Jewish Groups Stand Up for Free Speech at Occupy Wall Street

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A statement from Jewish Voice for Peace-NY, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and Jews Say No!

As Jewish-American organizations, we regret that right wing media outlets, organizations, and individuals have tried to undermine the Occupy Movement with unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism.

We have been particularly concerned to see the conflation of anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel. Anti-Semitism is an expression of bigotry while criticism of Israel, just like an anti-capitalist or an anti-war statement, is an expression of a political position. It is important to maintain this distinction between bigotry against an ethnic or religious group and criticism of a state or its policies and actions. The Occupy space has been a consistent venue for expressions of non-violent resistance to economic injustice and other forms of government oppression, including solidarity for the occupied people of Palestine. As Jewish-Americans who endorse the goals of OWS and are committed to the struggle for justice in Israel-Palestine, we believe it would be an egregious double standard to ask the Occupy movement, which has so admirably raised the call for justice and freedom around the world, to silence itself when it comes to Israel-Palestine. Instead, we seek to ensure that space is created at OWS to speak about Israel-Palestine when appropriate and that this space is a welcoming, safe space for all people.

Both prior to, and now within the Occupy movement, Jewish Voice for Peace-NY, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and Jews Say No! have worked to promote justice and peace in Israel-Palestine and greater understanding of all forms of oppression. There have indeed been criticisms issued of Israel's domestic and foreign policy at Occupy Wall Street, linked to the larger protests against the costly war-mongering and corporate impunity that have bankrupted the US both financially and morally. These linkages include the way that the military-industrial complex hurts our economy domestically and engages in unnecessary and immoral wars while supporting the occupation of other peoples, including the Palestinians. Forging such connections is very much in keeping with the spirit of Occupy Wall Street.

JVP-NY, JFREJ, and JSN! denounce the idea that open debate about Israeli policies or solidarity with Palestinians is a sign of anti-Semitism. We continue to be inspired by Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movements across the country and the world. We are committed to continuing our work together as part of these movements for justice and dignity.