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Is Occupy Wall Street Anti-Semitic?

David Brooks cites objectionable article in related magazine

Marc Tracy
October 11, 2011
Zuccotti Park this morning.(Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
Zuccotti Park this morning.(Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

I know it’s getting overkill-y, and I’ll try to make this the last Occupy Wall Street post for at least 24 hours. But David Brooks, in his Times column this morning, introduces this little nugget into his broader critique of the protest:

This uprising was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?”—an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.

This is true! Moreover: that article is exactly what you think it is, and is really objectionable and offensive! Any of you who subscribe to Adbusters should cancel in protest! But for Brooks to use his extremely large—and, particularly as far as the Jewish community goes, influential—mouthpiece to tar Occupy Wall Street as essentially anti-Semitic is highly irresponsible, especially when there is, in fact, a legitimate concern that when a bunch of lefties convene, pretty soon the talk turns to Israel and the Lobby and so on.

So some facts, from someone who, apparently unlike Brooks, has actually been to the protests several times (in Brooks’ defense and, depending on your point of view, mine, I live fairly nearby):

• Adbusters has zero visible presence at the rally. If had not read in a few places that it had come up with the initial idea for it, I would have had zero knowledge of its association. The rally is quite clearly composed mostly of Americans raising American issues; Adbusters is just the Canadian in the room who is tangentially involved (much like, ironically, Brookfield Asset Management, the Canadian real estate mega-giant that owns Zuccotti Park).

• I am very sad to see the LaRouchies’ presence at Occupy Wall Street’s D.C. iteration. But I am happy to report I have not seen them in Lower Manhattan. The dominant radical groups are the Bob Avakian Communists and the International Socialist Review; much more happily and more plentifully, there are Teamsters and unionized nurses and teachers.

• I have witnessed zero anti-Semitic signs or chants, and literally maybe two or three having to do with Israel/Palestine, themselves bearing rather bland slogans about liberation and occupation. The most offensive sign I saw was one held yesterday that declared that the people’s revolutions had worked in Egypt, Tunisia, and Venezuela. If Occupy Wall Street falls into a pit of useless Third World radicalism, its heroes will be Che and Chávez, not Arafat and Ahmadinejad. Not that the former scenario would be a good thing (or even a good thing for the Jews), but it is not what many Tablet Magazine readers no doubt fear.

• A clergy-led rally I witnessed featured a rabbi. And, of course, and with the protesters’ consent, a mass Kol Nidrei service affiliated with Occupy Wall Street was held last Friday.

• In fact, most of Brooks’ essay argues not that the protesters are dangerous radicals but rather meek and ineffectual ones: “milquetoast,” as his headline has it. I think if he were actually to come up and see the bustling library and the earnest arguments and, yes, the drum circles and the chanting, a different adjective would come to his mind: the protest is fundamentally haimish.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.