Jewish liberals defend Occupy Wall Street from anti-Semitism claims

NEW YORK (JTA) — A group of liberal Jewish activists, former politicians and union leaders released a statement denouncing opponents of Occupy Wall Street for accusing the movement of anti-Semitism.

“We are publicly engaged American Jews who support both Israel and the ideas behind Occupy Wall Street, and who also strongly oppose right-wing attempts to smear that movement with false charges of anti-Semitism,” the statement said.

The 15 signatories to the statement  include prominent Jewish liberals such as former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer; former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin; former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, a New York Democrat; J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami; and union leaders such as Stuart Appelbaum, president of both the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the Jewish Labor Committee; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union.

While many Jews have expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street movement — with some activists organizing Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah observances at protest sites across the country — some conservatives have pointed to a few highly publicized instances of openly anti-Semitic rhetoric by some protesters as discrediting the movement.

The statement singled out for criticism the Emergency Committee for Israel, which produced a video highlighting several instances of anti-Semitism, and criticizing President Obama and leading Democrats for expressing sympathy for Occupy Wall Street. It also praised the Anti-Defamation League for saying that it did not believe that the instances of anti-Semitism were “representative of the larger views of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” The ADL had called on Occupy Wall Street participants and supporters to condemn expressions of anti-Semitism from within their ranks.

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