Op-Ed | Reclaiming the real progressive movement

Pro-Israeli demonstrators gather in Midtwon for dueling rallies with pro-Palestinian advocates.
Pro-Israel demonstrators gather in Midtwon for dueling rallies with pro-Palestinian advocates.
Photo by Dean Moses

I watch in shock at the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli women, men and children ––Jews, Arabs, and citizens of 42 countries. Rape. Torture. Murder. Dismemberment. The crime: being Jewish. Or living in, or visiting, the Jewish state.

I’m traumatized knowing what my Israeli loved ones are experiencing. Grieving the loss of 1400 Israeli lives, crying for the 200+ Jews held hostage, and devastated for the loss of Palestinian civilians Hamas has used as pawns and human shields. And somehow, even beyond my incomparable anguish over the events in Israel, what pains me most is what is happening here in the United States. 

Swastikas in Times Square. Pro-Hamas signs in Boston. Glorification of the paragliding murderers at a music festival. A young American holding a sign: the Nazis should have finished the job. Chants across elite academia calling for the annihilation of the world’s only Jewish state. 

For the last 5 years, Zioness has hosted events for our multiracial coalition of activists and allies across the country that fight for the advancement of social, racial, economic, gender and environmental justice in America––and for the inclusion of Zionists in social justice spaces.  

Since October 7, our organizing events have turned into vigils. I hear words like: Desolate. Enraged. Terrified. Shattered.

Jewish Americans, who identify overwhelmingly with the political left, have been at the forefront of every social justice movement in this country’s history. But as we process this outright normalization of anti-Jewish hate, people who claim the mantle of progressive values are the most unapologetic in their indifference––or sometimes, malevolence.

The Democratic Socialists of America – self-proclaimed social justice warriors –– are doing everything in their power to institutionalize antisemitism, making it a litmus test issue for progressive activism. 

Despite the dehumanization of Jews and the calls for genocide that have become a hallmark of DSA-sponsored and promoted events, their fifteen endorsed officeholders in city, state and federal politics in New York continue to welcome their support.

As Jews, as Americans, as people of conscience, we cannot allow these hateful, dangerous bigots to claim the progressive movement. Nothing about them is progressive. Real progressives are being shouted down. Real progressives believe in and work to advance human rights. Real progressives have been silenced and misrepresented by organizations like the DSA.

The DSA presents itself as the only pure progressives, while simultaneously championing the actions of merciless terrorists. As lifetime DSA member, comedian Sarah Silverman declared last week, “[DSA] are not real democratic socialists and [they] sure as F*** aren’t liberal.”

New York leaders like AOC, Jamaal Bowman, Julia Salazaar and Alexa Avilés continue to have endorsements, financial backing, or close ties with DSA. There are many others across the country. Enough is enough.

We must bolster the voices of the true progressives who make up the majority. We must learn from the past and denounce violent hatred even if it is cynically advertised as “resistance” or “justice”. We must be unapologetic in walking away from anyone who will twist the facts to justify their celebration of abject terror. We must protect the integrity of the progressive movement by reclaiming it from those making it vulnerable to destructive, malignant, metastatic antisemitism. 

The events of October 7 were so unprecedented, so barbarous, that even those who are extremely critical of Israel’s current government have offered full-throated condemnation of Hamas’s depravity. The overwhelming majority of progressive political leadership has expressed solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. 

Yet grassroots and activist spaces are divided, with some defending and even celebrating the grotesque acts of inhumanity perpetrated against the citizens of Israel. We can’t cede the progressive movement to bigotry.

I believe the splintering between those with a conscience and humanity, and those glorifying and celebrating evil, will have long-lasting positive consequences.  We must work toward a true political left that fights for human rights while knowing the difference between freedom and terror. 

Amanda Berman is the Founder and Executive Director of Zioness and is a civil rights attorney in New York. The Zioness Movement works to empower and activate Zionists on the progressive left to fight for social justice.