DC Climate Group Won’t Participate in Voting Rights Rally Because of “Zionist Groups”

Sunrise DC’s statement went on to accuse Israel of using “violent and oppressive tactics” against the Palestinians.
October 20, 2021
Chicago Sunrise Movement rallies for a Green New Deal, in Chicago (Illinois), 27 February 2019. Photo by Charles Edward Miller/Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The Washington D.C. affiliate of the climate change group Sunrise Movement announced in an October 19 statement that they won’t be participating in an upcoming voting rights rally because “Zionist groups” will be a part of it.

The statement specifically cited the participation of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs (JCPA), National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in the October 23 Freedom to Vote Relay – Rally at the Finish Line as being “in alignment with and in support of Zionism and the State of Israel.” “Given our commitment to racial justice, self-governance, and indigenous sovereignty, we oppose Zionism and any state that enforces that ideology.”

Sunrise DC’s statement went on to accuse Israel of using “violent and oppressive tactics” against the Palestinians. “As a colonial project, Israel routinely displaces Palestinians through the construction of settlements and the wholesale theft of homes and land. It also treats all Palestinians, as well as Black and brown Jewish-Israelis, as second-class citizens who have virtually, often subjecting them to extreme policing and brutality.” They also said that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank are unable to vote in Israeli elections even though Israel occupies and controls those areas. Sunrise DC argued that the “fight for [D.C.] statehood and sovereignty are incompatible with Zionism and the political erasure of Palestinians that the ideology calls for.” The environmentalist group called for the Declaration for American Democracy, which sponsored the rally, expunge JCPA, NCJW and RAC from the coalition.

The Jewish groups cited by Sunrise DC all said they would continue their efforts to pursue voting rights in statements to the Journal.

“In keeping with our 77-year history, JCPA will continue our ongoing engagement on voting rights efforts in coalition with interfaith and diverse communities, including our involvement in the freedom to vote rally and in support of fair, free and accessible elections for all people,” JCPA Senior Vice President Melanie Gorelick said.

Sheila Katz, CEO of NCJW, also said: “National Council of Jewish Women works for the safety and wellbeing of Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians. We fight for access to the ballot, an end to gender-based violence, increased equity, and for women to build power despite systemic barriers at every turn. All of this work is done in coalition, often led by impacted communities, to center those with lived experiences. Our commitment to working across lines of difference includes our willingness to engage in dialogue with groups that take issue with our policies. Let’s move forward together to advance human rights and dignity for all people.”

Rabbi Jonah Presner, the director of RAC, similarly said, “It’s unfortunate that any organization would refuse to join together to protect voting rights. The work of our coalition to ensure that every American has access to the right to vote is too important not to remain in partnership as we push Congress to act. As an organization committed to social justice and our progressive Zionist values, we will continue to work toward the passage of comprehensive voting rights legislation.”

Several Jewish groups and Twitter users criticized Sunrise DC over their statement.

“This is the vilification of Jewish nationhood and a litmus test for all who support it,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “This is antisemitic – plain and simple.”

He added in a subsequent tweet that the JCPA, RAC and NCJW “all provide invaluable services and support to the Jewish community, and vilifying them is nothing short of disgraceful. @ADL fully supports these organizations and is thankful to have them as an ally in the fight against hate.”

The American Jewish Committee similarly tweeted, “Zionism is the movement for Jewish self-determination in [Israel]. Anti-Zionism is considered antisemitic by over 80% of American Jews. To shun Zionists is to shun the overwhelming majority of Jews. This is antisemitism, plain and simple.”

StandWithUs tweeted that Sunrise DC’s statement is essentially saying that “the Jewish people’s movement for freedom and self-determination is ‘incompatible’ with … supporting the right to self-determination. ‘No Jews who support their own rights allowed!’ It would be funny if it weren’t so sad, ignorant, and hateful.”

“Sadly, antisemitism has COMPLETELY engulfed the progressive space,” Stop Antisemitism tweeted. “It’s not about the settlements.  It’s not about Jerusalem.  With these fanatics and their ilk it’s solely about the complete [eradication] of the Jewish state.”


The American Jewish Congress said in a statement that Sunrise DC’s message was “deeply dangerous” because “American Jews have fought for civil rights, civil liberties, the separation of church and state, and multiple other positions that have helped to make America a more just society. We American Jews have an equal right to share our voices, just as all Americans do. Silencing our voices, as the Sunrise Movement demands, is the antithesis of democracy.”

Laura E. Adkins, Opinion Editor of The Forward, tweeted: “National Council of Jewish Women funds organizations that connect Palestinian women with legal aid, social services, and help them grow grassroots political power. But tell me more about how you’re the ones who *really* care about Palestinians.”

Eve Levenson, a progressive organizer and advocate, tweeted that she found Sunrise DC’s statement to be “flawed” and “anti-Semitic.” She praised, the JCPA, NCJW and RAC as being “some of the largest Jewish advocacy orgs who have historically & today do important work on domestic progressive priorities. It’s one thing to refuse working [with] a Zionist group like AIPAC. This is about not wanting to work with Jews.”

Sunrise DC and the national Sunrise Movement organization did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.


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