Anti-semitism alive and well at Occupy protests — or is it?

BP Photo by Leila Miller

Kalil Eden, Staff Writer

“You got the money! That’s why you’re fighting, Jewish man!” yelled Danny “Lotion Man” Cline, at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York.

Danny went on to say,  “Go back to Israel!” and “You’re a bum, Jew!”

A video of these remarks circulated around social networking sites and prompted controversy about the nature of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In another videotaped incident, this one in Los Angeles, a woman identifying herself as an employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District said, “The Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve – which is not run by the federal government – they need to be run out of this country.”

Reports like these led many to consider a possible connection between Occupy Wall Street and anti-semitism. The Emergency Committee for Israel, a conservative Israel advocacy group formed by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol to counter the liberal “J Street” organization, aired a commercial editing these clips together, and calling on viewers to demand that President Obama and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi renounce their support for the movement.

But Occupy protestors – some of them Jewish – interviewed at the Los Angeles encampment last month thought that the media had painted an unjust picture. Brian Glovetzky, who lived in the tent city in front of City Hall for a month, explained.

“Anti-semites –  individual anti-semites – are everywhere, but I don’t think antisemitism is a part of occupy LA.,” Mr. Glovetsky said.  “O.L.A. is a movement for social justice. We embrace nonviolence, which means we have to reject all forms of violence, and every form of bigotry is a form of violence, maybe not manifest violence… Bigotry is not part of our agenda.”

Many have made the argument that the actions of these individuals do not represent the movement. In fact, other videos posted showed Mr. Cline harrassing other Occupy Wall Street protesters, many reacting negatively while others left him alone.

When another protester held a sign urging viewers to Google “zionists control wall street [sic],” other Occupiers took their pictures holding contradictory signs next to him, in order to negate the message.

Officially, Occupy LA’s  “Declaration of Occupation” does not make any mention of Israel or Jews. It opens with a statement mentioning corporations, followed by a long list of their purported transgressions.

“They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media,” reads the declaration. “…They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce. They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.”

Some of these charges seem similar to the anti-semitic slogans chanted by those in the commercial circulated by the Emergency Committee for Israel.  But the Israel issue did come up at least once, unofficially, during an Occupy L.A. General Assembly meeting. One or two giggling and red-eyed protesters interjected anti-Israel comments twice, adding the words “and Israel” after the speaker condemned corporations for government corruption.

Shalhevet students said they were aware of the Occupy LA protests from hallway talk and a prompt given at recent Debate tryouts, but most were unaware of any anti-Jewish or Israel content.

Michael Lenett, a junior, thought such individuals reflected poorly on the movement as a whole.

“There is no excuse for racism,” Michael said, “and there is no reason for it in a protest that targets the government. This is one of the violent things they have done to deserve the police shutting down their camp.”

Senior Adam Kellner said that certain Jews are reinforcing negative stereotypes, which he declined to specify.

“In our Western society, I don’t think people are naive enough to just blame the Jews because they can – they aren’t that stupid,” Adam said. “It needs some base. [But] it’s a shame that the more iconic Jews of the world have screwed up so badly.”

Meanwhile, the Occupy movement has seen Jewish participation and even a Jewish contingent – “Occupy Judaism.” They’ve written instructions for “Occupying Rosh Chodesh,” among other holidays, aiming to increase the Jewish presence at Occupy events.

In Washington, D.C., Jewish protesters erected a sukkah, and in videos, it was received positively by the crowd. In New York, Amichai Lau-Lavie, founder of the “Storah Telling” Jewish storytelling organization, used an informal Occupy “microphone check” custom to give a brief overview of the Torah to a crowd of protesters, some of whom held an unraveled Torah scroll in their hands.