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More Thoughts on Linking OWS and Israel

How big should the tent be, and where should it be pitched?

Marc Tracy
November 09, 2011

I strongly encourage everyone to go read Occupy Judaism activist Daniel Sieradski’s interview with Mondoweiss’ Adam Horowitz; they both do a great job getting quickly to the core of their disagreement, which seems to me to be over whether it is worth jeopardizing the economic message of Occupy Wall Street in favor of pro-Palestinian activism. (I have to think that Horowitz would ultimately admit that this is what he is advocating: as Sieradski tells him, “Knowing how long you yourself have been working on these issues, I am surprised that you would even entertain the idea that OWS won’t be significantly hurt by being seen as anti-Israel.”) Readers of this blog (and, now, readers of Mondoweiss) know where I stand on this, but I certainly am sympathetic to Horowitz’ complaint, “Do you understand why many Palestinian activists viewed the tweet’s deletion [the tweet expressed solidarity with last week’s flotilla] as a sign they are not welcomed in the OWS movement?” The big tent certainly should cut both ways.

Yet again I have trouble seeing how the protest two nights ago of a Birthright event served the broader purposes of OWS, or even the narrower ones of the protesters. It’s notable that the Zuccotti Park occupation is explicitly intended not to disrupt the neighborhood: it’s an occupation not in the sense of exerting control over others but in terms of staking a claim in a place where they felt they had none. Shouting down a speaker at a prearranged event, by contrast, feels like just the sort of thing that people who don’t understand what free speech is label “free speech.”

None of which makes the latest right-wing propaganda about OWS’ fundamental anti-Semitic-ness okay. Particularly amusing is this collection of accusations on Pajamas Media, which includes some anti-Semitic asshole responding to a Jewish man’s obvious provocations, and, pricelessly, an anti-Israel/anti-Semitic protester (he compares the Israelis’ actions in the territories to the Nazis’) getting into an argument with … a pro-Israel protester. Pajamas Media doesn’t point that the existence of both types of protesters suggests it might be wrong to paint the entire movement with the brush of just one of them.

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