There is always this one phone call that you always expected, and when it actually happens, it takes you fully by surprise. Working at the intersection of antiracism and antisemitism, there are two worlds to connect, but more importantly, there are two worlds that will predominantly work to deny the importance of the other.
The phone call came from the editor in chief of a Dutch Jewish Weekly. Smack in the middle of my preparations for the first ever debate with only progressive Jews talking amongst themselves, as part of the Amsterdam Week Against Racism. Perhaps a query about the special nature of this debate, how we managed to secure a spot for Jews in this programming, or perhaps even about the broad line-up of speakers, orthodox to liberal, religious to atheist, cis, queer, trans, of color, jewfro, some familiar and others rising voices? Better yet, perhaps the call was about doing work on antisemitism in progressive spaces? On the dusty road of forging alliances and allyships? Or, wait, they were probably super curious about our broad coalition building (with Asian, Black, Musllim and undocumented peoples organisations), and even more so about our series of brave space Jewish conversations called Mokum Deelt Dapper that deal heads on with antisemitism, conflation Jews-Israel and intersectionality.
But no, this was not how the conversation went down. Instead, she asked me to comment on the spot on an article that would appear soon in the Jewish Weekly, that would be, let’s say, ‘exposing’ us in loud language. I will spare you the tendentious comments that I had to listen to and rather highlight the underlying rhetorical mechanism that both fascinates me and troubles me a lot lately. The mechanism functions as follows: bridging between antiracism and antisemitism, you will become both a traitor for the one and a sellout for the other. This week alone, we have been called (as a curse word) zionist! (no we aren’t) and antizionist! (nope, still not right), white fragility majority (what?) and a fringe phenomenon within a minority (okay, you just wait) – I could go on. The point is, these are all dichotomies. Ends of extremes. Not bridges. And we apparently are all of it.
One of the biggest hangups of the editor in chief was the sturdy belief that we, Jewish progressives, are sucking up to the intersectional movements as token Jews, that we are not standing up to the anti-Jewish problematic sentiments within these movements and that in general we don’t care about antisemitism. When I asked her: “Esther, did you check our website or any of our social media outings to find out for yourself?”, she hadn’t. The article appeared today in the NIW Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad. Read it and let’s have this conversation.