Anti-Zionist blogger calls black Israel supporter an ‘Uncle Tom’

Dumisani Washington Diversity Outreach Coordinator, Christians United for Israel.
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My parents were born and raised in the segregated South. Not only did they experience some of the ugliest race hatred and bigotry in America, they were at the epicenter of some of the most important moments in the black struggle for justice, including the Little Rock Nine.

By the time I was in the third grade, my parents had taught me a great deal about the civil rights movement. And one lesson permeated every element of my education: never hate any people – white or otherwise. Contempt for people simply because of their skin color was not allowed in my house. People were people – good or bad. However, if the bad person was white, extra precautions were to be taken in dealing with him or her, because my parents knew firsthand the privileges afforded to white people. Thus I learned the meaning of dominant society, before I ever knew the term.

Recently, Richard Silverstein, an anti-Zionist who writes the blog Tikun olam (a Hebrew term which roughly, ironically, means “fixing the world”) attacked a colleague of mine, Chloé Valdary for her support of Israel.

Silverstein took issue with an article Valdary wrote in which she protested the choice of an anti-Zionist guest speaker at the Jewish Museum of New York. Whether one agreed with Valdary’s argument or not (I do) she offered a thoughtful articulate presentation of her position.

That didn’t really matter to Silverstein, who didn’t like what Valdary had to say so he responded on Twitter declaring: “They finally did it: found a Negro Zionist: Uncle Tom is dancing’ for joy!”

When several other writers called Silverstein out on his obviously racist comments, he tried to explain that “‘Uncle Tom’ was not a personal attack.”  In a related blog post, Silverstein completely mischaracterized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s support for Israel and explained:

…in a tweet last night I wrote that Valdary was a “Negro” who was acting like an “Uncle Tom” in betraying progressive values regarding Israel.  …there’s nothing racist about those two terms.  On the contrary, Uncle Tom was a literary character created by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to represent African-Americans who betrayed their own through collaboration with the white master. Similarly, “Negro” was meant to convey how much of a betrayal Valdary’s views are towards a real civil right and social justice agenda.

The only thing more racist and absurd than Silverstein’s initial statement is his dogged persistence in explaining why what he said wasn’t racist. Reading his justification for calling a Black woman an “Uncle Tom” without ever addressing the substance of her position is the epitome of racial prejudice. Yet, Silverstein doesn’t seem to see it that way, and (like a benevolent instructor) walks us all through Black history to show us our folly.

Silverstein’s racism and arrogance is apparent to everyone but him. And his actions raise the question: Why do Silverstein and his ilk feel so comfortable hurling racial slurs at Black people?

In recent weeks, I spent time on several Northern California college campuses, leading discussions about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Our first visits were fascinating but not newsworthy, as opposing viewpoints were discussed in an appropriate and respectful manner.

Unfortunately, our last stop couldn’t be characterized that way. After I gave a presentation discussing Dr. King’s staunch support for Israel, several participants were outraged:

“Dr. King would be ashamed of what you’ve just done here. How can you as a black man defend Israel?”

“Israel is racist. They treat Africans horribly! How can you defend it!?”

And, my personal favorite: “Are you being paid by Zionist organizations?!”

The questions I was asked, and my inquisitors’ demeaning tone, was intended not to spark discussion but to criticize me for being an independent-thinking black man.

Increasingly, the attitude within the far-left, anti-Zionist camp is rife with arrogance and presumptuousness. And these traits are of course key ingredients in race bias and bigotry – few things are of greater offense to the racist than a person of color not knowing his or her place. The moment an African-American articulates an argument that does not reflect the accepted (read: white-approved) position, racist attacks and demonization ensue.

Never mind that I had substantive, well-researched answers to each of their queries, including detailed knowledge of Israel’s difficult African refugee crisis. Because I am Black, my support for Israel was simply seen as unacceptable — and my disinterest in their delineation of what political positions Black people are allowed to hold sparked fury.

Like Silverstein, my non-black detractors were incensed at my independence. Even their physical stance, five of them surrounding and hovering over me as I sat calmly in my chair, spoke to their perhaps unconscious yet pervasive belief that they ruled over me. These were the enlightened people who protested the State of Israel because of its so-called “imperialism,” “apartheid policies,” and “hatred for Black Africans,” and it was their duty to talk some sense into my ignorant black head. Basically, massa’ was not pleased.

These are the people my parents warned me about: Those who attack people of color (like Valdary) because of our audacity to learn about complex issues and form our own opinions – rather than simply reading from the approved script.

Silverstein and my inquisitors are a reminder that, for some people, blacks and whites can get along just fine — as long as blacks act, think, and speak in accordance with the relevant stereotypes.

My life experiences have drawn me to standing in solidarity with the Jewish state of Israel. There are many in the black community and throughout this country that agree with that stance and there are others who do not. Of course I welcome the debate. But I will not be told that I can’t think for myself because I am black. Israel’s supporters – including those in the black community — came to our conclusions using our own personal values and judgments. And we don’t really care if Master Silverstein doesn’t approve.

Editor’s note: Daily Caller opinion pieces reflect the opinions of their authors. Richard Silverstein contacted the Daily Caller privately to dispute Washington’s charge that he is an anti-Zionist, pointing to his blog’s biography, which describes him as a “progressive (critical) Zionist.” We reached out to Washington, who stands by the characterization and provided the following statement:

“Silverstein may take issue with being referred to as an anti-Zionist, but I believe there is overwhelming evidence to support this opinion. First, a quick Google search reveals that the following outlets have referred to Silverstein – some in their headlines – as an anti-Zionist: The AlgemeinerBBC WatchThe Commentator, and CiF Watch. He has also been referred to as an “Israel hater,” and has been characterized as “anti-Israel” on numerous occasions.

I personally concluded that Silverstein was an anti-Zionist based on his actions. First and foremost, the tweet that started all of this was Silverstein’s derisive use of the term “Negro Zionist.” Why use the term Zionist in such a manner if he himself claims to be one? This is of course not the only time he uses the term Zionist in a disdainful way. According to one site that follows Silverstein’s writings, he characterized “the Jewish exile after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE as a ‘Zionist myth.’”

In addition, Silverstein has defended the terrorist organization Hamas, whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. He has also compared Israel to the Nazis. And he has defended the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divest and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, whose leaders oppose the existence of the state of Israel. These are the actions of an anti-Zionist. I could go on for pages, but even just this highly abridged list of Silverstein’s relevant comments justifies my view that he is an anti-Zionist – regardless of his protestation. I stand by my column and the headline.”

Dumisani Washington