Co-panelist Peter Beinart says the aim is to include Palestinians in the discussion.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib is set to appear on a virtual panel entitled “Dismantling Antisemitism, Winning Justice” – a lineup that is raising eyebrows in the Jewish community.
The Democratic Detroit congresswoman, who has expressed vocal support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and a one-state solution, is one of four scheduled panelists for the Dec. 15 talk. The moderator will be Rabbi Alissa Wise, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. Only one other panelist, the progressive writer Peter Beinart, is Jewish.
The other two panelists are University of Chicago professor and Detroit native Barbara Ransby; and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired as a CNN commentator in 2018 after invoking the phrase “from the river to the sea” during a United Nations speech on Palestinian rights.
The panel is co-sponsored by nine groups, including progressive/left-wing Jewish groups JVP Action; IfNotNow; Jews for Racial and Economic Justice; and Jewish Currents magazine (where Beinart is editor-at-large and recently published a widely circulated piece discussing a hypothetical one-state solution).
Other cosponsors include the Arab American Institute, Unite Against Hate and the Foundation for Middle East Peace.
“The idea behind the panel mirrors our understanding of how we can dismantle antisemitism— the same way we fight white nationalism, racism and all forms of hatred and discrimination—through solidarity,” Wise told the JN in an email.
Tlaib is on the panel, Wise said, because “as one of the leading progressive champions in Congress, an outspoken critic of Trumpism, and a target of false charges of antisemitism all too often lobbed at Palestinian-Americans, Rep. Tlaib offers a critical perspective for a discussion of antisemitism today in the United States [and] what real action to dismantle it can look like.”
Nevertheless, other Jews have criticized the panel for its relative lack of Jewish voices, Tlaib’s presence and prominence of other viewpoints that are strongly critical of Israel.
The Ethiopian Israeli writer Ashager Araro, founder of the Ethiopian Israeli Heritage Center, asked Hill on Twitter, “How would you react to a panel with the headline ‘dismantle racism’, when the majority of the panelists are not POC, are not scholars in the subject, and publicly displayed different levels of dog whistling/anti-semitism?”
Can you just answer my question…
How would you react to a "Dismantle Racism" panel excluded POC, excluded individuals who are scholars on combatting racism, and have publicly displayed different levels of dog whistling/anti-semitism?
— Ashager Araro (@AshagerAraro) November 21, 2020
Jerusalem Post columnist Seth Frantzman wrote that the panel lineup “must be a story from The Onion.” And former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss tweeted that the panel seemed to actually be about “dismantling accusations of antisemitism.”
"Antisemitism is used to manufacture division and fear." Aha, I see. So "dismantling antisemitism" is actually about dismantling *accusations* of antisemitism. Watch with me in real time as "antisemitism" is transformed into "right-wing disinformation." https://t.co/qroP9VtJ5N
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) November 20, 2020
Reached for comment, Tlaib’s acting communications director Adrienne Salazar told the JN that the congresswoman “believes every community has a role in fighting antisemitism and views this panel as being a part of that conversation.”
“Congresswoman Tlaib has long been engaged in fighting all forms of hate and bigotry, including antisemitism, alongside incredible social justice groups like Jewish Voice for Peace even before her life in elected office,” Salazar wrote in an email. “With the rise of antisemitism and white nationalism in the United States, Congresswoman Tlaib remains steadfast in her commitment to work to help dismantle antisemitism.”
The event’s description notes that the panel will “explore how to fight back against antisemitism and against those that seek to wield charges of antisemitism to undermine progressive movements for justice.”
Beinart, who is also a columnist for the New York Times and a fellow at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, told the JN he is unconcerned about the makeup of the panel.
“I don’t think you have to be Jewish to have an opinion about antisemitism and how it should be dismantled,” he said. “I’m not someone who believes that only people of a certain identity have a right to take a position on what constitutes discrimination of a certain group.”
For Beinart, the aim of the panel is to discuss how “the fight against antisemitism has become a way to legitimize bigotry against Palestinians… We basically make it impossible for Palestinians to speak their own truth.”
He continued, “What matters to me is that we have a conversation about how to make the struggle against antisemitism be part of a larger struggle for human rights and equality and liberal democracy. And I think the people on the panel have a lot to say about that.”
In contrast to critics who said a panel about racism would never take place with only one person of color, Beinart said he believes that “white people have a right to talk about racism against Black people and how it should be dismantled, [and] men have the right to talk about sexism toward women and how it should be dismantled.”
The panel was announced last week, as Mike Pompeo became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Israeli settlements in the disputed territories of the West Bank and Golan Heights. Beinart said the event had been in the works prior to Pompeo’s trip.
On his trip, Pompeo also declared that the U.S. would classify the BDS movement and anti-Zionism as antisemitic. Beinart noted that Pompeo, who is also not Jewish, “is fashioning himself an authority on what is antisemitism.”