The misconception that lies at the base of Jewish exclusion in anti-racism movements is the persistent presumption that Jews are white, part of the establishment and thus not marginalized in any profound way. This is an incredibly dense argument, leading to unfortunate situations in which Jewish organisations rarely show solidarity with anti-racism movements, while anti-racism movements dismiss antisemitism its place in the anti-racism movements.
Last year, about a month into my Landecker fellowship, I was asked if I or someone I knew would like to speak at an anti-racism demonstration that was held in The Hague on the 6th of december. It was a show of solidarity with the Dutch anti-black racism movement and although I had barely started organising the group of Jewish activists that would become Oy Vey Acts, I knew we had to step up and do it. A great opportunity. It was the first time that a Jewish organisation was asked to speak. And a great challenge as well. How to condense our many thoughts into a clear and concise message without becoming apologetic for being Jewish?
Every speech is a perfect writing challenge. What messages emerge from our conversation on the position of Jews in the anti-racism debate? Which parts are too delicate or too complex to address in a 500-word message? And what do we want our partners in the anti-racism movement to take away from it? A perfect message would both address misconceptions about Jews that stand in the way of us having a seat at the anti-racism table and to ask for solidarity: racism and antisemitism being intrinsically similar forms of oppression.
Asking for solidarity in particular entails being vulnerable and at the same time addressing the blind spot of the anti-racism movement. Turning the frustrations – you don’t care about Jews and antisemitism, you do not raise your voice for us – around into a vulnerable request – we are hurting, we are just as much targeted by white supremacists, we can stand shoulder to shoulder – is what was needed.
The speech that we wrote collectively with our nascent Jewish activist network and which Jelle Simcha Zijlstra so powerfully delivered opened a conversation with the established intersectional, leftist, anti-racism movement. A conversation through which we can be unapologetically Jewish Jews in the Dutch public debate, while building solidarity instead of adversity. A perfect challenge.