This is disturbing news for much of Jewish Twitter. Once the announcement was made and word spread, numerous people searched her personal profile only to find that they had been blocked by Tema, most of whom had no interaction with her, and many of whom had never heard of her. It was apparent that Tema’s personal Twitter account was utilizing some sort of third-party application to mass block people based on certain criteria. What that criteria is, only Tema knows. Perhaps she’ll share what her block criteria is since she has vowed to be transparent and make amends. It is interesting that most of those blocked, whether they were from Europe, North America, South America or Israel, are all staunch Zionists. She subsequently created a professional Twitter account, @TemaSmithADL, which did not employ the block.
The reason this hire is so problematic for so many Jews, irrespective of the block technology being employed, is twofold: her personal harassment of people that went beyond Twitter and into the physical world with physical world consequences, and for her highly objectionable opinions that essentially defended acts of violence and murder against Jews.
Let’s discuss the personal harassment of individuals off Twitter first.
I don’t know Tema personally at all. My initial experience with her was when she embarked on a campaign against me in 2019 for pointing out antisemites masquerading as Jews in my Wearing Jewface post on my Times of Israel blog. She coordinated and conspired with others, and solicited participants, in an effort to get my blog removed from Times of Israel, as evidenced by several tweets requesting people contact her as she was embarking on a direct action against me for daring to write about a very real phenomenon.
The result of that coordination was a letter to Times of Israel Opinions and Blog Editor, Miriam Herschlag, demanding she remove my blog. An anonymous person very kindly started a petition to support me, but of course the coordination was nowhere near the level that Tema used with her wide social media reach. Thank you to that person, whoever you are. I am grateful to Miriam and Times of Israel for standing strong in the face of that onslaught and maintaining my blog.
An individual complaint made by one of Tema’s soldiers was responded to by Miriam refuting the claims that my Jewface post was racist and correctly pointed out that race wasn’t even mentioned in the post.
My position remains that the accusations against me were not only completely unfounded, but constituted libel. I was accused of being a racist for criticizing antisemitism from people who were not Jewish, but pretended to be Jewish, because some of them happened to be Black. I provided plenty of evidence to support my examination of this tactic that came from either the subjects themselves, or their immediate relatives. I continue to stand by this piece and as evidenced by the lack of outrage in response Sarah Silverman’s use of the term Jewface, it’s not the term that caused the outrage. It’s ironic that in 2015, Tema wrote about Rachel Dolezal’s charade and stated, “There’s nothing lost by being an ally…But there’s a lot lost by claiming a history, and an experience, which isn’t your own.” I couldn’t agree more, Tema, and that’s exactly why I decided to expose this practice among the anti-Israel left.
Tema is correct that Twitter deplatformed me twice.
She celebrated this and attributed the reason for me being deplatformed as “targeted harassment/hateful conduct” of people, despite the fact that I have never engaged in targeted harassment of anyone on Twitter or off-Twitter. I have opinions like everyone else, and you may not like my opinions, but offering opinions about someone’s character is not harassment. Even I don’t know why I was deplatformed, as Twitter doesn’t provide a reason when they suspend your account, so how would Tema know why I was deplatformed? Did she embark on a campaign to have my account mass-reported, which has happened to numerous Zionists on Twitter? I will never know, but if she’s making a claim to know why I was deplatformed, I can only assume that she may have been part of that process. I’m actually on Twitter now, but I’m anonymous, have blocked those who targeted me in the past, including Tema, and lo and behold, I’m still on Twitter. Interesting indeed.
I’m also aware that Tema highlighted a post by someone who protested Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic remarks and tied Omar’s antisemitism to Louis Farrakhan’s antisemitism in what that person felt was a humorous way. Tema decided the poster of the comparison was “racist,” and posted her assessment of this person alongside their employment information on Twitter, with the obvious goal of igniting her followers to contact that person’s employer with the hope they’d either be reprimanded or fired. I will not name this person as I don’t wish to bring them any additional harassment, but it’s yet another example of Tema taking things offline and into the real world in an effort to harm someone. If she legitimately wanted to educate someone engaging in something she felt was racist, someone tasked with “outreach” (also her job title at the time at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto) would have attempted to have a conversation with that person to explain why she felt their post was racist. She had absolutely zero desire to educate, though. Outreach is not her methodology, at least not on Twitter. Bullying, strong-arming, and a Lord of the Flies approach has been the Tema way.
Then there was Tema’s tacit endorsement of a doxing campaign by allegedly praising the person who was in the midst of a coordinated crusade to not only dox Twitter’s Claire Voltaire, but to offer a “bounty” for information. I’m not sure if the dox crusader ever provided the bounty she promised, but the information she’d solicited was found, allegedly made public, and picked up by neo-Nazis. Claire, a single mother of a child with disabilities, was justifiably very afraid for her own safety and the safety of her child.
I think I can speak for most of Jewish Twitter in stating that the vindictiveness, the conspiring, the abject nastiness of attempting to gather the masses in an effort to ruin Jewish people with whom you disagree are character traits that preclude one from being effective in “Jewish Outreach.” And if Tema is an actual Zionist, as she now states, then how does she justify that the targets of her harassment campaigns are largely liberal Zionists?
Then there are the objectionable opinions.
I fully acknowledge and oppose the existence of anti-Black bias existing within many communities, including Jewish communities. This is not even an argument. What is objectionable is having the audacity to tell Jews who complain about antisemitism that we should check our anti-Black bias if we’re calling out antisemitism.
If someone is an antisemite, they’re an antisemite. It doesn’t matter what their race or background is. To suggest that understanding and forgiveness be given by the victims in response to virulently dangerous antisemitic utterances being broadcast to a wide social media platform because the offender happens to be Black is preposterous. No one should get a pass for blatant racist rantings, nor should they get a pass for blatant antisemitic rantings.
When Tema attempted to gaslight the Jewish community of the United Kingdom
by tone-policing the justifiable outrage in response to Rapper Wiley’s antisemitic and pro-Hitler statements by telling them to look at their anti-Black bias in response, that’s not “Jewish Outreach,” that’s excusing antisemitism when it comes from someone who is Black. If identical statements were coming from Pewdiepie or Wiley, they should garner the exact same response and condemnation. The race of the person uttering vile hatred should have no bearing on the response. Ever.
Even worse was when Tema essentially defended the murderer of Sarah Halimi.
Sarah Halimi was an elderly Holocaust survivor who lived in France, was viciously and violently murdered, and thrown from her balcony. The person who murdered her was acquitted of his crime because he had smoked marijuana. Marijuana is a legal plant in much of the US and all of Canada and I think most can agree, including psychology and medical professionals, that marijuana does not cause violence, psychotic breaks, or significantly alter one’s judgment or lucidity. Yet, in response to the ludicrous suggestion that Jews attempt to understand that this poor, young Muslim man who violently murdered his elderly Jewish neighbor while screaming antisemitic slurs was having a “psychotic episode,” Tema stated, “Yes! This!”
there was Tema’s edict to Jews that we have an obligation to attempt to understand why “some Palestinians use terrorism.” No, Tema, we have no such obligation.
She has both derided Ilhan Omar, and then defended Ilhan Omar, which seems convenient if nothing else. If one frames any and all criticism of someone who happens to be Black as “racist,” or any and all criticism of someone who happens to be Muslim as “Islamophobia,” then I can see how this could create some cognitive dissonance.
Interestingly, I have never had the inclination to frame criticism against me to be either antisemitism or misogyny since I’m a Jewish woman, but maybe I should start? It’s a fantastic way to shut down any and all dialogue and absolve myself of ever causing anyone harm or hurt.
It’s been fascinating to watch the reaction from both sides of the Twitterverse. The staunch Zionist camp, who is justifiably upset by this appointment for reasons elucidated above, and the staunch “anti-Zionist not antisemitic” camp who reeled in surprised outrage when Tema declared post-ADL appointment, “As a committed Zionist, I am driven to ensure that Israel’s future is strong and sustainable. It is out of this love for Israel that I have been perhaps too harsh a critic at times of organizations like AIPAC.”
It clearly wasn’t just the Zionists who questioned her commitment to Israel’s right to exist and safety judging from the responses to that particular tweet.
The shock among the “anti-Zionist not antisemitic” left at Tema’s declaration of being a “committed Zionist” is absolutely justified considering Tema’s opposition to the widely-accepted, mainstream definition of antisemitism put forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and her support of a watered-down definition of antisemitism that doesn’t protect pro-Israel Jews from antisemitic abuse. I’m not quite sure how she expects to fight antisemitism when she can’t agree with the majority of Jews on what antisemitism looks like.
The scrubbing of her timeline on her private account appears to be more an act of self-preservation than an act of contrition.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the Executive Director of the ADL, only recently issued a strong rebuke of antisemitism from the left in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Rabbi and his three congregants in Colleyville, Texas. They’ve had a few things to say about Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic words, but at nowhere near the level of hysteria displayed in response to Marjorie Taylor Green’s antisemitic words. I haven’t seen any ADL demands to decommittee Omar, which I believe is excessively necessary, like we saw with Marjorie Taylor-Greene, especially when Omar sits on the House Foreign Relations Committee.
After Colleyville, I was encouraged that maybe finally the ADL would start treating the leftist antisemitism with the same urgency they treat rightwing antisemitism. Both are dangerous for Jews, but only one is dangerous for Jews in both the diaspora and Israel, and despite what anyone thinks, Israel’s survival is directly tied to the survival of Jews in the diaspora and is the only deterrent for another attempted genocide against us.
But then they hired Tema. And they also changed the definition of racism on their website from the accurate, dictionary definition to a sociological definition coined in 1970 by then Ph.D. candidate, Patricia Bidol-Padva, in her book, Developing New Perspectives on Race: An Innovative Multi-Media Social Studies Curriculum in Racism Awareness for the Secondary Level.
The problem, however, is this stipulative definition ignores the immense power and reach of popular persons of color’s Instagram accounts or Twitter feeds with millions of followers in today’s social media driven world. The sociological version both anglicizes a large segment of Jews who appear white (we are not white, we are Middle Eastern), and erases the agency and power of persons of color.
Seeing Carly Pildis, an ADL employee, categorize the upset expressed by Jews in response to Tema’s appointment as “racist attacks” when race has absolutely no bearing on the outrage and had no mention in the responses, is a prime example of how the ADL has lost its way. We saw this with the ADL employee-led, organized harassment campaign on Twitter against Seth Mandel in 2017, someone whose politics I vehemently disagree with, but I know he stands against antisemitism, and we’re still seeing it. You cannot claim to stand against antisemitism if you gaslight people and assert that any criticism of a particular human is racist solely because they happen to be of a particular race. It was done to me in response to my blog, and it has been done to others, and it will no longer be tolerated, or used as a weapon. You may as well be shooting us with Nerf guns. In fact, you’ve cheapened the word “racist” by using it when it doesn’t actually apply.
I don’t expect Jonathan Greenblatt to revisit the decision to hire Tema, nor do I expect him to teach his staff that criticism of someone who happens to be a racial minority isn’t automatically racist, nor do I expect him to return to the accurate, dictionary definition of racism, nor do I expect Ben Sax, Chairman of the ADL Board of Directors, to encourage Jonathan Greenblatt to resign. What I do expect is the ADL’s private contributions to diminish because while the ADL is demonized by the extreme, antisemitic left, they have also now alienated the liberal and moderate Jews who have supported them and counted on them for decades.
I do know this; I have reported at least three or four antisemitic incidents to the ADL and I will never do that again. I have lost all faith in this organization. I do not feel they care about me or my safety or the safety of Jews in general. I’m deeply hurt and disappointed to see the direction they’ve taken. They do not prioritize victims of antisemitism and we have been forgotten. My only hope is that the Wiesenthal Center takes up the cause since the ADL has decided to take another direction.
And in response to one of Tema’s claims that she feels there is an unequal amount of focus on leftist antisemitism, specifically from people of color, versus the rightwing, white-nationalist variety of antisemitism, I posit that would be because we don’t expect it to come from the left. We absolutely would expect it to come from a fascistic, authoritarian right, but not a socially conscious, anti-hate left.
The elimination of Jews who have a connection to Israel from progressive spaces, largely based on antisemitic conspiracies and blood libels against us and Israel, has also taken its toll. In progressive spaces, Israel is the Jew of countries. And as I’ve stated in previous posts, I have been involved with Occupy Wall Street, BLM, and even volunteered for Elizabeth Colbert-Busch’s campaign, only to be run out of those spaces by the absolute, in-your-face antisemitism I encountered. I now avoid actively engaging in social causes or partisan Democratic political campaigns, with the exception of defending Israel and protesting antisemitism, because I refuse to encounter the pain that comes with the antisemitism that is rife within those spaces. That is why it’s even more upsetting when people who allegedly value human rights for every other persecuted and oppressed group attack the most historically persecuted minority in the world. I will revisit this phenomenon in a future post, but suffice it to say, I have learned a lot more as to why this is happening and its purposeful in its method.
I hope this post reminds Tema that the ways in which she has conducted herself have been completely contrary to “Jewish Outreach.” I haven’t read Tema’s Medium piece and I don’t plan to. Until I get a personal apology for what she did to me, and everyone else she launched attacks against receives a personal apology, she will not receive forgiveness from me nor will she receive a blessing in her new role. And I hope the extreme controversy this hire has elicited reminds the ADL to do a better job of vetting their prospective employees.