What I remember most clearly the day after 9/11 was the sound of the PASS devices – an endless loop of beeps in any news report from the scene in lower Manhattan. Each one represented a firefighter who was in distress. Even 22 years later, it still makes me tear up and feel an unbelievable sadness.
What I will be forced to remember about Oct. 8, the day after the most significant loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust are the jeers of the people who reveled in it. In Times Square, at a rally the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) endorsed and promoted on social media, hundreds celebrated the massacres of unarmed children, seniors, and civilians as “decolonization” and shouted loud enough for the world to hear how “resistance is justified.” It was not lost on me that we hadn’t even begun to fathom the sheer magnitude of what had happened, as this rally caroused through midtown while Hamas terrorists were releasing livestreamed video of themselves taking people hostage, with several even uploading videos of murdering people onto their own Facebook accounts.
The DSA has prided itself on being “anti-oppression,” yet could not bring itself to loudly condemn Hamas’ terrorist violence against civilians because, of course, there must be historical and political context to explain the reasoning behind setting a baby on fire.
To be clear, this rally was called before the Israeli military began retaliatory airstrikes in the Gaza strip. They cannot claim they were calling for a ceasefire, or their concern for Palestinian children in Gaza. No, they were celebrating “decolonization.”
Now, after much consternation, the DSA has pivoted to calling for a ceasefire to protect the 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza, warning those who do not “can cheerlead a massacre.” But the organization that stands so vociferously against collective punishment of Palestinians has already shown its true colors when it was quick to condone the collective punishment of Israelis.
The DSA, thankfully, is a minority within New York’s dominant Democratic politics that has just made itself smaller through its hateful stance. Governor Kathy Hochul decried the rally as “abhorrent and morally repugnant,” New York Democratic Committee Chair Jay Jacobs warned there would be consequences, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams called those who attended the rallies “extremists.” A Fox News poll days after the massacre showed a 17-point increase in support for Israel among Democrats, and a New QUINNIPIAC poll released a week later revealed that Democrats, by a 76%-17% margin, think supporting Israel is in the national interest of the United States.
The New York Solidarity Network’s own polling earlier this year revealed that 70% of those who self-identified as Democratic Socialist supporters in New York saw Israel as an ally to the United States, and 63% would vote for pro-Israel candidates. This was before the horrors of Oct. 7, and we have little doubt that if their viewpoints are to have subsequently shifted, it would be against the minority of DSA supporters who have chosen to glorify in the bloodshed from the comfort of their safe American city.
Now is the time for parties and progressives to push back against these toxic ideas that have taken root in their far-left flanks. The more New York’s elected officials talk to their constituents– and especially their Jewish constituents who likely have family or friends in Israel – the more they will find the far-left’s views are completely out of touch with the mainstream and reflect a small handful of people whose antics have drawn outsized attention.
When the DSA threatened to withhold its support for any candidate that supported Israel in 2020, there was some pushback, but it was muted and there were no consequences. DSA members remain a part of the Democratic caucus in the Congress, the state legislature, and the city council. It has since become clear that the hospitality toward accepting a trip to Israel only scratched the surface of the DSA’s hatred. Many are now discovering the left has crossed a red line this October, and that those who are unrepentantly antisemitic are not only morally and intellectually bankrupt, but there is no reason to believe they are capable of being level-headed and even-handed in times of crisis. Saying a so-called oppressed group has no limits on resistance, up to and including the mass murder of children in their beds, is antisemitic. It reflects a worldview that does not consider the rule of law or the possibility of people belonging to a particular group being deserving of equal rights. It is anti-human.
Progressive activists and Democrats would do well to distance a small group that, through its own hateful actions, has made its circle and supporters smaller. Instead of making room in the tent, Democrats should close the flap to the far left.
Sara Forman is the Executive Director of the New York Solidarity Network