Any hope that the ongoing campaign to isolate Jews from mainstream society in the United States was going to slow down as a result of campus shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was shattered in Boston on the first day of July.
That’s when approximately 300 radical leftists paraded through the cradle of liberty and shouted ugly epithets at the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), two progressive organizations which in a reasonable world would be regarded as allies by every decent liberal in the metro-Boston area. Outside the offices of the ADL, a protest leader yelled, “F*** the ADL!” to great acclaim.
The pretext for the rally was the prospect of Israel affirming sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, but it was patently evident that rally organizers were trying to transform anger over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 into hostility towards Israel and mainstream Jewish organizations in the United States.
The rally revealed that the ADL and JCRC’s policies in support of the rights of immigrants and minorities, and protests against police brutality against African-Americans, wasn’t enough for these demonstrators, who simply could not stand the fact that both the ADL and the JCRC advocate for the safety of the Jewish state in the Middle East.
The rally began on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse where Nino Brown, a fifth-grade teacher in Boston public schools, led the crowd in a chant that declared “F*** your police state! America was never great!” before referring to Israel as a “parasitic entity.”
Brown was speaking on behalf of a man who goes by the name Kazi Toure, a black radical who spent seven years in jail for his involvement with a terrorist organization that planted bombs in courthouses throughout the country during the late 1970s and early 1980s. During his talk, Brown relayed Toure’s support for African-Americans taking control of several states in the American South and seceding from the United States. Pretty dicey stuff for a teacher in Boston public schools.
Other speakers from the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community demonized Israel with false accusations of murder, forcible sterilization of Ethiopian Jews upon their arrival in Israel, and genocide against the Palestinians (whose population has grown by leaps and bounds since Israel took control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the Six-Day War).
In addition to demonizing Israel, the protesters railed against the ADL and the JCRC by depicting them as conduits for Israeli tactics of oppression into American society. The story protesters told about the ADL was that it brings Massachusetts police officers to Israel to learn tactics and tools of oppression that are then used on African-Americans in the Bay State. The story protesters told about the JCRC was that it brings lawmakers to Israel who promote stronger economic ties between Massachusetts and the Jewish state, thereby cementing the oppression endured by indigenous people in both the Middle East and North America.
The message was that by advocating for Israel, the ADL and the JCRC have disqualified themselves from the progressive community in the United States. “You cannot support white supremacy in Palestine and on this continent, the displacement of indigenous people and the militarization of police who murder black and indigenous people and then claim to be a social justice organization in solidarity with people of color!” one speaker yelled.
Standing in front of the JCRC building on High Street, speakers demanded that the ADL and the JCRC compensate African-Americans and Native Americans for the suffering they’ve endured as a result of their investment in the “infrastructure of white supremacism” in the United States. It’s a variant of the reparations argument, targeted not just at the United States, but Jews in particular.
The demand for reparations from the JCRC and the ADL is merely a pretext to recount stories of Jews behaving badly, which over the long haul will be used to isolate Jews from the larger society—just as demands for divestment have been used to isolate Jews on campuses.
One thing we’ve learned from the BDS movement in America is that even if groups do not achieve their stated goals of divestment, they are able to fundamentally change how people think and talk about Israel, and ultimately, about Jews in the United States.
If the activists who organized the July 1 rally in Boston have their way, the same craziness that has taken root in higher education will spread like a weed into the wider community. The goal is to force Jews to look over their shoulder in mainstream American society.
America is better than this, but it’s going to take a whole lot of work to stop the process in its tracks.
Demands that the ADL and the JCRC pay reparations will not get much traction, but they will have an impact on how people in the progressive community think and talk about these organizations and their supporters going forward.
Just take a look at the atmosphere on college campuses before the COVID-19 shutdown.
Dexter Van Zile is Shillman Research Fellow for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).