National climate, voting rights groups leave rally due to inclusion of Jewish groups
Leaders of two national liberal groups – one focused on climate, the other on voting rights – issued statements on Thursday in an attempt to keep their various movements united after controversy erupted linked to Israel and accusations of anti-Semitism.
It centered on a rally for voting rights scheduled for late Saturday morning near the U.S. Capitol.
On Wednesday, the DC branch of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate organization, released a statement saying it was refusing a speaking spot at the Freedom To Vote rally due to the presence of three Jewish groups that “s’ align and support Zionism and the State of Israel.
Sunrise DC also called in its statement to the organizers of Saturday’s rally to expel the three Jewish groups from their coalition.
The rally is organized by Declaration for American Democracy, a coalition of 230 faith-based and secular groups focused on voting reform, including the Freedom to Vote Act (which was blocked this week by a Senate Republicans vote), the John Lewis Voting Rights DC Advancement Act and State. There are other Jewish groups in the coalition that are less openly supporting the Israeli state.
“We believe that the struggle for state and sovereignty is incompatible with Zionism,” Sunrise DC wrote.
Local and national Jewish groups responded quickly and angrily to Sunrise DC on Wednesday, saying its efforts to expel groups that support Israel are explicitly anti-Semitic. A Pew Research report recently showed that 82% of American Jews say that caring about Israel is essential or important to what it means to be Jewish.
“The ‘opposition to Zionism’ that Sunrise DC so proudly espouses constitutes the fundamental denial of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and is therefore fundamentally anti-Semitic,” reads a statement by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater DC, which aims to represent grassroots Jewish organizations in the region. “It is unfortunate that Sunrise DC has injected division, acrimony and hatred into a powerful movement that unites Americans from all walks of life and from all walks of life to defend our democracy… We condemn Sunrise DC’s suggestion that American Jews who support the right of the State of Israel to exist and prosper are excluded from the civic movements that embody our Jewish values and which we have led and participated in for so long.
Leaders of Jewish groups released statements on Wednesday encouraging voting rights activists to work together in a diverse coalition and stay focused.
A day after the controversy began, the Sunrise National Branch and a spokesperson for the voting rights group organizing the rally on Thursday released statements distancing themselves from the Sunrise DC branch but not explicitly condemning its comments.
“Sunrise is a movement of young people from all walks of life committed to stopping climate change. … The Sunrise Movement is a decentralized grassroots movement. Hundreds of hubs like Sunrise DC exist across the country, powered by volunteers, and each of them has the capacity to act independently, ”Sunrise said Thursday afternoon. He said his DC branch acted on its own, without first showing the statement to the national group.
“Sunrise Movement believes in organizing and building a movement beyond divisions of class, race, gender, geography, religion and cultures. As a national movement that supports freedom and dignity for all, we will always welcome anyone who acts on our principles and chooses to join the struggle for collective liberation. We believe that the rights of the Palestinians are part of this struggle and we pledge to embrace this struggle together, ”the statement said.
Jana Morgan, director of the Declaration for American Democracy, issued a similar statement, calling the voting rights coalition “inclusive … broad, multisectoral … and it is that same magnitude that makes us strong and ready to win the measures. transformative democracy that Americans overwhelmingly support and desperately need. All those who share our goals and values are welcome to join the coalition and will continue to be. We reject any effort to obliterate any members of our coalition who share our commitment to strengthening American democracy. “
The statement noted that Republicans in Congress the day before had blocked the Freedom to Vote Act, a federal Democratic voting rights measure that would include national standards for advance and postal voting, new disclosure requirements for “black money” groups and the establishment of polling day as a federal holiday.
The director of the Religious Action Center responded Thursday by calling the lack of a clear condemnation “shameful.”
“The statement (Sunrise) and the lukewarm response seem to indicate that they regard the Jewish community as indispensable in the struggle for social justice and are dangerously close to fomenting anti-Semitism,” wrote Jonah Pesner.
“Our commitment to the right to vote for all Americans does not depend on who stands with us. It is deeply rooted in our Jewish faith, and we refuse to allow the actions of an organization to distract us from our mission of protecting access to the ballot for all. “
Pesner said Jewish groups working on voting rights issues do not conflict “with our tireless work in the struggle for Palestinian human rights and a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The Liberals are divided on a number of issues, and the Democrats’ victories in the 2018 and 2020 elections made it clear that these shortcomings would quickly surface. Among them are debates within the climate movement about what constitutes racism and colonialism.