Too little too late? Stung by criticism, national Sunrise movement distances itself from DC chapter’s boycott of U.S. Jewish groups.
The national office of progressive environmentalist advocacy group The Sunrise Movement hastily moved to distance itself from its Washington, DC chapter on Friday following an outcry over its withdrawal from a rally featuring Jewish groups.
“To be clear, Sunrise DC’s statement and actions are not in line with our values,” the national Sunrise Movement declared on its Twitter feed, after attracting heavy criticism for an earlier statement that refrained from any condemnation of its DC chapter. “Singling out Jewish organizations for removal from a coalition, despite others holding similar views, is antisemitic and unacceptable.”
On Thursday, Sunrise Movement DC said it pulled out of the upcoming Freedom to Vote Relay-Rally at the Finish Line, which advocates for the protection of voting rights, “due to the participation of a number of Zionist organizations.”
The groups in question are the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Sunrise DC said they “oppose Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology,” and that Israel is a “colonial project” that “routinely displaces Palestinians.”
Following a storm of criticism from Jewish organizations who charged that Sunrise DC’s stance was antisemitic, the national organization issued a statement explaining that it was a “decentralized, grassroots movement.”
“Sunrise DC made a decision to issue this statement, and we weren’t given the chance to look at it before it became public,” the national office claimed.
The statement went on to confirm that “we reject all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism and anti-Palestinian racism.”
It ended by asserting, “As a national movement that supports freedom and dignity for all people, we will always welcome anyone who acts on our principles and chooses to join the fight for collective liberation. We believe that the rights of Palestinians are a part of that struggle and are committed to embracing that struggle together.”
The national movement’s statement was condemned for its “tepid” character by one of the Jewish groups named in the DC’s chapter announcement that it was withdrawing from the rally.
“The failure of the Sunrise movement to speak clearly in condemnation of the offensive statement this week from their Sunrise DC hub that sought to erase the presence of the RAC, NCJW, and JCPA from the fight for voting rights, is shameful,” the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism tweeted.
The national movement’s “tepid response seems to be an indication that they consider the Jewish community expendable in the fight for social justice and comes perilously close to fomenting antisemitism,” the RAC continued.
“Let’s be clear,” it added. “We do not consider our work on voting rights to be in conflict with our progressive Zionist principles.”
The national movement’s statement was also slammed by the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.
“Hey Sunrise Movement — your statement doesn’t do it,” ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt said on Twitter. “Saying you reject antisemitism is not the same thing as rejecting anti-Jewish hatred as it happens in real life. Not to mention you failed to clearly and unequivocally condemn the antisemitic call to exclude Jewish groups.”
Responding to these and similar criticism, Sunrise’s national office then issued a further statement early on Friday afternoon distancing itself from the DC chapter. Singling out the participation of Jewish organizations as a reason to boycott a rally “is antisemitic and unacceptable,” it said on Twitter.