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Liberal Jewish Group Demands The New School Apologize for Sarsour Panel, Collects Nearly 10,000 Signatures in Four Days

Zioness is asking for an apology

Liel Leibovitz
November 20, 2017
Linda SarsourShutterstock
Linda SarsourShutterstock

Last week, Tablet reported that The New School will host a panel on anti-Semitism featuring Linda Sarsour, who is a supporter of Louis Farrakhan and who has argued that anti-Semitism is different from Islamophobia “because it’s not systemic, and Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace, which enthusiastically supports convicted terrorists. Reached for comment, the university suggested that Tablet and the Anti-Defamation League, which strongly condemned the panel, organize a separate event, as if those who fan the flames of hatred and those who suffer its consequences both have valid opinions deserving to be aired in a university known for historically offering shelter to victims of persecution.

Enraged by The New School’s actions, Zioness, a “new initiative that empowers progressive and feminist Zionists who wish to engage in movements to advance civil rights, social justice and equality for all,” disseminated a petition late last week calling on the university to apologize.

“This panel,” the petition state, “appears to conflate legitimate criticism of Israel—like legitimate criticism of any other state—with the belief that Israel should not exist as a state and should be replaced. Israel was founded as a refuge and homeland for the Jewish people. Political and social action to end the existence of the Jewish State of Israel—and Israel alone—is overtly and often explicitly anti-Semitic. Yet, the panelists invited to The New School work to whitewash this type of activism and deny its unequivocally anti-Semitic nature and intent. Lionizing them as experts on anti-Semitism is simply perverse.”

Since it was introduced less than a week ago, nearly 10,000 people have signed the petition.

“There are a variety of ways to address the important conversation of rising anti-Semitism in a scholarly and nuanced way—without having a panel on anti-Semitism that is itself perceived as anti-Semitic, and without impinging on academic freedom,” Amanda Berman, Zioness’s co-founder, told Tablet. “Last week’s very disturbing statement from the university administration, in which it said, ‘there are differing views on the issue of anti-Semitism’ is totally unacceptable. The New School Administration would not dare suggest that there are ‘differing views’ on the question of hate targeting the African-American, Muslim, or Latino communities, or host a panel to discuss an ‘alternative view’ on those issues. We hope that New School Administration will come to its senses, and recognize the grave concerns of the thousands who have signed our petition in just a few days. Now is the time for the University’s leadership to act, beginning with a public apology acknowledging the mistake that it has made in providing a platform for such a hateful and destructive event.”

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.