The dark shadow of Sunrise DC

Protesters with the Sunrise Movement demonstrate in front of the White House, June 4, 2021.

Progressives were already struggling to get out from under the cloud of high-profile extremists within their ranks who rail against the Jewish state. We thought we saw the low point of anti-Zionist hypocrisy a few weeks ago when nine members of the House of Representatives opposed funding for Israel’s defensive Iron Dome program against 460 members who supported it — followed by the tearful apology of one member who voted “present” when she really wanted to support the hate agenda.

But the competition to reach bottom continues.

Last week, the Washington, D.C., branch of a national climate advocacy group withdrew support for a national voting rights rally because “a number of Zionist organizations” were part of the effort. Nothing in the shocking pronouncement by Sunrise DC raised issue with the bona fides of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center (RAC) or the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) as they relate to voting rights or climate control. They were not welcome because the three organizations support Israel — which Sunrise DC called “a colonial project.”

Reactions to the disturbing pronouncement were quick and pointed, calling out the antisemitic and antidemocratic overtones of Sunrise DC’s screed. But that criticism came largely from individuals and groups outside the progressive orbit. Within the Sunrise organization itself, however, there was initial silence. And even the three targeted Jewish organizations were remarkably reserved in their reactions — mirroring a near-universal reluctance to criticize a progressive icon. It wasn’t until several days later that Sunrise Movement issued a milquetoast statement, which did not criticize the D.C. branch decision, and RAC and NCJW issued more pointed statements.

The initial silence and muted responses worry us. Silence in the face of clear, public wrongdoing implies acceptance or support of the wrongdoing. More importantly, the silence betrays a fear of taking on the progressive left and the predictable demonization for doing so.

It is outrageous to assert that Jewish groups who support Israel have no right to participate in social justice activity. And it was incumbent on the organizations that were targeted to challenge the action, condemn the offender and lead the response. RAC and NCJW are well-known for hair-trigger speed in issuing challenges and condemnations for offensive activity. Their slow roll and cautious responses here are troubling. But none of that excuses the offensiveness of Sunrise DC’s actions.

Social justice is not limited to those with whom one agrees. And neither Sunrise DC nor any other group has the right to decide who is permitted to advocate on behalf of any issue. Radical progressives do not own the social justice agenda. They are participants in the process just like everyone else. And they need to respect differing opinions.

That doesn’t mean that Sunrise DC must participate in a rally it chooses not to join. But it does mean that Sunrise DC needs to learn to moderate its biases, swallow its bile and move forward in support of its broader agenda without getting distracted by poisonous Jew-hatred.

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