Thursday, February 9, 2012 | return to: views, editorial


Occupiers’ alliance with BDS could be a deal-breaker for Jewish support

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With its contemptible vote last week to support the BDS movement (boycotts, sanctions and divestment) against Israel, the Occupy Oakland movement has itself become occupied by fringe haters.

Since it began spreading last summer, the national Occupy movement had drawn justifiable attention for its outcry against economic injustice. Many Americans, including us, tended to sympathize with the movement’s aims, if not always its tactics.

Early on, those aims had to do with ameliorating the foreclosure crisis, combating homelessness and leveling the economic playing field in this country. Worthy goals all.

Yet give credit to the monomaniacal BDS crowd: They never miss an opportunity to usurp, infect and insinuate themselves into legitimate protest movements and somehow make it all about Israel. They even put up an Intifada tent in downtown Oakland.

Perhaps they believed the Occupy movement was inspired by and modeled after the so-called Arab Spring. They would be wrong. The Arab Spring erupted as a response to the tyrannical dictatorships that ruled the Arab world.

In fact the true progenitor of Occupy was the tent city protest in Israel last summer, which was a fight for economic injustice within the Middle East’s only true democracy.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the BDS vote is how it alienated Jewish activists  in the Occupy movement. Jewish support of the movement has been strong ever since Occupy Oakland first erected tents — including a Jewish contingent tent, and even a sukkah — at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Now that support has been jeopardized, thanks to those seeking to co-opt Occupy for their narrow geopolitical agenda. In our story this week on page 3a, local Jewish leaders initially supportive of Occupy have begun to openly reassess that support.

Besides the original Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York, no other allied group has garnered as much attention as Occupy Oakland, and not just because of violence that has broken out several times, including incidents of police over-reaction. It was in Oakland that the world saw the Occupy movement as a potential agent for positive change.

Yet much of that energy has been squandered, first by an anarchistic segment of Occupy Oakland, which has embraced vandalism and violence as a tactic. And now this.

As far as the broader Jewish community is concerned, the Occupy movement is on notice: Rid yourselves of the cancer of anti-Israel mania, or risk losing your Jewish support.


Posted by Dan Spitzer
02/09/2012  at  07:09 PM
Occupy Oakland Can't Rid Itself of the Anti-Israel...

lunatic fringe because most members of Occupy Oakland are committed to Israel-bashing and BDS. This is reflected in the pro-BDS vote Occupy Oakland took with 135 members in favor of supporting BDS and but a single voter opposed.

In sum, Occupy Oakland members ARE the lunatic anti-Israel fringe and hence they should be denied support by the Jewish community…

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Posted by craven_maven
02/13/2012  at  12:25 PM

“COULD be a deal-breaker”?! What equivocating cowardice. It should, without any doubt whatsoever, be a deal-breaker.

BDS seeks to delegitimize and undermine the Jewish state.

Funny, no BDS is ever invoked by the left against any of the Arab states, which routinely commit acts of terrorism against Israel and gross human rights violations.

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Posted by sol rosenberg
02/14/2012  at  12:28 AM

This sums up exactly why i don’t care for Oakland Occupy. the anti-Israel agenda at both Oakland and S.F. Occupy has been well documented. this article should have concluded with the case being made that Jewish support should have left this movement long ago already.

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Posted by schalom.libertad
02/15/2012  at  06:47 AM

this is kind of weak about the denial of the role the arab spring played in inspiring occupy, as if the egyptian protests didnt have any class content to them—coming out of wage struggles and struggles for basic affordable goods such as bread. as if the protests were simply the expression of the desire for liberal democracy. and as if the crisis of political legitimacy in egypt has no relation to the economic crisis of material life there.

and the article is also kind of wrong in saying that the israeli tent protests were the real inspiration for occupy. i mean, i think the latter fits more directly with the content of occupy, but its also clear that occupy repeatedly denies the role of the israeli protests whenever the 2011 wave of protests is cited. (and i would certainly say that antisemitism plays a role in this denial. and the rapid disappearance of the israeli protests from one day to the next should be a warning about the fragility of these explosive protests. but i think antisemitism will prevent occupy from directly reflecting on that.) additionally, even the israeli protests were directly inspired by the arab spring! so, this attempt to divide them up is really strange, yet it follows a specific logic of thinking, just as occupy’s denial of the israeli protests does.

and the focus on the role of jewish support is true, but there are much larger issues at stake regarding the contours of political dissent in the us right now. it seems to me, from a distance, that anti-imperialists are trying to reassert themselves in the movement following the loss of their main resource (the war in iraq). the underlying antisemitism, seen in the exclusion of the israeli protests from the narrative of 2011, can be harnessed for that goal. it could likely fall flat though. it seems to me that despite the ongoing structures of the 911 period—the continuing “war on terror” as well as political islam—, the economic crisis has somewhat opened a new period, shifting the terrain for dissent towards basic class issues. i think this will remain so for a while, with anti-imperialism playing only a minor role in occupy, at least in its wider reception.

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