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Rantz: As hate crimes rise, Seattle activists host anti-Semitic event

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As hate crimes against Jews are on the rise both nationally and locally, Seattle activists are hosting an anti-Semitic event that one high-placed Democratic leader calls “important.”

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“We were not hoping to shine a brighter light on it, but unfortunately so many people are alarmed about this event and what it purports to represent, that we’re forced to speak out,” Randy Kessler tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. Kessler is the Northwest Region Executive Director of Stand With Us, a group that fights anti-Semitism.

The Thursday night panel discussion is titled “Intersectional Dialogue on Weaponizing Charges of Antisemitism,” and comes as Progressive activists defend Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) widely condemned anti-Semitic remarks.

It is an intersectional view that a Muslim woman of color, such as Omar, cannot be anti-Semitic because, after-all, Jews are just rich, powerful, white people to them. It’s, indeed, an anti-Semitic argument.

The event description on Facebook says they will ask: “How are charges of antisemitism being weaponized to specifically target powerful Black and Muslim leaders, force Jews and Jewish allies into false dichotomies, divert attention from the worldwide rise of white nationalism and state violence, and divide progressive movement-building?”

In other words, evil Jews like myself aren’t about fighting anti-Jew hatred — we’re the actual bigots purposefully using anti-Semitism as a cover to attack “powerful Black and Muslim leaders.” The evil Jew at work, right?

Anti-Semitic defenders of Omar, and others who share her hateful views, often cite a conspiracy theory by the all-powerful Jewish lobby meant to silence them. They claim that their legitimate policy disagreements with the Israeli government is unfairly deemed anti-Semitic.

Only, these folks rarely critique policies they disagree with. Instead, as Omar did, they use anti-Semitic tropes of dual loyalty and Jewish influence that’s purchased. They present Israel as solely to blame for the region’s turmoil, claim they run an apartheid state (a term these critics don’t understand), and even defend the terrorist organization Hamas.

The event description further wonders how white nationalism intersects with those of us who call out anti-Semitism (it doesn’t) and asks how anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia are connected (it’s not). This panel is set up as an ardent defense of anti-Semitism.

The panel includes two Jewish people, Rabbi David Basior of the Kadima Reconstructionist Community and moderator Maya Berkowitz. They also happen to be deeply critical of Israel, do not believe in the Jewish state, and support the anti-Semitic movement, “Boycott, Divest, Sanction.”

“The moderator and one of the presenters are affiliated with a radical anti-Zionist group called Jewish Voice for Peace…” Kessler warns “…but what’s important to message to the community here is that they really represent an extremely fringe and minority viewpoint within the Jewish community. They explicitly reject the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Often, anti-Semitic panels like this use self-identified Jews like Basior and Berkowitz to give cover to their hate. It’s the equivalent of a fringe anti-LGBTQ group using a gay person to slam gay marriage, gay adoption, while supporting gay conversion therapy, but they can’t be homophobic because a gay man is on the panel, right?

“These are groups who, for their own political agenda and purposes, are providing unfortunate cover to what the real belief system is [of Jews]… strongly held beliefs of over 95 percent who strongly support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state in the Middle East,” Kessler said.

The event is near sold out, which is troubling.

“I think the organizers of the event did a good job in provocatively naming an event with a name that is both confusing and, like a car accident in many ways, hard to stay away from,” Kessler explained.

More troubling, to me, is that it seems to have a seal of approval from the Chair of the Washington State Democrats, Tina Podlodowski. On the Facebook event post, Podlodowski was asked if she was attending. She said she will try, because it’s “important stuff!”

Podlodowski did not respond to request for comment. Her seeming endorsement of the event comes at a time when the Democratic Party has come under intense scrutiny, including from within, for offering safe harbor to anti-Semites.

There are a number of organizations listed as hosts for this anti-Semitic event, including the American Muslim Empowerment Network, Seattle King County NAACP, Washington State’s ACLU, OneAmerica, and Womxn’s March Seattle.

To be clear, despite the hate that this panel defends, I don’t object to them hosting the event. Neither does Kessler. But he notes that “we need to speak boldly on this issue and we can’t be silenced.”

They have the right to be hateful bigots. And, luckily, I have the right to call them out. Though, given the concerted efforts to demonize Jews at a time when there’s an increase in targeted harassment of my community, I do hope I can hang on to those rights long enough to keep exposing these hate merchants.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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