Ages ago — in 2019 — Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland resigned from their senior positions on the Women’s March board of directors after a series of self-inflicted wounds. Aside from the widespread mismanagement that starved state chapters of funding and alienated them over brand wars, the leadership’s failure to come to terms with its own anti-Semitism (i.e., to nestle with Louis Farrakhan and then under the weakest possible denunciation of his racist, homophobic poison the cloak of intersectionality) revealed a gaping ignorance that many, especially Jewish women, simply could not stomach.
Two years later, the Democratic Socialists of America seem determined to make the same mistake, one common on the US left: insulting Jews. That’s a bad idea. It’s bad because Jews vote in greater numbers than the electorate as a whole. It’s bad because Jews have a long history of left-leaning activism. And it’s bad because — especially after Charlottesville and the Tree of Life synagogue massacre — it should be obvious that anti-Semitism, even in the United States, is no fucking joke.
The most recent, and perhaps most ridiculous, example of this self-destructive strategy is the DSA’s confrontation with Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York over his recent trip to Israel with lobby group J Street and his refusal to support the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement or BDS. Bowman is being raked over the coals by the DSA’s National Political Committee, and several local groups across the country have called for his ouster. In a lax and selective application of principles that further exacerbate the DSA’s racial blind spot, the Madison, Wisconsin chapter has gone beyond condemning Bowman for failing to uphold Palestinian solidarity and is taking him to task over a tweet posed he posted mourning the death of Colin Powell: “As a black guy just trying to make sense of the world, Colin Powell was an inspiration. A native of NYC, he went to city college and rose to the highest ranks in our nation.”
Forget the fact that Bernie Sanders – the highest profile democratic socialist and a Jewish supporter of Palestinian rights who has spent time on a kibbutz in Israel – does not support BDS either. After weeks of resentment, the National Committee finally issued a 10-paragraph statement refusing to expel Bowman while repeatedly positioning the DSA as opposed to the “Zionist lobby” and reiterating its commitment to BDS.
Bowman defeated Eliot Engel, a pro-Likud Israel hawk, to represent a district with a significant Jewish population. Polls consistently show overwhelming opposition to BDS among American Jews, including young people and those who identify as secular or “cultural” Jews. Despite its purpose as a standard anti-state political campaign, BDS strikes deeply emotional chords that cannot be denied. Perhaps that’s because a boycott evokes the “Don’t buy from Jews” dictum issued by the Nazis as a prelude to confiscating Jewish assets and reducing our world population by more than a third, paving the way for the building of a modern nation-state as a haven required before the mass extinction. Perhaps it is because annihilating the Jewish state is a public and often-cited goal of many of Israel’s neighbors – hence the need for an Iron Dome defense system to protect against missiles targeting civilians. Or maybe it’s because “Am Israel” in Jewish liturgy refers to the “nation of Israel,” often used interchangeably to refer to the Jewish people, and our collective identity is inseparable from centuries of forced exile from a historical home country is connected.