#OWS’s policy of having no set views has its advantages. They can include all manner of extremists and unsavory characters while preserving plausible deniability when taken to task for their relationship with such socially-unacceptable figures.
Daniel Sieradski, #OWS’s main Jewish organizer, last seen thinking up new ways to appropriate Jewish rituals for a movement that, diverse as its supporters may be, was founded by an anti-semite around anti-semitic tropes, to the glee of the American Nazi Party, Iran, and other noted friends of the Jewish people, accidentally admitted that things may be far worse than that.
The NewsBeast’s Michelle Goldberg (in the Jewish publication The Tablet), writes:
Occupy Wall Street, as you’ve surely learned by now, is organized, for lack of a better word, around non-hierarchical principles derived from anarchist thought. Decisions are made by consensus during interminable general assembly meetings, in which anyone can participate….
This do-it-yourself ethos has been a boon to Jewish activists, among others. One of the most iconic moments of the occupation came when as many as a thousand Jews gathered at the park on October 7 for an open-air Kol Nidre service, organized by Daniel Sieradski, the founder of the progressive blog Jewschool.com and a self-described “rabble rouser in the Jewish community.” “The whole thing is an anarchistic affair, so any affinity group that has an action is welcome to come and do their action,” he said.
“Clearly there’s been tension for the last couple of decades between Jews who identify as supporters of Israel and the radical left that views Zionism as an extension of American imperialism,” said Sieradski. But groups like ANSWER aren’t running things at Occupy Wall Street—no one is. For progressive Jews, that’s opened up new room for involvement.
The usual rogues gallery present at leftist protests that Sierdaski and Goldberg rightfully bemoan – Stalinist, anti-semitic ANSWER included – are part of the #OWS movement, but no one in particular is in charge. Goldberg and Sierdaski credit this system for left-wing Jews being able to be a part of #OWS.
The Tea Party had some problems of its own early on due to decentralization and lack of hierarchy, but managed to work through them and police itself. #OWS’s non-hierarchical nature is not a defense against the fact that it tolerates extremists in its midst. #OWS’s organizational structure was not handed down from on high. Its creators and members chose it, and are responsible for whatever drawbacks it may have. Disturbingly, though, it may be that this organizing method is not what is keeping a mainstream group from excluding extremists, but what is keeping extremists from taking over completely.