Don’t be fooled: failed politicians and Proud Boys tried to spread antisemitic bile at Harvard. DSA anti-fascists won’t let them
On November 11, 2023, several members of Boston DSA, a mix of non-Jews and Jews, disrupted Shiva Ayyadurai’s antisemitic, “anti-Zionist” rally in Harvard Square. As the flier advertising it made clear, this was no rally in support of Palestinians or anti-Zionism, but a rally to support Shiva’s particular brand of conspiracy theory and the idea of Jews as all-controlling oppressors of working people.
We carried signs reading “Antisemitism is the Anti-Zionism of Fools” (a play on the old quote “Antisemitism is the socialism of fools”), “Pro-Palestine, Pro-Jewish, Antifascist” and others. We did this because we find antisemitism repellent, and we find it repellent that Shiva would co-opt the suffering and death of Palestinians for his own ends in this manner. And, we did this to send a message, in deed and not just word, that principled anti-Zionists oppose antisemitism. Jewish, Palestinian, Muslim members of the Harvard and Cambridge communities—indeed, all members—did not deserve Shiva’s spectacle, or the stress and fear that they may have felt as a result of the rally fliers. Indeed, some passers-by thanked us for helping them understand what was happening. Several people who had simply heard about a Palestine rally in Harvard Square spoke to us and were upset and disappointed about the true nature of Shiva’s rally.
We are all experienced antifascists, and we understand the difference between principled anti-Zionism and antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism. John Medlar, a well-known Proud Boy who tried to crash a Drag Queen Story Hour in Fall River last year, was Shiva’s livestreamer. Another rallygoer told us that he too was a Proud Boy and a friend of Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, and called a member of our group a “homo.” One of us, a Jewish survivor of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, was wearing Palestine colors with a Star of David necklace, and was asked multiple times by Shiva’s rallygoer fans what was around their neck. Another of us was told by a rallygoer that 60% of Congress has dual citizenship with Israel, a variant on a longstanding antisemitic myth. Several told us that vaccines are a “globalist” (a dogwhistle for Jewish) population control plot. In no way is any of this Palestine solidarity or helpful to the people being murdered in Gaza.
We encourage readers to attend rallies for Palestine and a ceasefire that are sponsored by legitimate coalitions and organizations such as the Boston Coalition for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, and to contact their representatives in support of the Ceasefire Now resolution. Unfortunately, right now, with the increased attention to Palestinians’ oppression and many new people in the movement, the antisemitic far right will do what it often does, and try to inject its ideas into the movement through spreading them to well-meaning people (some of them new activists, English language learners, and/or people new to North American cultural contexts) who don’t realize the full implications of certain framings, terms, or images. If you see a friend repeating things that seem off (like suggesting that Americans need to be freed from Israeli dominance, or that Israelis or Jews are “unbelievers” in some way, or using Jewish symbols like the menorah to signify something bad, or using the neo-Nazi phrase “Zionist Occupied Government”), talk to them about it! That’s how we build healthy movements.
No to antisemitism, no to anti-Palestinian hatred, no to Islamophobia, no to fascism!
We repeat here the points from the educational fliers that we distributed on site:
We are supporters of a ceasefire in Israel/Palestine. Many of us are longtime Palestine solidarity activists. We oppose antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian hatred, and fascism.
The rally we are here to oppose claims to be an anti-Zionism, pro-worker rally. However fliers advertising it intertwined the Star of David with a dollar sign as the chain in a pair of handcuffs, accusing “Zionists” of enslaving workers throughout the world. The use of a plain Star of David in this way is unambiguously antisemitic.
While Zionism is an ideology and there is nothing intrinsically antisemitic in anti-Zionism, there is a long and unfortunate history of antisemites using “Zionist” and “Zionism” as antisemitic dog whistles, dating back to Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby in the 1950s.
Shiva Ayyadurai, who called the rally that we are here to oppose, has spoken at several far-right rallies in the Boston area since 2017, speaking alongside notorious figures such as the violent neo-Nazi/former Proud Boy Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, Proud Boy and convicted 1/6/21 Capitol attack leader Joe Biggs and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson. For more on this era of fascist activity in Boston, see this 2019 piece.
One of the local rallies he spoke at was the 2018 Proud Boys rally in Concord, MA. The Proud Boys have become well-known as one of the groups that led the attack on the Capitol on 1/6/21. Massachusetts Proud Boy John Medlar is a long-time collaborator of Shiva’s.
We find it grotesque that Shiva is co-opting Palestinian suffering and death in this opportunistic, antisemitic way. As principled anti-Zionists, ceasefire supporters, antifascists, we say no.