Progressive Zionists of California stands in solidarity with April Powers in light of the antisemitism scandal at the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. It is unacceptable that a Chief Officer of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion should feel compelled to sacrifice their career to appease known trolls in the illustration community. Being put in an impossible situation to “course correct” is a glass cliff scenario, and it is disheartening to see a social justice-oriented organization fall prey to it.
On June 10, 2021, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators released a powerful and thoughtful statement condemning antisemitism. This is especially of concern in California where the nonprofit is based, with a large Jewish community and attacks directed specifically at that community. In the subsequent weeks, there was a vibrant but difficult conversation in the community about Islamophobia and the organization’s lack of open solidarity with the global Muslim community. These are valid concerns, and PZC supports these kinds of conversations. It is our understanding that while being relentlessly attacked on social media, Ms. Powers reflexively responded, and perhaps without the kind of nuance she may have otherwise used to respond. While unfortunate, we do not think this constitutes a reason to be socially pressured into leaving a job she loved.
We also note the tinges of anti-blackness in this conversation; would a white or white passing individual be forced to suffer these incredibly harsh consequences for such a statement? We do not believe so.
PZC also notes that this conversation devolved into open antisemitism when some of the advocates for a statement on Islamophobia invariably turned to the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some claimed Ms. Powers engaged in “selective solidarity” by commenting on the rise of antisemitism without explicitly commenting on Israel. Let’s be clear, this is antisemitism. The Jewish community in the diaspora must be able to talk about concerns in our own communities without being cajoled into commenting on a conflict that has nothing to do with local concerns. These communities are our home, and it is disingenuous to claim we cannot and should not care about events in our own “backyard”.
This situation also represents a new litmus test for Jews working in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: most Jews are Zionists, even if it doesn’t animate our activism and political leanings at home. The claims of Ms. Power’s detractors would have one believe Jews are no longer able to do this kind of work, an unacceptable conclusion. This is exclusionary, dangerous, and ultimately counterproductive.
Going forward, we hope SCBWI uses this moment as a learning opportunity to understand how intersectional coalitions must meaningfully include Jewish voices. Jews are the arbiters of antisemitism, not bad faith actors who wish it were otherwise.
About Progressive Zionists of California
Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) is a grassroots collective of activists and California Democratic Party leaders dedicated to reshaping the discourse around Zionism and antisemitism in California Democratic politics. PZC educates activists about antisemitism and intersectional Zionism with a firm commitment to Palestinian statehood. Our constituents advocate for pragmatic progressive platforms, resolutions, and legislation around domestic and Israel-related issues.