Image 01 Image 03

UPDATED: Both Major Anti-Semitism Watchdogs Issue Statements on #OWS

UPDATED: Both Major Anti-Semitism Watchdogs Issue Statements on #OWS

There are two major organizations in the Jewish community tasked with certifying people, things, and movements as anti-Semitic or not: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum(s) of Tolerance.  Sometimes, they differ, owing largely to the fact that the ADL’s leaders vote Democrat while the Wiesenthal Center’s leaders, primarily being Orthodox Rabbis, are generally thought to lean Republican.

As Joel Pollack had noted at Big Government, the ADL had been silent about rampant anti-Semitism among the #OWS ranks.  Today, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper and historian Harold Brackman will be releasing an essay on #OWS anti-semitism.  Subsequent to Pollack’s story, the ADL issued a statement as well.

Excerpts of the Cooper and Brackman article are up on the Wiesenthal Center’s web site.

On the scope of the problem and the media’s misleading coverage:

…Unfortunately, the hateful fringe of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is now also coast-to-coast, though you might not know it from the mainstream media. Today’s hate propaganda from the New York protests has gone viral. This includes placards identifying “Wall Street Jews” as “Hitler’s Bankers,” and angry shouts of “Kill/Screw Google Jews.” According to anecdotal evidence, the conspiracy banter that the 9/11 attacks were a U.S. government and/or Israeli plot is also popular among some protestors.

On the resonance between this movement and traditional anti-semitic tropes:

For almost 200 years, blaming the world’s economic woes on the Rothschilds or Wall Street or Jewish bankers has been “the socialism of fools”—and mother’s milk of every demagogue from Hitler to Henry Ford to the Internet bloggers who still insist that Goldman Sachs’s secret Zionist high-command cunningly engineered the 2008 global financial collapse. Of course, toxic hate is not the motivator of most protestors, many of whom are suffering from orsincerely concerned about real economic hardship. Yet history shows the danger of lunatic fringe ideas spreading from the periphery to the center of a tumultuous movement…

On OWS and the Tea Party:

The Tea Party, when it emerged in 2009, also attracted its own extremist fringe, as a hyper-vigilant national media was correct to quickly expose. Some of the Tea Party fringe equated Obama with Hitler and claimed that the first African American president was a Manchurian candidate with a phony birth certificate. Yet the Tea Party Movement eventually produced grassroots leaders who denounced such nonsense and repeatedly disavowed racism and racists. Though not everyone was convinced by the Tea Party’s disavowals of prejudice, millions of decent Americans who weren’t bigots voted in the 2010 elections to support the complaints and goals of the movement.

The ADL’s statement was, predictably, far less aggressive:

We are seeing some individuals holding anti-Semitic signs at the “Occupy Wall Street” rallies, and some videos posted on YouTube from the rallies have shown individuals expressing classic anti-Semitic beliefs such as “Jews control the banks” and “Jews control Wall Street.”  While we believe that these expressions are not representative of the larger views of the OWS movement, it is still critical for organizers, participants and supporters of these rallies to condemn such bigoted statements clearly and forcefully.

There is no evidence that these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are representative of the larger movement or that they are gaining traction with other participants.  However, history demonstrates time and again how economic downturns can embolden anti-Semites to spread malicious conspiracy theories and promote stereotypes about Jews and money. As a consequence, these statements must not be left unchallenged.    

The League continues to monitor the tenor and messages at the demonstrations to ensure that they do not get hijacked by extremists or anti-Semitic elements.

(A previous version of this post cited Joel Pollack’s article noting that the ADL had not issued a statement.  The ADL issued a statement between the publication of Pollack’s article and the publication of this post.  Thanks to reader dawgfan for bringing it to my attention.)


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Both the ADL and the Wiesenthal Center make their money by stoking the fear of antisemitism, so I discount everything they say. They will find antisemitism whether it’s there or not. What I find them most useful for is in ruling antisemitism out; if even they don’t find grounds to complain about something, then it’s probably not a problem.

I also don’t think the Wiesenthal Center leans Republican; its leadership may be more Orthodox, but from the left fringe of Orthodoxy, the OU/YU types who cling to the Democrats and moderate-left-wing politics as much as they can bring themselves to do. I think they’re just shriller than the ADL, and more ready to see every event as a fundraising opportunity.

People who pay reasonable attention to OWS are easily capable of making up their own minds as to how deeply the rank and file is invested into antisemitism. No need of the SWC or ADL to “clarify” the question, in my book.

From what I see about 30% of them are rabid jew-haters; about 30% don’t really care if the first bunch are nutcases, as long as they “shock” people and gain notoriety; about 30% actually want the government to fold; and the rest – though smarter than the first 90% – are too stupid to understand the ramifications of what they are doing and are just useful idiots.

In a couple of decades there will be tons of denial over who did what during the fall of “2011”.

Actually, it looks like the ADL did issue a statement on OWS yesterday:

[…] tip to Legal Insurrection for their story on the essay pieces posted at the Wiesenthal website. 0.000000 0.000000 Rate this: Share […]

Thanks, dawgfan. I’ve updated the post to incorporate that information, and noted the correction.

I read the Wiesenthal Center’s statement as implying a false equivalency between the Tea Party and OWS.

Smoke- I agree. Besides, what does Obama’s birth certificate or the fact that Obama is part of a Marxist conspiracy have to do with anti-Semitic ism. You may agree or you might think it’s silly but a person can believe both and literally love Jewish people. I’m sorry but I don’t see a connection.

So you also discount everything claimed by the professional racists like Al Sharpton or the Southern Poverty Law Center? Because they make their money stoking the fear of racism whether it exists or not.

People hate Jews? Get out! When did that begin?

I am an Occupy Wall Street protester and I’m Jewish.

My blood boils at these uninformed accusations of antisemitism. Because Zuccotti Park is a public space, as are the streets we march through, we cannot prevent anyone, no matter how lunatic, from holding up any sign, however offensive. Likewise, the horizontal, consensus-based structure of the movement makes self-policing very difficult. As much as I would like to punch out the occasional antisemite, it is not a productive way to deal with the situation.

In the next week or two, I plan on organizing a Jewish cultural affinity / working group within OWS on Liberty Plaza to fight antisemitism. I hope to encourage people who identify with Yidishkeit to draw strength from our collective history of radicalism and Tikun Olam (healing the world). We may also reach out to counterparts in Israel (eg Gush Shalom).

OWS is a minimally organized movement. It is not an antisemitic organization.

— Etan Ben-Ami

[…] the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the ADL recently released statements on anti-Semitism in the Occupy movement.  Mathew Knee at Legal Insurrection comments: There are two major organizations in the Jewish […]