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  • HEFFNER: I'm Alexander Heffner, your host on The Open Mind.

  • A founding organizer for the Women's March,

  • my guest today is Sophie Ellman-Golan.

  • Now she helps lead Never Again Action,

  • a mass mobilization of Jews who are organizing to

  • shut down ICE and hold the political establishment

  • accountable for enabling both the deportation

  • machine that has separated immigrant families across the

  • U.S. for decades and the current crisis at the border.

  • "Conservatives purport to defend Jews even as they

  • embrace policies that most Jews deplore,

  • and infuriating and intolerable," is how

  • Ellman-Golan describes this climate and the

  • resurgence of white nationalism and

  • anti-Semitism, in part fueled by President

  • Trump's own politics.

  • "It's imperative that we loudly speak for

  • ourselves," Ellman-Golan told the New York Times,

  • "because if we don't, the loudest voices that claim

  • to speak on behalf of Jews will be right-wing

  • Evangelical Christians." Welcome,

  • Sophie, a pleasure to have you here.

  • ELLMAN-GOLAN: Thank you so much.

  • HEFFNER: Is it not that false equivalency in the

  • dynamic between how we think of attacks on Jews

  • from the right and left that is really troubling today?

  • ELLMAN-GOLAN: Absolutely.

  • I would say the first troubling thing is this

  • rise of white nationalism and anti-Semitism and the

  • ways that both have been completely embraced by the

  • Republican Party, overall.

  • But I agree that the discourse we see around

  • anti-Semitism is particularly troubling

  • because of a false equivalence between

  • violent acts of anti-Semitism,

  • violence that comes from manifestos that are

  • written about Jews trying to replace a white

  • population versus a, an anti-Semitic cartoon or a

  • comment that has to do with the criticism of the

  • state of Israel or tweeting Tupac lyrics.

  • And we just have to be able to say that these

  • things are not the same.

  • We have to be able to say that inciting murder is

  • not the same as tweeting Tupac lyrics.

  • HEFFNER: How do you differentiate between the

  • comments of someone like Congressman King of Iowa

  • and Congresswoman Omar?

  • ELLMAN-GOLAN: I would say that probably the,

  • the primary difference is that Steve King is pretty

  • adjacent to Nazis and that representative Ilhan Omar is not.

  • I mean, Steve King has gone on trips to meet with

  • people who helped found or are inheritors of

  • publications that were founded by Nazis.

  • He has come pretty close to saying the 14 words,

  • which are of course the 14 words of white

  • supremacists that talk about securing a future

  • for white children, et cetera.

  • I mean this is a man who is not in a state that was

  • ever part of the confederacy,

  • has a confederate flag on his desk.

  • It's pretty clear what he stands for.

  • So I think one of the primary distinction is

  • that for Steve King white nationalism,

  • above all is what he stands for and what he promotes.

  • Anti-Semitism is a facet of that.

  • I think that for representative Omar,

  • who is undeniably a progressive champion

  • right now, she has criticism of Israel.

  • I think that she said things that she probably

  • could have raised differently.

  • I think that we can argue, you know,

  • we can argue until the cows come home about

  • whether something was or was not anti-Semitic.

  • It's important to note that while a large

  • percentage of the Jewish community felt troubled

  • by it, that's worth mentioning,

  • which is why she apologized.

  • Steve King has never ever done that and refuses to

  • take accountability and instead continues to

  • spout off absurd offensive things,

  • even the most recent being that we wouldn't have a

  • population today or Western civilization were

  • it not for rape.

  • So I mean there's no end to,

  • to kind of the limits of his,

  • of his patriarchy and white nationalism and anti-Semitism.

  • I think with representative Omar,

  • we're also witnessing that attacks on her come not

  • just from people who are genuinely concerned about

  • anti-Semitism, but by and large from people who are

  • deeply concerned about the fact that a black Muslim

  • woman who wears a hijab is in Congress and dares to

  • be any of those things at once.

  • HEFFNER: I think qualitatively you answered

  • it in the way that our audience can understand.

  • There has been this disconnect and it's

  • growing between the community that's very

  • small in this country of Jews who put Israel's

  • security first and the larger majority of

  • American Jews who put American Jews security first.

  • And why in the aftermath of Trump's election those

  • Republicans were not outraged about the

  • desecrations, the increase in hate crime against the

  • Jewish community.

  • I don't think Jews, the majority of Jews are

  • responsive to President Trump's attempt in what

  • I thought was his most anti-Semitic day yet,

  • to call Jews who don't support him disloyal.

  • ELLMAN-GOLAN: Yeah.

  • I mean polling shows pretty clearly that Israel

  • is not even close to the top issue that American

  • Jews vote on.

  • J Street did a poll, did some of the great polling

  • about 2018 Jewish voters, and I think it was

  • something like 4 percent said that Israel was a

  • priority for them.

  • Predominantly it's been healthcare and the economy

  • and lately gun violence is up there pretty high too.

  • So these are the issues that Jews,

  • shockingly like Americans because we are, care about

  • and are voting about and are taking action on.

  • And of course also on immigrant justice,

  • which we've been seeing recently with the rise of

  • Jews Against ICE.

  • So I'd say all of that to say just that I think it's

  • a fundamental misunderstanding of the

  • Jewish community to even think that that is a

  • priority that Israel is a priority for us.

  • It's also anti-Semitic to constantly assume that

  • Jews care the most about Israel.

  • That stems from, of course,

  • deep anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish loyalty,

  • about this idea of a global Jewish cabal that

  • cares more about another country than the country

  • they reside in.

  • HEFFNER: You are really drawing the public's

  • attention to a crisis in these detention centers.

  • And because again, we have to be intellectually

  • honest I want to start by asking you about the conditions.

  • Some including representative Ocasio-

  • Cortez have compared the detention centers to

  • concentration camps.

  • ELLMAN-GOLAN: I would say myself,

  • and the many amazing folks who are leading Never

  • Again Action from folks like Serena Adlerstein and

  • Alyssa Rubin and Ben Doernberg and many others

  • who are really at the helm of that work as well.

  • We've been taking action because we simply see that

  • the conditions are concentration camps.

  • Representative Ocasio- Cortez was not the first

  • person to say that.

  • Many people said it beforehand.

  • I think we saw her political opponents jump

  • on that: use Jews as an excuse to take her down

  • and express more outrage about the word she used to

  • describe a blatant human rights abuse than they've

  • ever expressed for the actual human rights abuse.

  • So when we're talking about what's happening on

  • the ground, and you know, I want to also say that

  • immigrant rights groups have been doing this

  • organizing for a long time.

  • Movimiento Cosecha has been doing this organizing

  • since the Obama Administration,

  • where they, you know, stepped up and spoke out

  • against the 3 million deportations we saw during

  • that era as well.

  • But what's happening right now is pretty blatantly:

  • people deprived of food, deprived of water,

  • deprived of healthcare, deprived of sanitary products.

  • I mean, just the blatant abuse from sexual violence

  • to emotional and physical abuse is beyond belief.

  • And the fact that we would,

  • the fact that there are people who would rather

  • argue about what words we use instead of argue about

  • how we can abolish these atrocities is shocking to me.

  • And it's a clear; it's a clear attempt I think to

  • deflect away from talking about the conditions.

  • But the other thing that I say is that we should be

  • using the strongest possible words to describe

  • what's happening right now.

  • I do know concentration camps is a strong term to

  • use and we use it intentionally because we

  • should be using strong language to describe the

  • horrors that are happening on our southern border and

  • at ICE detention centers around the country. Yeah.

  • HEFFNER: I think that morally,

  • emotionally and physically,

  • there is the precipice of, you know,

  • exterminating people's souls more than human

  • bodies at this point.

  • But internment camp is an analogy that I think maybe

  • more approachable to people who remember how we

  • treated the Japanese or Japanese Americans.

  • So you have a politics in a public policy that is

  • completely at odds with your hope to free or

  • enfranchise ultimately a population of the people

  • who've lived here, worked here with their families

  • and communities and have been detained and deported.

  • I mean, we're talking about I think two subsets:

  • the current crisis on the border escaping violence

  • or economic hardship from central Latin American

  • countries; and then we're talking about the

  • historically problematic immigration law where

  • there are people who've been here for 20 years,

  • 10 years, five years, who've demonstrated their

  • contributions to this country and we want to disown them.

  • ELLMAN-GOLAN: The perfect answer to that is actually

  • the policy that Cosecha is pushing for,

  • which is they called the dignity plan or Dignity 2020.

  • And what that calls for is an immediate end to

  • detention and end to deportation.

  • And papers for the 11 million undocumented

  • people living in this country.

  • And it's a push and it might seem to a lot of

  • people like a big one, but I mean,

  • we have been watching the immigrant rights movement

  • try so hard and work tirelessly to fight for

  • dignity and instead we've seen from our elected

  • officials, tiny, tiny scraps of gains.

  • I mean important legislation has passed for

  • sure, but legislation that has separated out families

  • or felons this idea of good immigrants and bad immigrants.

  • So we need to be asking and demanding that people

  • and our legislators in particular,

  • but also all of this country recognize the

  • humanity of all people regardless of whether or

  • not they are good or bad or fit into good or bad stereotypes.

  • HEFFNER: You even acknowledged that your,

  • that plan is radical in some sense,

  • but it's departing from what has been common law

  • in this country for some time.

  • ELLMAN-GOLAN: Yeah, I mean,

  • I think, well first of all,

  • I like radical so I'll say that.

  • Look, I think that when we have particularly the

  • climate crisis that is just completely changing

  • the way that people can even live on this earth,

  • forcing migration.

  • When we have mass violence that is caused in large

  • part by American foreign policy or certainly

  • exacerbated by it.

  • I think that just simply the conditions are changing.

  • We are not living in the same world that we were

  • 20 years ago, 40 years ago, you know, 100 years ago.

  • Not only is there more communication between

  • other countries, but also just in terms of what

  • is livable land.

  • So I don't know if it's feasible to act as if we

  • can have the same policies when the land that people

  • can physically live on is literally shrinking.

  • HEFFNER: Isn't there a way to have laws defining

  • citizenship and still treat people who are

  • entering here by non-legal means a with dignity.

  • ELLMAN-GOLAN: I largely feel that it's my role in this,

  • in this broader movement to really follow

  • the lead of and support the work of undocumented

  • activists who are at the forefront of this kind of organizing.

  • And you know, activists from directly affected communities.

  • So I really listen to the folks at Cosecha,