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The Scourges of Silence and "Similarly"
Silence is complicity. That was one of the messages of the Women's March. As Linda Sarsour wrote, "This movement isn't about making you comfortable. Your silence makes you complicit. Yes, YOU are part of the problem."
This message was, however, betrayed by Sarsour and the other leaders of the Women's March. The notorious antisemite Louis Farakkhan, who has claimed that "the Jews were behind 9/11" and has called Hitler a “very great man,” spoke at a rally last week in which he declared that “the powerful Jews are my enemy” and that he had “pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I'm here to say your time is up, your world is through.” Present at the rally was Women's March organizer Tamika Mallory, who got a shout-out from Farakkhan during his speech, and who happily reported the rally on social media.
Not surprisingly, Mallory was called out on her complicity in evil antisemitism. Instead of profusely apologizing and acknowledging that she had betrayed her platform, she complained that her critics are bullies, and stated that true leaders have the same enemies as Jesus - i.e. the Jews. Her partners in leading the Women's March, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, likewise failed to criticize either Farrakhan's speech or Mallory's complicity. Which is hardly surprising, in light of the fact that Sarsour and Perez themselves have a history of supporting Nation of Islam and Farakkhan. The Women's March leaders are perfectly happy to be silent, and thus— by their own barometer— complicit, in vicious antisemitism.
Still, you'd hope that at least all Jewish leaders would condemn the Women's March leaders for this. So let's see what leading rabbi Sharon Brous, who herself took the stage at the Women's March in Washington DC, had to say about it. Here is the complete statement from her:
A few things we can learn from the explosive conversation erupting over Tamika D Mallory, the Women's March leadership, and Louis Farrakhan.
1. There is no room in a multi-faith, multi-ethnic coalitional movement for antisemitism, homophobia or transphobia. Full stop. You can’t fight racism but excuse antisemitism, just as you cannot fight antisemitism while excusing and justifying racism or Islamophobia. All racialized hatred grows from the same cancer: an unforgiving demonization of the “other” based on immutable characteristics or lineage. In a big tent movement there has to be room for disagreement, but certain core values must stand at the forefront: the inherent dignity of every person, and an unequivocal opposition to racism or bigotry of any form.
2. Our communities clearly continue to suffer from a profound lack of understanding of one another’s histories, pain, traumas. The reflex to publicly eviscerate, threaten or delegitimize someone who doesn’t say what we want to hear when we want to hear it only exacerbates the rift between us. Instead, we must commit to entering real relationship with one another. Over the last three days, Tamika D Mallory has been bombarded with vicious racist and misogynistic threats; her intelligence, her credibility, her very humanity have been assailed. None of this will make her, or anyone, more sympathetic to your perspective or your pain. It only reinforces that you don’t understand hers.
3. It’s important for us to understand that many racial justice activists feel an abiding allegiance to Louis Farrakhan who, for many years, has worked to build a sense of dignity and empowerment for black communities suffering from systemic racism. At the same time, he more than tarnished his righteous activism with egregious moral failings—including base hatred—toward other minority groups. For decades, he has spewed virulent antisemitic and homophobic vitriol at any audience that would listen. (My first encounter with his ideology was first year in college, when his spokesperson, Khalid Muhammad, lectured a packed auditorium that the Holocaust was an invention of Jewish Hollywood.)
The beauty of the Women's March has been the promise of a new generation taking the mantle of leadership, affirming that the greatest way to fight for our own safety and dignity is in partnership and sisterhood with others also concerned for their rights and freedoms. We all have elder statesmen who—while they have dedicated their lives to their own communities—are weighed down by hatred and bigotry toward others. I am well aware of the leaders in my own Jewish community who would today receive ovations for their advocacy on behalf of our people, but who are similarly fatally flawed by their own prejudices. We simply must reject that now. It’s time we lay to rest the toxic scripts of even those who mentored and inspired us, and model a new kind of leadership. This intersectional moment demands nothing less of us—in fact, that’s what’s feminist about this moment and this movement. We need to do better, and we can.
Incredible. Instead of condemning Mallory for her complicity in Farakkhan's hate, she condemns only those who have attacked Mallory for it. What happened to silence being complicity?
And when it comes to Farakkhan himself, while Brous condemns his egregious moral failings, she adds that there are leaders in the Jewish community who are "similarly fatally flawed by their own prejudices." Really??? Who on earth are they?! I cannot think of any Jewish leaders who are remotely on a par with Farrakhan's influence, hate and lies.
This is not the first time that Rabbi Brous has drawn moral parity where it is unjustified. During the Gaza War of 2013, in a letter to her community, she made sure to "balance" any expression of support for the Israeli civilians being targeted by missiles with an equivalent message of sympathy for the Palestinians of Gaza who had voted in Hamas, and included such choice expressions as "We are deeply entrenched in our narratives of good and evil, victim and perpetrator." As a result, Daniel Gordis - a former teacher of Brous - issued a scathing rebuke of her, in an article entitled "When Balance Becomes Betrayal," in which he called her out for failing to take sides on exactly who is good and evil in the battle between Hamas and Israel.
Then, a year later, Rabbi Brous wrote an article about the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time as exhibiting a stunningly callous disregard for the safety of her coreligionists, she said that if peace does not happen, then Israel and the Palestinians are equally responsible. I wrote a post in which I pointed out the sheer illogicality of insisting that both sides must share moral responsibility. Why must it be that Israel is also at fault? Is it not even theoretically possible that Israel is willing to offer all that it can safely offer, and yet the Palestinians are not satisfied with anything less than that which will enable them to destroy Israel- which indeed is supported by the evidence? Nor was it morally appropriate for her to approve of honoring the narratives" of "both Israelis and Palestinians." After all, the Palestinian narrative is that there was never any Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. Is this not false and dangerous? Why should it be honored?
Rabbi Brous, at the Women's March, you gave an impassioned speech about the importance of holy outrage and the need to protest against evil and hate. Why can't you protest the evils of Hamas, Fatah and antisemitism, without having to draw false moral equivalence with the actions of Israel or of Jewish leaders? Why can't you protest against those leaders of the Women's March who are silent and complicit in vicious antisemitism? Where is your holy outrage?