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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Op-Ed: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

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By: Lauri B. Regan

The road to hell is paved with good intentions – and often large egos.  And that is why the No Fear rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday was such an epic failure. Rather than inspire American Jews to fight antisemitism, it achieved the opposite result making us look weak, apathetic, and anything but united. The key problem:  the inexperienced organizers refused to put aside their leftist ideology, work with people who knew how to organize successful rallies, accept advice from those in the know, and take all measures necessary to ensure the rally’s success.

As someone who has organized and spoken at rallies, I enthusiastically reached out to Elisha Wiesel and Melissa Landa to offer my assistance and expertise but their misplaced self-confidence led to a failed rally as they refused outside help.  According to most reports including the Washington Post and those in attendance, there were “hundreds” who turned out – an embarrassment for their six to eight weeks of work.

I offered to assist in obtaining high quality speakers and suggested many including Mark Levin, Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis, and Brian Mast all of whom they rejected as being too “extreme” notwithstanding their unwavering support for all things Israel and the Jewish people.

I suggested Trump’s antisemitism envoy, Elan Carr (who they didn’t know), Amb. Ron Dermer, Amb. Gilad Erdan, and high-ranking diplomats to no avail.  I suggested they have a victim of terrorism and a Holocaust survivor speak (I know of at least one in the audience who speaks publicly all the time); they weren’t interested. In fact, my friend Sarri Singer, a survivor of a terrorist attack in Jerusalem who founded Strength-to-Strength that supports victims of terror and their families and who speaks at rallies was denied a speaking spot.

I suggested they include an evangelical leader such as Laurie Cardoza-Moore and focus on bringing out the evangelical community. They had never heard of her and asked if she passed the “Islamophobia test.” They concluded that she was too “controversial” and didn’t care that evangelical supporters of Israel would not join on a Sunday.

Apparently, my colleague at the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Sarah Stern, and I, both of whom have been speaking and writing about the rise of global antisemitism for decades including at the UN, on the Hill, at rallies, and in national publications too numerous to name, were also too controversial because after advertising that we would be speaking, they cancelled us.  My first experience in the world of cancel culture was sadly committed by fellow Jews.

One of the people who did speak was progressive Rabbi David Saperstein who proceeded to dilute the significance of antisemitism by disingenuously and irrelevantly claiming that more hate crimes are committed against blacks than Jews. He also referred to “West Bank settlements” and “occupation” which one would expect at a pro-BDS rally. And the same Jews who claim “our tent is big, but those who espouse hate must stand outside it” as if they alone are the gatekeepers and sole decision-makers of who is too extreme, controversial, or doesn’t pass their smell test, put David Duke’s godson, a “reformed white-supremacist,” on stage.

Then there was the Biden administration representative who blamed antisemitism on “home-grown,” haters, “white-supremacists,” and “conspiracy theorists” while referring to the “insurrection” at the Capitol. No mention of academia, BLM, Antifa, the Women’s and Dyke Marches, and other progressive haters let alone the antisemitism in the Democrat Party where the Squad was apparently forbidden from being mentioned. This partisan stump speech followed two speeches pronouncing the bipartisan nature of the fight – the irony went above the organizers’ heads.

But what made this worse was Wiesel joining her on stage and announcing to the Jews in attendance that they should thank Biden for supporting Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls. To be clear, American Jews’ bizarre hatred of Donald Trump, the best friend the Jewish people have ever had in the White House, led to an administration that is replete with antisemitic and anti-Israel advisors; refuses to use the term Abraham Accords while defunding the means to ensure these historic peace deals remain successful; is backtracking on Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights; is refunding the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA which is equivalent to funding terrorism; and forced Israel to agree to a ceasefire before it was able to complete its mission during the operation despite over 4000 missiles raining on its civilians.

This same administration has yet to enforce Trump’s Executive Order that protected Jewish students on college campuses, has not repeated Secretary Pompeo’s statements that BDS is antisemitic and anti-Zionism is antisemitism, and is moving full-steam ahead to give Iran nuclear weapons. And we’re supposed to be thankful.

This is what happens when people anoint themselves the representatives of all Jewish Americans “from J Street to ZOA” as Wiesel and Landa did in emails and postings. They tried desperately to get anti-Israel groups to co-sponsor including J Street which is so extreme that it just lost a bid to get into the American Zionist Movement and has been rejected by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. The organizers wanted them anyway.

While they claimed to want balance, there was no balance. Too many people who care about fighting antisemitism were not permitted on their stage because they were on the right and that does not bode well for American Jewry’s ability to survive. If American Jews and Jewish leadership cannot recognize that the most dangerous and insidious antisemitism is currently coming from the left and that the Democrat Party has an Israel problem, we Jews will continue to feel unsafe, ostracized, marginalized, and hated in America.

And when Jews do not work together, they cannot fight anything let alone this hatred that has led to pogroms, exterminations, torture, slavery, terrorism, boycotts, banishment, and discrimination of our people for millennia.

The theme of this rally should have been any number of messages including Zero Tolerance, Stand with Israel, United with Israel, or Stop Jew Hatred. Instead, they ridiculously named it “No Fear” while handing out hats without any Jewish symbols or any other indication that it was a message for Jewish people. Perhaps they feared that Jewish symbols might not be safe?

Furthermore, watching the non-Jewish speakers tell the Jewish audience not to be fearful was laughable and one more irony missed by the organizers. You don’t name a rally designed to fight the growing scourge of antisemitism that is manifesting itself in violent attacks against Jews across the nation and call it No Fear – that’s dangerous. If one wants to motivate Jews to wake up and realize that they are no longer safe walking the streets of Manhattan where Jews are being physically assaulted or praying in synagogues where Jews are gunned down and murdered with a machete, you don’t tell them they have nothing to fear but fear itself. You empower them by telling them they should be fearful and it’s time to do something about it.

The rally did include the typical nonsense of leftist Jews who obsess with standing “against all hatred” as the rally’s statement of inclusion explained and speakers on the stage shared. No mention that antisemitism is a unique form of hatred that deserves special attention since these days it is the one form of hate that seemingly is allowed to go unpunished. No wonder Democrats don’t feel the need to pass the Antisemitism Awareness Act and anti-BDS legislation (which should have been a consistent call to action throughout the rally).

Amateur hour at the No Fear rally failed to include American and Israeli flags on stage, the singing of Hatikvah and the National Anthem, high profile speakers who are actually expert on antisemitism, a Holocaust survivor when the few remaining are quickly dying off, a sensible message, repeated calls for action, and most importantly, the 100,000 Jews who should have been in attendance. What it did accomplish was to let the Jewish establishment that was not supportive of putting on a rally know that they were right and it will result in leadership continuing to oppose such efforts.

Where were the messages that Jews need to prioritize Israel and their own survival before supporting liberal causes like BLM, Palestinian rights, and other social justice movements; that Jews should not be voting for politicians who do not stand with Israel and the Jewish people; and to Jewish lawmakers like Schumer, Cardin, Wasserman-Schultz, and others who remain silent in the face of antisemites who are elevated to important committee assignments and who they refuse to condemn?

Instead, this failed rally sent the message that Jewish votes and voices don’t matter. They don’t even come out to a rally to fight antisemitism so why would a politician stand with Israel and Jews if Jews don’t stand with Israel and Jews.  This is why I and many people I know would never proceed to organize a rally if we are not sure it will be a success by working with others. The organizers might be patting themselves on the back for getting several hundred bodies to DC to stand in front of the Capitol while never mentioning Schumer’s name and his failure to defend the Jewish people but they did our people a great disservice on Sunday. For those of us who have been in this fight a lot longer and whose voices were cancelled by our own people, watching the train wreck was very discouraging and distressing.


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