This is the fourth part of our five-part series on right-wing attacks against Occupy Wall Street.
Strategy Four: Smear Occupy Wall Street As Anti-Semitic
One of the biggest smears of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been the claim that the activists are anti-Semites motivated by a hatred of Jews. Conservative groups such as the Emergency Committee for Israel have played and replayed footage of a few people who attended one rally making anti-Semitic remarks, and claimed that the despicable comments of a handful of protestors speak for the whole movement.
Michelle Goldberg writes in Tablet that these claims of anti-Semitism are “dishonest and deceptive” and are an attempt to use the words of a few fringe protestors to cast aspersions on a burgeoning and diverse movement: “There are a few Jew-baiters at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, though they are marginal, particularly compared to the large numbers of Jewish activists taking part. Yet the leaderless, diffuse nature of the movement, in some ways its greatest strength, also makes it hard to police bigots, bullies, and cranks.”
In fact, around 700 people participated in a Kol Nidre service across from Zuccotti Park to mark Yom Kippur, which the editor of The Jewish Daily Forward called “a sign of arrival for Jews and a return to the historic place that religion played in the public face of progressive activism.”
While the Anti-Defamation League notes that “anti-Semitism has not gained traction more broadly with the protestors, nor is it representative of the larger movement at this time,” the right-wing noise machine is trying to smear the economic justice movement as anti-Semitic.
The communications director of the Republican National Committee said Democrats who expressed their sympathies with the movement effectively endorsed people “spewing hate against Jewish Americans” and their “extreme anti-Semitic, anti-Israel comments.”
The Emergency Committee for Israel, a right-wing outfit led by conservative leaders Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer that ran ads exclusively against Democratic candidates in the last election cycle, released an ad depicting Occupy protests as drenched in anti-Semitism. The group’s focus on Occupy Wall Street may be related to the fact that two-thirds of the group’s political action committee contributions came from just one hedge fund CEO.
Brent Bozell, the head of the right-wing Media Research Center, sent a letter to major news outlets demanding that they begin “reporting documented evidence of anti-Semitism coming from the OWS crowd,” and Rush Limbaugh even argued that the “We Are The 99%” message is covertly anti-Semitic:
Now, some people think the 99%’s also the 99 weeks of unemployment compensation because that group also calls themselves the 99ers, but the 99% versus the 1% is another angle that the group is talking about here, and Wall Street and bankers, those two terms have been anti-Semitic code for Jews in this country for a long time. Occupier, Occupy Wall Street Now. I’ve often said, I said last week he who controls the definition of words, the meaning of words, controls the debate. He who controls the language controls the debate. There’s a lot of interesting stuff here. Occupy Wall Street Now, 99%, that leaves 1%, roughly the percentage of Jews in the population, too. And Wall Street and bankers have been anti-Semitic code for Jews in this country going back quite a while.
When the chairman of the Michigan-based American Nazi Party released a statement supporting the movement, conservatives claimed that the movement welcomed and championed the Nazi cause. Fox News reported the endorsement as a major story and conservative writers began frequently pointing to the meaningless endorsement to tar the movement as a whole.
“OWS seems to have no problem with Nazis or the Communists,” wrote Tea Party Nation president Judson Phillips. “OWS supports forms of totalitarianism that directly killed about 250 million people in the last century and enslaved billions in poverty and tyranny.” Bryan Fischer, a spokesman for the American Family Association, said that there is “a lot of anti-Semitism at this Occupy Wall Street movement” and tried to link President Obama, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is Jewish, to the Nazis: “The American Nazi Party now has joined Barack Obama, the American Nazi Party now has joined Nancy Pelosi, the American Nazi Party now has joined Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Democratic Party, to officially endorse the Occupy Wall Street movement.”