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Sharansky Responds To Tlaib, Lamont Hill, Beinart Panel: So-Called Progressives Portray Jews As ‘Oppressors,’ Hijacking Human Rights

December 17, 2020

17 December (New York) – Human rights icon Natan Sharansky told a special event on anti-Semitism that too many so-called progressive voices regard Jews as ‘oppressors’ and are not protecting individual freedoms and human rights. Sharansky was speaking at an event countering Tuesday night’s disingenuous panel on anti-Semitism headlined by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Prof. Marc Lamont Hill and Peter Beinart – individuals who have themselves perpetuated anti-Semitism.

Sharansky was joined by US Assistant Special Envoy to Monitor & Combat Anti-Semitism, Ellie Cohanim and a range of high-level speakers and activists, amplifying the voices of actual Jewish leaders to provide an accurate account of anti-Semitism. The online event was organized by the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement, in partnership with the Tel Aviv Institute.

It took place in the aftermath of Tuesday’s “Dismantling Anti-Semitism: Winning Justice” panel, which featured Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is a strong supporter of boycotting Israel, Temple University Prof. Marc Lamont Hill, who has endorsed the Palestinian slogan “from the river to the sea” commonly viewed as a call to destroy Israel and the panel’s sole Jewish participant, Peter Beinart, who has publicly rejected the need for a Jewish state.

Natan Sharansky said, “Today, there is an attempt to hijack the cause of human rights from Jews by so-called progressives… For the so-called progressives, all the world is the fight between ‘oppressors’ and ‘oppressed.’ ‘Oppressors’ are always wrong and ‘oppressed’ are always right. There is no such thing as individual justice, it has to be for the group.”

He explained that in the eyes of these progressive voices, “Jews are guilty of belonging to the wrong state, the State of Israel, the wrong group,” and that “Jews are accused as a group and Israel is accused as a Jewish State.” He concluded, “It is not the struggle for human rights, it is not the struggle for individual freedom.”

US Assistant Special Envoy to Monitor & Combat Anti-Semitism, Ellie Cohanim outlined her own personal and family background as a Jewish refugee from Iran and emphasized the large number of Jews originally from Arab and Middle Eastern countries. She said that there is a “ pernicious new form of anti-Semitism” which seeks to erase this history. She explained “This erasure of history allows the accusation that Jews enjoy white privilege and are neo-colonialists.”

Anila Ali, President & Founder of AMWEC firmly stated, “We believe that as Muslims we don’t get to define what anti-Semitism is, that is up to Jews.” Relating specifically to yesterday’s panel, she said “When Rep. Tlaib’s office was contacted over this sham of an anti-Semitism conference, she only called out white nationalists.”

A panel of Jewish activists from diverse backgrounds debated various aspects of contemporary anti-Semitism. Many of the panelists decried the false contradiction too often presented between being both progressive and Jewish.

Hen Mazzig, Senior Fellow at The Tel Aviv Institute said, “It is so harmful to feel that our identity is being challenged, that we must choose between our progressive values and the fight against anti-Semitism.” Rep Alma Hernandez, Arizona State House Representative added, “I am a very progressive Democrat, but being told that I have to choose between being part of the progressive movement or support Israel is not something I am prepared to compromise on.”

On the question of where attitudes towards Israel become anti-Semitic, Ashager Araro, Founder of Battae – Ethiopian Israeli Heritage Center commented, “Once you say that the Jewish people are the only people who don’t have the right to self-determination, it is anti-Semitism.” Mahrinah Shije, Executive Director of the Pueblo Development Commission called for education towards a better understanding of Zionism as self-determination, adding “The banning of Zionists from these [progressive] spaces takes authority away from our narratives.”

Rabbi Sandra Lawson, Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life at Elon University, emphasized that “Anti-Semitism is a problem, which is not a left or right problem,” a point also made by Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists 4 Israel and President of the Healing Arts Kits and Healing Ink. He said, “We need to recognize that the anti-Semitism we are seeing is not a monolith” although he noted a common theme is often “the perceived power of the Jewish people.”

Sacha Roytman-Dratwa, The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement Director said, “Our event last night was an opportunity to set the record straight. The likes of Rep. Tlaib and Prof. Hill have no right to attempt to define Jew hatred, especially given their track records of stoking anti-Semitism. Instead, they should listen to the many Jewish leaders and activists, like those we heard from last night, who by definition truly understand anti-Semitism and have dedicated themselves to fighting for minority rights.”

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement is a non-partisan, global grassroots movement of individuals and organizations, across all religions and faiths, united around the goal of ending anti-Semitism in all its forms. Since its launch in February 2019, 298 organizations and 300,000 individuals have joined the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement by signing the campaign’s pledge. The CAM Pledge draws upon the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti- Semitism and its list of specific behaviors used to discriminate against the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.