The Women's March is embroiled in controversy regarding claims of anti-semitism
The first Women’s March, held the day after President Trump’s inauguration in 2017, is known for its success as the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. Now, just weeks before the third annual march, the organization is embroiled in controversy regarding claims of anti-Semitism among the March’s leadership. At least one local march has been canceled in response to these allegations, while others struggle to determine how to move forward.
Some leaders of the Women’s March have been accused of supporting anti-Semitic beliefs multiple times since the 2017 march. In late February 2018, Women’s March co-President Tamika Mallory defended her relationship with the leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, after he made openly anti-Semitic and transphobic remarks. Although the Women’s March did eventually release a statement condemning anti-Semitism, their decision to do so was seen by some past supporters as too little too late.
In December, the online Jewish outlet Tablet Magazine published a piece that alleged that Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez, another national leader of the March, made anti-Semitic remarks to a third organizer, Vanessa Wruble. The New York Times printed its own story regarding these claims on the front page at the end of December. Ms. Wruble told both outlets that Mallory and Perez had previously instructed her to learn more about Jews’ historic complicity in racism, and claimed that Jews played a large role in the slave trade. That claim is, in fact, a myth that was popularized by Louis Farrakhan in his 1991 book “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” a book that Henry Louis Gates Jr. called the “bible of the new anti-Semitism.” Ms. Wruble also claimed that she was ultimately pushed out of the organization because she is Jewish. In interviews with Tablet and the Times, Mallory and Perez denied that they ever made anti-Semitic remarks.
This most recent controversy has caused rifts among Women’s March supporters on both local and national levels, leading to tumult ahead of this year’s upcoming march. On Saturday, the New Orleans branch of the march announced it was canceling its event, in part because of the national leaders’ refusal to resign. Two separate marches will occur in New York on January 18: One that was organized by the Women’s March and another organized by a group that has stressed its opposition to the national organization’s alleged anti-Semitism. The national march in Washington DC is still scheduled to occur, and Planned Parenthood has said it will maintain its partnership with the organization, but the National Organization for Women announced it will withhold additional funding for the event until “the current questions regarding leadership are resolved.” The call for Mallory and other leaders to step down in response to this controversy is not universal, however. Some Jewish organizations have even defended these leaders. Most notably, in December, the Jewish Daily Forward reported that three prominent, progressive Jewish organizations are advising the Women’s March about how to address claims of anti-Semitism. According to these groups, the Forward reported, the March’s leadership has been receptive to these concerns and suggestions. The Executive Director of the group Jewish Voice for Peace, which works to end the occupation of Palestine, also publicly stated that the rush to condemn the Women’s March is dangerous and illustrates white people’s eagerness to malign and neutralize the leadership of women of color.
“To demand that the leaders of the Women's March continuously prove themselves on antisemitism is inflicting harm--to them personally, the movements they are leading, and to the possibility of truly intersectional organizing,” said JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson on Twitter. “And history has way too many examples of ways brave and outspoken leaders of color that have been torn down and destroyed.”
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