November 16, 2018

Women’s March Denver Condemns National Women’s March Leadership Over Farrakhan Ties

The Women’s March Denver chapter issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the national Women’s March leadership over their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

The Denver chapter, which goes by the name Womxn’s March to show solidarity with “cis, transgender and non-binary individuals,” wrote that they condemn “anti-Semitism and the National Women’s March leadership team’s failure to clearly disassociate from anti-Semitic public figures. “

“Womxn’s March Denver is an independent VOLUNTEER grassroots team of local Colorado women,” they continued. “We are not affiliated with the national Women’s March organization. We oppose all forms of oppression and operate from an intersectional lens. We stand in solidarity with all marginalized communities and ask that those communities stand together with us against oppression in all its forms.”

Amanda Berman, co-founder of the Zioness Movement, told the Journal in an emailed statement, “Zioness applauds the Women’s March in Denver for unequivocally denouncing Women’s March leaders for their hateful rhetoric and their continued association with bigots and anti-Semites like Louis Farrakhan. We are grateful for their principled commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, including within the national Women’s March organization, even when that stance puts them at odd with some self-appointed organizers of the movement.”

“Zioness knows that we, as committed progressives and unabashed Zionists, do not have to check any part of our identity at the door in order to show up to fight for women’s issues in America––and we’re thrilled that Denver leaders know it too,” Berman added. “Zioness will be organizing a significant presence at the next Women’s March in Denver and from coast-to-coast, engaging our more than 18 chapters and thousands of participants. As part of this work, Zioness will be hosting a series of pre-march ‘teach-ins” that bring light to the issues facing Jewish women in a time of skyrocketing anti-Semitism.’”

Actresses Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing have both said that they will not participate in the Women’s March because their leaders have been unwilling to condemn Farrakhan.

The national Women’s March issued the following statement regarding Farrakhan on Nov. 8:

A Message to My Compatriots in the American Left From Across the Pond

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, visits the Alexander Dennis Bus Factory in Falkirk, Scotland, Britain August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

The Pittsburgh tragedy made real the worst nightmare of American Jewry. Our community is now examining how we got to this frightening place, with anti-Semitism more pronounced on both the right and the left than it has been in decades. We now dread: Is this just the beginning? Are things only going to get worse? We only have to look across the pond see the writing on the wall.  

Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as UK Labour Party leader in 2015, the party has become a hotbed of the kind of anti-Semitic worldview previously confined to the political fringe. Corbyn’s links to Holocaust deniers, friendship with terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas, and paid role for the Iranian regime broadcaster, Press TV, were long-established. This summer, the allegations continued to pile up: Corbyn was pictured holding a wreath by the gravesides of the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre masterminds. Then a video from 2013 emerged in which he questioned whether British “Zionists” understood English irony.

The UK’s internationally renowned former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, condemned Corbyn’s rhetoric as “the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism,” only to be denounced by Corbyn’s online fanbase. Like those of President Trump, Corbyn’s supporters respond to every piece of evidence exposing the bigotry of their man—no matter how damning—with cries of “fake news.”

The impact on Britain’s Jewish community has been pronounced. As the party of civil rights, equality and liberal values, Labour was once the natural home for British Jews. But recent polls have revealed not just that Jews are abandoning the party—now, 40 percent of Britain’s Jews say they will seriously consider leaving the UK if Corbyn becomes prime minister. 

Labour’s march to the radical left is not only worrying for the Jews: the phenomenon has decimated the credibility of Britain’s most important progressive force. For American progressives, this should be a cautionary tale. If our own extreme left and its abettors go unchallenged, then what is happening in the UK could happen here. The American right has shown how aggressive populism can hijack the mainstream. Corbyn provides a warning for those of us on the left.

In Britain, those who warned of the far-left threat to progressive movements were, for a decade, ignored or dismissed—until it was too late. Now, Labour has a leader with a lifetime of support for radically anti-Israel movements, inevitably aligning himself with virulent anti-Semites. His communications director is a terror apologist who believes East Germany was preferable to West Germany. His advisers include a recent Communist Party member who previously expressed support for North Korea, and has been unable to gain security clearance to work in Parliament. A few years ago, such people were dismissed as cranks. Now they aspire to govern, and are rising through the ranks alongside Corbyn. No wonder British Jews are uneasy.

On our side of the pond, some warning signs have already been here for a while. Last year, two Jewish lesbians who had been attending the Chicago Dyke March for a decade were thrown out of the major LBGTQ+ event for bringing a rainbow flag with a Jewish star on it. “Zio tears replenish us,” they were told. Later that year, the Chicago SlutWalk trod the same anti-Semitic path, banning “Zionist symbols.”

American Jews and their allies were horrified to learn that the co-founders of one of the most groundbreaking and ostensibly empowering movements in American political history share Corbyn’s brand of contemptible, inexcusable bigotry. Women’s March Co-Founder Tamika Mallory attends rallies of the notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. Earlier this year Mallory tweeted a conspiratorial slur against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the United States. In a modern-day blood libel, Mallory said the ADL caused U.S. police brutality because it had sponsored joint counter-terrorism training between US and Israeli law enforcement. That’s absurd and anti-Semitic—and, equally important from a progressive lens, it undermines and exploits the fight against police brutality in the United States, injecting the flimsy thinking of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory into a vital campaign for justice and human dignity.

Mallory’s March co-founder, Linda Sarsour, has publicly shamed fellow Muslims for “humanizing Israelis,”, supported a terrorist convicted of a bomb plot that murdered two university students in Jerusalem and also praises Farrakhan. The types of positions and associations these women hold went unchallenged on the British left for years. Even those who wrote off the alarm bells now see clearly where these ideologies lead.

As a Jew, a Zionist and, not least, a progressive, I am determined to challenge assaults on the values that should define our movements for social, racial, economic and gender justice. Progressive movements in which Jews are isolated, defamed or forced to pass anti-Israel litmus tests are not worthy of the name. That’s why we established Zioness – a movement to give proud, progressive Jewish women a platform to fight for the causes of our time, without having to sell out their Jewish identities for credibility or acceptance. 

When anti-Israel obsession and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories take hold on the political left, most Jews are made politically homeless. The result is disastrous, not just for the Jews but for the movements themselves. This is what we’re witnessing in the UK. Zioness, and our thousands of activists and allies, will not stand by and watch it happen here.

UK Labour has become a safer space for anti-Semites than for Jews. A female Jewish Member of Parliament needed police protection at the Labour Party conference. A third of the British public thinks Corbyn is an anti-Semite. With a Conservative government bitterly divided over Brexit negotiations, a credible progressive party would be soaring in the polls—resulting in the advancement of the issues we stand proudly to fight for. Instead, Labour is struggling to build a lead. 

In the United States, now more than ever, progressives should be on the front foot. Trump’s 38 percent approval rating is a record low. We face massive challenges—for women’s equality, universal healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights and for our PoC communities to live free from fear. Those struggles will be more effectively fought by movements that welcome rather than alienate Jews and Zionists, who have always been on the forefront of social justice activism of every kind.

The 19th century German socialist, August Bebel, called anti-Semitism “the socialism of fools.” The British left might have been seduced by it. But at this pivotal moment for our country, we can’t afford to be—or it will make fools of us all.


Amanda Berman is the co-Founder and President of Zioness.

Amanda Berman: Can progressives also be Zionists?

Amanda Berman, founder of the Zioness movement, discusses the opposition liberal Zionists have faced within the progressive movement, and how her new movement is working to change that.

Check out this episode!

Zioness Movement Joins Women’s March

Photo courtesy of zioness.org

With the second annual Women’s March scheduled for Jan. 20, the 5-month-old Zioness movement has rallied an impressive roster of national feminist leaders to bring progressive Zionists to marches around the country.

Zioness was established in August 2017, after a group of 20 progressive Zionists banded together to participate in the Chicago SlutWalk. However, as had occurred in the same city just three months earlier at the Dyke March, the group was banned for waving a Star of David flag because it was deemed a Zionist symbol of nationalism and oppression.

Civil rights attorney and Zioness co-founder and CEO Amanda Berman is spearheading the Zioness march in New York. She told the Journal that Zioness’ goal is “to activate and empower progressive Zionists — Jews on the left who believe not only in self-determination of the Jewish people but of all communities. We care deeply about social justice and economic justice. Jews and Zionists have always been on the forefront of these movements.”

But in the wake of episodes like those in Chicago, Berman said, “Our community has been staying home because we have been feeling unwelcome and unwanted.”

“Zioness is about showing up and saying anyone who would tell Jews and Zionists to go home and to not empower their own and other communities to fight for equality is not sincerely progressive.” — Amanda Berman

By bringing together powerful, progressive Zionist women to lead marches around the country this year, Berman said she believes up to 1,000 people will march under the Zioness banner.

Berman said she has received emails from around the world, with many saying they were active in the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and ’70s but pulled away because of the anti-Semitism they encountered on the left.

“People were saying, ‘I’ve been waiting decades for people like you to stand up and say I am a proud, progressive Zionist and I’m not going to check my Zionism or Jewish identity at the door to engage,’ ” Berman said.

Ann Lewis, who served as White House director of communications for President Bill Clinton and as a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, will head the Zioness contingent at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

“I am proud to march with the young people of Zioness,” Lewis said in a statement. “Zioness is inspiring and empowering our country’s next generation of progressive leaders to wear their Zionist identities proudly, as they fight for human rights and women’s rights, health care, education, compassionate immigration reform, equal pay and equal dignity.”

Mimi Bergman, a member of the Women’s March’s Host Planning Committee and the Behavioral Health Committee for the League of Women Voters, will lead hundreds of Zioness members at the Jan. 21 Power to the Polls march in Las Vegas.

In an official statement, Bergman said, “I’m proud to be a part of the Zioness Movement, which is an exciting new initiative that is re-energizing passionate Jewish activists to fight for equality and justice as they always have.”

Pushing back against those who have tried to turn away progressive Zionists from marches and demonstrations by stating they are not anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist, Berman said, “I think it’s possible to be anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic, but, unfortunately, anti-Zionism very often manifests itself as anti-Semitism. But that conversation has no place in a march for women’s empowerment or a march for the LGBTQ community.”

During the first Women’s March last year, a great deal of attention was paid to Linda Sarsour, who helped spearhead the event and whose views on Zionism have been a flashpoint for many on the progressive left.

“I see a lot of discussion about Sarsour on Zioness’ social media,” Berman said, “and while we find her views reprehensible, I don’t think it’s productive for us to focus any of our energy on this one individual. The productive response is to show directly what she says about our community is wrong and hurtful and, frankly, discriminatory. Zioness is about showing up and saying anyone who would tell Jews and Zionists to go home and to not empower their own and other communities to fight for equality is not sincerely progressive.”

Progressive Zionism, social justice and tikkun olam are very much part and parcel of Taylor Nicole Stern’s raison d’être. The Jewish educator, who is organizing the Los Angeles march, first met Berman in college. Raised in Chicago, Stern spent several years as a Jewish educator at Milken Community High School and said when she heard about what Berman was doing to create Zioness, “it spoke to a void I didn’t even realize was forming.”

Reading about how Jews were being excluded from progressive and resistance movements since President Donald Trump took office galvanized her into becoming deeply involved with Zioness.

Zioness will meet up at 8 a.m. Jan. 20 at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at 7th and Flower before walking to the march. For more information, visit zioness.org

New group for progressive Zionists to march in Chicago SlutWalk

Calling themselves progressive and Zionist, about a dozen activists plan on marching in a Chicago demonstration against sexual violence to promote the idea thaZionism and liberal values are compatible.

Members of the Zioness initiative, which launched Tuesday, will march together on Saturday at SlutWalk Chicago, a women’s rights demonstration against sexual violence. Zioness members will be marching with banners and T-shirts featuring a design of a woman wearing a Star of David necklace.

Organizers of the SlutWalk initially said that they would ban Stars of David from the event, but later altered their policy to allow religious symbols but not national flags.

The SlutWalk policy came in the wake of a controversy over the Chicago Dyke March in June, when three Jewish participants at the LGBTQ demonstration were ejected for carrying LGBTQ Pride flags adorned with the Star of David. Dyke March organizers said the women were advocating for Israel at an anti-Zionist event.

The Dyke March incident served as “a watershed moment,” said Zioness organizer Amanda Berman.

“It was really a moment where everyone in the community said, ‘This is unacceptable, the line has been crossed, and there’s no way we can walk back from it now because no one can claim this is just opposition to a political party or a policy 10,000 miles away. It’s now about Jews,’” she told JTA.

The Dyke March incident was widely condemned by the Jewish community, and Jews who are pro-Israel have complained that they often do not feel comfortable expressing their religious identity openly at LGBTQ events and settings.

Berman, the New York-based director of legal affairs at The Lawfare Project — which calls itself the “legal arm of the pro-Israel community” — will travel to Chicago for Saturday’s march. She formed Zioness with around a dozen friends from across the country.

“When SlutWalk said, ‘We stand in solidarity with the organizers of the Chicago Dyke March,’ and said ‘We will also ban Zionist symbols, including Jewish stars,’ it became an opportunity to challenge the narrative that Jews and Zionists can’t participate in progressive movements,” she added.

Although SlutWalk Chicago said it would welcome religious symbols, on Thursday it denounced the Zioness initiative for using the march to promote a “nationalist agenda.”

“SlutWalk Chicago does not support the ‘Zioness progressives’ planning on coming to the walk Saturday. We at SlutWalk Chicago stand with Jewish people, just as we stand for Palestinian human rights. Those two ideologies can exist in the same realm, and taking a stance against anti-Semitism is not an affirmation of support for the state of Israel and its occupation of Palestine,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

“We oppose all oppressive governments whether they be the United States or Israel, as we recognize these regimes often disproportionately oppress women and femmes. We find it disgusting that any group would appropriate a day dedicated to survivors fighting rape culture in order to promote their own nationalist agenda,” SlutWalk Chicago continued.

Demonstrators at a Slutwalk march through downtown Chicago, Sept. 7, 2013. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, Berman said the response from the Jewish community has been positive. Though the group was presently focused on Saturday’s march, organizers also have larger aspirations, Berman said.

“We do have broader goals in terms of how to turn this into something that can empower Jewish activists in the future in every variety of social justice movement, that’s certainly the goal,” she said. “Right now we’re very focused on Saturday — that’s the way that this group came to be, to challenge this narrative on Saturday by establishing a new movement and creating the opportunity for people to come and stand in solidarity.”