Friday, April 3, 2020

Progressive Zionist Student Condemns Left-Wing Anti-Semitism in NYT Op-Ed

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George Washington University student Blake Flayton, a self-described progressive Zionist who is gay, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times on Nov. 14 decrying anti-Semitism in progressive circles on college campuses.

Flayton begins the op-ed stating that he is a staunch defender of Israel but he also opposes the “occupation of the West Bank. It is my Zionism that informs my view that the Palestinian people also have the right to their own state.”

However, he pointed out that many progressive activists have shut down supporters of Israel as being “racist” and accused of supporting “apartheid.” Flayton recounted how at a recent political club meeting, the organization urged against “normalizing” Zionism. When Flayton suggested that the club bring in more Jewish voices, he was told the organization already had anti-Zionist Jews who provide input on anti-Semitism.

“I expected this loophole, as it is all too common across progressive spaces: groups protect themselves against accusations of anti-Semitism by trotting out their anti-Zionist Jewish supporters, despite the fact that such Jews are a tiny fringe of the Jewish community,” Flayton wrote. “Such tokenism is seen as unacceptable — and rightfully so — in any other space where a marginalized community feels threatened.”

He went onto say that if progressive Zionists like himself call out left-wing anti-Semitism, they risk “losing friends or being smeared as the things we most revile: racist, white supremacist, colonialist and so on.” 

Flayton pointed to a May Day rally on GWU’s campus in 2019 focusing on higher wages for GWU staff featured speakers from Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace equating higher wages to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

“The students saw no reason to decry labor conditions or human rights violations in any other university, city, state, region or country,” Flayton wrote. “Reasonable people recognize that conflating the Jews with being money-hungry or cheap is anti-Semitic. How is tying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to janitors not getting paid enough at an American university any different?”

He later added: “This is the reality of being a politically active Jew on many American college campuses. If you call yourself a Zionist because your family fled to Israel from a Middle Eastern country as a means of survival, you are complicit in ethnic cleansing. If you call yourself a Zionist because your family fled Germany to escape a concentration camp, you are a colonialist. If you call yourself a Zionist because your family made aliyah to Israel because of their religious or spiritual beliefs, you are complicit in apartheid.”

Flayton concluded his op-ed with asking if anti-Zionist progressives if they believe that Jews should be given the same political weight as they give other minorities. “I fear the answer to that question,” Flayton wrote.

Zioness Director of Grassroots Organizing Carly Pildis tweeted, “This article from local @ZionessMovement activist @BlakeFlayton moved me to tears. We have your back – we will not allow you, or anyone else, to be kicked out of movements for your own rights.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “Bravo @BlakeFlayton for your brave account in @nytopinion of #antisemitism on college campuses. I’ve heard this story many times over from Jewish students excluded, demonized and isolated in progressive circles. @ADL will not stop pushing universities to address this bias.”

The American Jewish Committee tweeted, “Too many students share the experience of isolation @BlakeFlayton describes in this must-read @nytimes piece. Excluding Jewish voices isn’t just anti-Semitic, it does a serious disservice to the discourse at our universities.”

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