Occupy protests have Jewish leaders concerned

October 26, 2011 (CHICAGO)

This is the ugly underbelly of Occupy Wall Street: Recycled anti-Jewish prejudices from small but vocal segments of the movement whose hatred on the picket lines is being magnified on the Internet.

Now, anti-Semitic sign bearers and speakers who have latched onto the Occupy demonstrations have Jewish leaders in Chicago concerned.

As hostilities increase from coast to coast -- with tear gas and flash bombs in Oakland, overnight arrests in Atlanta and a battle of wits under way in Chicago -- a strain of nasty anti-Semitism grows in the Occupy Wall Street ranks.

"I think the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, that is not run by the federal government, they need to be run out of this country," said one protester.

There have been divisive statements from a few protesters, some who carry signs that touch nerves in the Jewish community.

"There have been some isolated incidents throughout the country that have clearly alarmed us," said the Anti-Defamation League's Lonnie Nasatir.

Nasatir is director of the Anti-Defamation League in Chicago. Nasatir says ADL officials across the country are monitoring the protests.

"It was appalling to see this stuff in the public marketplace of ideas...It's the age old stereotype of Jews and money," said Nasatir. "In this situation, what we're seeing is...our country is in significant economic straits, and unfortunately are looking for who they can blame. And it's sometimes easy to blame Jews because there's this misconception that Jews control banks and Jews control Wall Street and Jews control the media and all the rest."

Wednesday, as protesters began to line up outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office, a large Palestinian flag led the way. Emanuel, the city's first Jewish mayor, did not respond to the I-Team's request concerning anti-Semitism within the Occupy movement.

"It's an age old canard that really has damaging effects, not only the Jewish community but the community at large," said Nasatir. "And we believe those types of nefarious stereotypes can only lead to bad things."


The I-Team asked a spokesperson for the Occupy Chicago group about the small number of anti-Semitic demonstrators, why a Palestinian flag was displayed outside Mayor Emanuel's office and why a Palestinian activist would speak about Israel at one of their recent events. This response was provided:

"One of the things the Occupy movement is deeply concerned with is the condition of free speech and first amendment rights in this country. Everyone has the right to express their views. Occupy Chicago does not endorse one political, philosophical, or spiritual view over another. We all have the right to speak our minds. Free speech is a necessity of true democracy.

This movement has not spread across the globe because of an Israel-versus-Palestine debate. We are here to protest the influence money has on politics, how our democracy is being swung by private interests and big corporations."

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