Click here to read the full essay in In These Times


As Israel ratcheted up the destruction of Gaza over the last two months, the news of the genocide itself has competed with the relentless coverage of the political divisions at elite institutions and among Jews. Meanwhile, in Queens, N.Y., far from the spotlight, working-class Muslims (joined by their Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Korean and Hindu neighbors) continued their weekly protests at the office of Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), who has not yet called for a cease-fire despite representing one of the most Muslim congressional districts in the United States.

Similar solidarity was seen at Columbia University after the administration disbanded student chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. In response, more than 80 multiracial and multiethnic student groups coalesced to support these chapters and continue their antiwar efforts. Thousands of Columbia alumni signed a petition decrying the administration’s action shortly after a ​“doxxing truck” targeted pro-cease-fire students and prompted a response from students across the political divide. For the first time, professors formed a Faculty for Justice in Palestine group.

More than 85% of the population of Gaza has been displaced. About 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, and more than half of those who have died — 10,000 — are reportedly children. Israel has deliberately destroyed hospitals, schools, mosques, flour mills, news offices, refugee camps and United Nations facilities in what is clearly an attempt to obliterate what little infrastructure made Gaza (just barely) livable through 16 previous years of siege.

The resulting polarization among American Jews and in our institutions illuminates the dynamics also playing out across non-Jewish communities in the United States. In the broadest sense, the divide is between those organizations that support the assault on Gaza (and largely accept the mass deaths of civilians as part of the war project) and those who don’t.

The pro-war organizations like AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are undemocratic legacy Jewish institutions that actively oppose calls for cease-fire, politically and culturally support the war and Israel’s far-right government, and viciously police the use of terms like genocide and ethnic cleansing as attacks on the Jewish people.

The Jewish organizations on the Left, in partnership with Palestinian, Arab and other groups mostly led by people of color, meanwhile, have unequivocally called for a cease-fire and for the United States to stop sending billions in unconditional military aid to Israel.

In the confounding middle are people and groups that identify as centrists and liberal Zionists. Their public demands are generally limited to minimizing civilian casualties and freeing the hostages (usually with no parallel demand of freedom for Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails, even children). Together with those that oppose a cease-fire, they perpetually reference Hamas’s war crimes on October 7 to avoid confronting the catastrophe in Gaza and to assert that Jews are isolated, besieged by all sides.

One example of this brand of false isolation and fearmongering discourse comes from liberal comedian Amy Schumer, who, in the wake of October 7, posted a widespread meme that ended with, ​“But I stood alone, because I am a Jew.” The conceit is, of course, ludicrous. Neither American Jews nor Israeli Jews are alone: President Joe Biden quickly flew to hug Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the Hamas attack, nearly every Global North government expressed solidarity with Israel, and Congress passed a resolution supporting Israel while placing the blame for Palestinian deaths on Hamas and then went about working to send billions in aid (and providing an unending stockpile of weapons) to Israel. Schumer’s meme also reinforces the canard promulgated since the 2017 Women’s March that Jews are somehow unwelcome on the Left.

All this makes it understandable why we Leftists find it difficult to resist arguing about reality with so many prominent people, media outlets and institutions. They’re working from a shared, well-established script to impose limits on the use of language and the contours of public discourse. Those constraints include vociferous objections to phrases like ​“From the river to the sea” and the repeated, required insistence on the condemnation and repeated disavowals of Hamas before permitting any mention of Israel’s ongoing apartheid against Palestinians.

Those limits are on display in the super-charged effort to conflate antisemitism with criticisms of Israel, painting nearly every challenge to Israel’s attacks on Gaza as antisemitic — from universities banning student groups to employers firing workers for pro-Palestine tweets to Congressional censure to the shameful House resolution, passed in early December, equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism.



Infusing community institutions with real democratic representation is a core value of the Left, and it must be a priority for our social, racial and economic justice movements. If Jews and non-Jews alike can turn toward the huge, worldwide, multiethnic and multiracial demonstrations happening in support of Palestinians — rather than looking to the recalcitrant center and getting stuck in the feedback loop — then we would see glimmers of the participatory, multiracial society Leftists want to see.

As an alternative to legacy Jewish institutions, groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Jews for Economic & Racial Justice (JFREJ), among others, have for decades been building and engaging in solidarity politics that are effective and nourishing. Lessons from these decades include the necessity of building cross-movement and intergenerational connections; strong relationships; disagreement without compromising alignment; wide representation and inclusion; and years of acting in solidarity across differences of faith, class, race and gender (without flattening any of them). These lessons are especially critical now and are on display and in action in many places.

In fact, these solidarity politics might be the only thing that actually works.

Click here to read the full essay in In These Times