hatred in the demonstrations, and has attracted attention in the Jewish media for his efforts. The movement’s animating characteristics have nothing to do with hating Jews. The movement’s uniting claim, arriving several weeks after the demonstrations began, is that the country’s wealthiest 1 percent impose their greedy will on the other 99 percent. No Jew-bashing component here.
Late to the festivities: elements of the labor movement, such as it is in this country, whose leaders said they saw participation as a counterweight to the Tea Party and that they hope President Barack Obama and Congress would focus on jobs. Union jobs, that is.
The Occupy Wall Street group eventually created a “General Assembly” which produced a list of grievances, none of which had anything to do with Israel. Participants in demonstrations in other cities such as Oakland, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. have been slow to formally articulate just what they are about, but there have been no anti-Semitic dust-ups in those demonstrations.
Media claims of Tea Party racism lacked convincing evidence, as do charges of anti-Semitism as an organizing driver of the Occupy movement. A letter to major TV networks from the conservative Media Research Center references “documented instances of anti-Semitism” among the Wall Street Occupiers, then offers video of one interview with a single participant, as other participants wander about and ignore him.
The very same protester shows up on the conservative Daily Caller website in another interview, but this time the man admits he is homeless and spends more time complaining of Medicaid cuts. National Review Online offers video of a verbal confrontation between an elderly man wearing a yarmulke and a twitchy twenty-something male wearing eye makeup, but that event wanders quickly across numerous topics, mostly aimed at evil corporations.
Others have charged that members of Nazi and skinhead groups are major players in the demonstrations, but searches reveal no examples. Media critic and regular Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg has made continual references to anti-Semitic “signs,” but does not take his argument of media blindness to supposed Occupier anti-Semitism beyond unsupported assertion to incontrovertible evidence.
He even admits that the reality may be one of just a few “outliers,” then complains perhaps rightly of bias, comparing to the media’s more vigorous coverage on single signs or individual participants at Tea Party events.
The website of conservative fire-breather David Horowitz includes a post charging a “focus on Zionism” at the Occupy rallies, but provides only a single reference, again to the same lone sign waver mentioned above. A commenter at the Horowitz site notes: “As a New Yorker this guy has been out with those signs for years now. Just because he showed up where the press are doesn't say anything about the movement.”
Washington Post columnist and self-labeled “Reckless Jew” Richard Cohen recently went looking for anti-Semitism across the Lower Manhattan Occupy site, but found none. “Occupy Wall Street has become an event for its own sake, a destination for the aimless,” he wrote. “The imputation of anti-Semitism, however, adds gravitas to this lighthearted event.”
Anti-Semitism is not an organizing principle of the Occupy movement. It is not about promoting socialism or about any even remotely coherent plan to remedy “income inequality.” This movement is a tantrum from a self-involved segment of a frightened nation deep in difficult economic times. Nothing more.
©2011 Craig Colgan • ColganWrites.com