As An Arab Jew, I Am Exposed To Anti-Semitism From The Right And The Left


JFREJ member leader and co-founder of JFREJ’s Mizrahi caucus Yasmin Renée Safdié writes in the Forward about her struggle with antisemitism in progressive spaces and the need to integrate Mizrahim, Jews of Color and others into our understanding of the oppression. 

“I was just waiting for her to say she was Jewish.”

This was my colleague’s reaction to the white, female narrator of a very problematic video we were watching together. Despite the fact that we worked at a non-profit that had integrated an anti-oppressive analysis in their values and internal systems, my colleague, who was on the management team, associated all the negativity in the video with Judaism, instead of understanding the white supremacy that was playing out in the narrator’s brand of feminism.

A week later I got the courage to approach my colleague about the comments she had made about the video. I explained that what she said was hurtful. Though my colleague apologized, she continued to tell me that she had based her judgement on personal experiences she’s had. In essence, she was generalizing about all Jews based on the few Jews that she had met. I was speechless and dropped the subject with her. This is just one of many experiences I’ve had with anti-Semitism while doing social justice work in New York City over the past decade, and it’s part of what drove me to contribute to a new guide that I hope will help to address situations exactly like this one.

Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) recently released Understanding Antisemitism, a resource which explains who Jews are, how anti-Semitism works, and how it interacts with other forms of oppression, such as racism and capitalism. It provides a nuanced explanation of why it is important for the left to have a strong analysis of anti-Semitism so we can all get free. While the true locus of anti-Semitism is the political right, especially the Christian, white nationalist right, we need to be able to address the ignorance and confusion of the left as well. Having Understanding Antisemitism out in the world feels like maybe, just maybe, what I have been trying to explain to my non-Jewish colleagues, friends and comrades in left organizations for many years will finally be seen and I will no longer be dismissed, demonized and reprimanded for speaking up.

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