Politics

Women’s March Partners Explain Why They’re Ignoring Anti-Semitism

Amidst the controversy over alleged anti-Semitism within the Women’s March leadership, the organization has seen numerous progressive allies — including Emily’s List, the Human Rights Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) — quietly uncouple. However, many partners remain and groups like Psychologists for Social Responsibility have added their names to the list just this week.

Curious what’s inspiring these groups to hitch their wagons to the Women’s March, even after repeated allegations of anti-Semitism, fellow Federalist senior contributor Ellie Bufkin and I decided to inquire. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we contacted 56 of the listed partners. In light of recent events, we asked organizations to confirm that they are still partnering, why they support the Women’s March, and what it means to their organization to be a partner in 2019. Five non-profits and two corporate sponsors replied before press time, and here is what we learned.

While the DNC has withdrawn, the Woman’s National Democratic Club in the nation’s capital has not. Director of Strategic Communications Marisha Kirtane explained, “The WNDC supports the movement that gave birth to the Women’s March, and we continue to advocate for having women’s voices heard on those issues so critical to all of us.”

Vision Quilt, an Oregon-based organization that works to prevent gun violence, plans to march in San Francisco and Oakland. Executive Director Cathy DeForest emailed, “We have been networking with the Women’s March because of their values, empowerment of women and youth and their ability to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people. We form coalitions with organizations that fit our mission and values.”

Shannon Welch, a communications consultant for Fashion Revolution USA, part of the UK-based Fashion Revolution, emailed that her group is “thrilled to be an official partner of the Women’s March this year.” They are partnering because “be[ing] a part of a larger movement that brings together so many diverse women for a common objective is empowering and encouraging.”

Greg Williams, executive director of New York’s Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. pointed me to an online statement that explains their partnership as an “opportunity to participate in the formation and advocacy of national legislation in support of environmental justice.”

As for criticism of the march and its leadership, the Hudson River group states: “We are aware that recently some chose to change, reduce, or cease participation with the Women’s March, Inc., due to claims of prejudice. . . . We seek to contribute to the conversation that explores and resolves differences.”

There are also four corporate partners: Jane Walker, Diageo’s female-branded variation on Johnnie Walker, Ben and Jerry’s, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, and German programmatic marketing firm Echte Liebe. Interestingly, those last two were not on the website Tuesday but appeared on Wednesday. Diageo chose not to issue a statement after learning this article would appear in The Federalist, and Echte Liebe never responded to my query, but Ben and Jerry’s and Lush did.

Asked if they wanted to add anything to their statements about the Women’s March from last fall, Laura Peterson, the public relations manager for North America at the socially conscious ice cream maker, emailed: “We believe that women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights. This is the first unity principle behind the Women’s March, and it aligns with the progressive values that our company has held for 40 years. It is particularly important at this moment in our political history that we stand up to those who seek to divide us and roll back decades of progress.”

Eva Cook, a spokeswoman for Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, emailed, “We will be participating in the marches across seven cities – Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York and Toronto.” Lush is partnering because “we believe that it’s important to make sure diverse voices are heard and amplified as we work to build structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.”

So there you have it, the partners in their own words. They’re partnering to support women’s empowerment (unobjectionable), the notion that women’s rights are human rights (who can disagree?), and to prevent the rollback of women’s rights (that one gets partisan). In the case of the environmental group, they’re also seizing an opportunity to influence policy discussions.

I appreciate these groups responding, so that all Americans, but perhaps especially conservatives, understand what motivates them. As someone who’s worked in communications, I admire these organizations staying so focused on their core missions. As an American and a Jew, though, I find these statements concerning — especially from the larger, well-known corporate partners. For example, while I appreciate Ben and Jerry’s respecting my rights as a woman, I have more concerns as a Jew right now.

What’s striking about these six statements is that none mentions the words anti-Semitism, bigotry, racism, or hate — let alone Jew or Jewish. The closest anyone tiptoes in that direction is the environmental group’s mention of “claims of prejudice” and their wanting to help “resolve differences.” It could be that these organizations are taking their cue from partners like Jewish Voice for Peace, which remains more concerned about anti-Semitism on the right, or Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, whose Chief Strategy Officer Ginna Green told us through her organization’s PR firm:

By remaining part of the Women’s March movement, Bend the Arc ensures we remain part of the conversation—and we are buoyed by the many public commitments to fight antisemitism made by the Women’s March leadership.

We affirm our participation, and remain focused on the threat that unites us all: a growing white nationalist movement, emboldened and embodied by this President and his enablers in Congress.

The thing is, though, anti-Semitism festers at both ends of the political spectrum, and it’s always vile. As American Jews experience an uptick of it, I’m reminded of the old saying that, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”

It’s important for people of good will to call out, rather than ignore, tolerate, or accommodate, the world’s oldest hatred wherever we see it. That means even, and perhaps especially, when such hatred is expressed by our own friends or political allies.

It just shouldn’t be this hard for the leadership of the Women’s March to distance themselves from someone who calls Jews termites and heads a group that even the Southern Poverty Law Center — no right-wing outfit — classifies as a hate group. And while Ben and Jerry’s may still believe that the “leaders of the Women’s March have been unequivocal in denouncing religious discrimination, and anti-Semitism specifically,” clearly not everyone agrees. That’s why New York City will have two separate marches this weekend, and why it’s important to some local march organizers to broadcast their independence from the national organization.

In the midst of this mess, I applaud actresses Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing for refusing to speak at another Women’s March until its leadership condemns “the vitriolic anti-Semitic, homophobic, and transphobic Louis Farrakhan.” Special mention also goes to previously enthusiastic participant New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who is skipping this year’s March because “you can’t fight against inequality and discrimination for women but support it for Jews.”

That takes some courage, and we need more of it, because anti-Semitism isn’t disappearing on its own. The question is whether enough Americans care to shove it back toward the fringes of society, where it belongs.




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