NEW YORK (JTA) — The New School is being criticized for hosting a panel on antisemitism featuring speakers known to be vocal critics of Israel and Zionism, including Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour and the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Critics of the Nov. 28 event, which is titled “Anti-Semitism and the Struggle for Justice,” also say it is meant to justify anti-Zionism on the left, and not address the full range of threats facing Jews from the left and the right.
The panel is being organized by the creative publishing and critical journalism program at the Manhattan-based university and several left-wing groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, Haymarket Books, Jacobin Magazine and Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.
“Anti-Semitism is harmful and real,” according to the event description. “But when anti-Semitism is redefined as criticism of Israel, critics of Israeli policy become accused and targeted more than the growing far-right.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, slammed the inclusion of Sarsour and JVP in the event, saying it was akin to “Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism.”
“These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from the perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it,” Greenblatt wrote last week.
The American Jewish Committee also objected.
“Panels on anti-Semitism should feature those who fight it, not those who perpetuate it,” the group tweeted. “@TheNewSchool’s decision to have JVP and other toxic figures speak on anti-Semitism is outrageous.”
A petition opposing the panel organized by a pro-Israel group called Zioness had amassed over 10,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon. It asserts the panel is an attempt to “whitewash” anti-Zionism and “deny its unequivocally anti-Semitic nature and intent.”
Sarsour, who is active in liberal causes and helped organize the Women’s March on Washington, has been criticized for her vocal criticism of Israel, including calling into question whether feminism and Zionism are compatible. Her activist work, which includes leading a campaign earlier this year that raised $100,000 for the restoration of a vandalized Jewish cemetery, has also been praised by liberal Jews.
Representatives from JFREJ and JVP, including its executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, will join Sarsour on the panel, which is being hosted by journalist Amy Goodman.
The New School defended holding the panel and invited representatives from Tablet “to organize an event to present some of these differing views on this important topic” in response to an article in the Jewish magazine and on its website criticizing the panel. The school also said it had invited Greenblatt to participate in the event.
The anti-Zionist website Mondoweiss welcomed the criticism of the panel, saying “It is a sign of the Palestinian solidarity movement’s strength that it is drawing such attacks.”
CAP: Linda Sarsour speaking at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health’s inaugural commencement ceremony at the Apollo Theatre in New York City, June 1, 2017. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)