BSAA Statement on antisemitic rhetoric on
WXXI's Connections with Evan Dawson,
"Discussing Motivations: Bringing Black Americans to the Palestinian Cause"
On February 15, 2022, the WXXI radio talk show, Connections with Evan Dawson, broadcast an episode titled “Discussing the Motivations Bringing Black Americans to the Palestinian Cause.” The show outraged many in the Jewish community because of the lies and half-truths that were accepted as facts and not challenged by Host Evan Dawson. These statements were enthusiastically affirmed by Brighton Town Council member Robin Wilt who was on the panel in her official capacity as an elected representative of the Town of Brighton. There is a direct correlation between the dissemination of these types of lies and half-truths and violence committed against Jews.
One of the deliberate lies told on Mr. Dawson’s show and enthusiastically embraced by the panel was that Israeli soldiers rip Palestinian children from their parents' arms. This concept is based on the centuries old “blood-libel” that Jews intentionally and gleefully kill children in order to make ritual bread (or matzah) with the blood. This false and hate-filled concept, which has resulted in literally millions of innocent dead Jews since it was first uttered, is familiar enough to many listeners that it may be readily accepted as truth. The truth is that BSAA was stunned and dumbfounded - when this statement was made and affirmed by Brighton Town Council member Robin Wilt.
It is unacceptable when our public broadcasters produce shows that allow our elected government representatives to endorse these types of statements that perpetuate hatred of Jews. It is an understatement to say that we are troubled and afraid for our community. Jews feel threatened in America. One only has to look back to this past weekend to see why (NY, Texas, Kentucky – Anti-Jewish violence and hate is rising. By sharing or affirming Jew hating blood libels, like those given airtime on “Connections”, immeasurable harm is done and the risk of violence against Jews tangibly increases. Fact-checking and follow up doesn’t remove these stereotypes or ideas from people’s minds and hearts. Retractions and complicated truths never make the same splash that gory headlines do.
Some of the other lies proliferated by the panelists on Mr. Dawson’s show are that Jews are white, settler-colonializers of Israel, despite the fact that the majority of Israeli Jews are non-white, that Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel, and that there is somehow a comparison to be made between the Israel-Palestine conflict and the enslavement of Black Americans in the United States.
We vehemently reject the claim that this conflict is one-sided, wherein the Jews amount to villains aligned with white supremacy, and the Palestinians are enslaved and therefore aligned with the Black American experience. This amounts to conflating American racial politics (focusing on skin color), with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, driving a simplified black-white narrative which ignores the history of oppression and expulsion of Jews out of numerous countries, war campaigns and invasions of Israel, numerous terror attacks, and a failure to recognize Jews’ right to self-determination as well as Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign country. Jews and those living in Israel are not a people who self-define by their skin color, and these categories simply are not helpful to understanding who Jews are. The fact is that Jewish history is full of Jews in every non-Jewish country experiencing marginalized minority status, being oppressed, murdered, and treated as inferior. When our people experienced extinction-level genocide less than 100 years ago, Jews of every color from around the world sought refuge in our ancestral indigenous homeland.
BSAA reaffirms its commitment to Palestinian dignity, right to self-determination, and safety. We acknowledge that Palestinians have experienced pain, suffering and oppression, that they deserve healing and redress for harms inflicted on them, whether by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah or the Israeli Defense Forces, and that a real conversation about the injustices inflicted on them and how to begin the healing and redress must occur.
Rochester is the most demographically Jewish place in New York State outside of the NYC area. We are appalled that in this very moment of rising anti-Jewish violence, a local politician would publicly spew and support harmful and innacurate rhetoric that endagers thousands of Jewish constituents that she herself represents. We believe the following actions are necessary and that they should be taken immediately:
Our community must stand together to reject this rhetoric. Evan Dawson and the staff of WXXI have swiftly responded to our concerns and have been open to learning about the issues identified. We urge community leaders like Supervisor William Moehle and the members of the Brighton Town board to condemn hate speech that trafficks in anti-Jewish tropes, demonizing rhetoric, and defines Jews with an oppressive non-Jewish framework.
Community leaders and interested community members commit to and participate in education about anti-Jewish hate and Jewish diversity from an organization or educator selected by the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.
The Brighton Town Supervisor and the rest of the Brighton Town Board must take action in response to Ms. Wilt’s conduct. Over the last nine months Town Supervisor Moehle and the Town Board have taken no actions to publicly condemn Ms. Wilt’s inaccurate and hurtful rhetoric which further perpetuates bigotry and hatred toward Jews. It is offensive to us as Brightonians, who live in a community that prides itself on diversity and inclusion that an elected official who represents our multi-ethnic community repeatedly and brazenly engages in denigration of an ethno-religious, minority group of constituents, minimizing and delegitimizing their pain with no consequences.
We therefore call on members of the community to exercise their constitutional rights and call and email Mr. Moehle and Town Board members to demand Ms. Wilt stop using her role as an elected official to perpetuate lies and harmful words against her own constituents.
The Town Supervisor and Town Board represents you, the citizens of Brighton who elected them. Their contact information is below. Call, leave messages, call back, email and email again until you are satisfied that your concerns have been adequately addressed:
Call or Email:
Town of Brighton
2300 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY 14618
Phone: (585) 784-5250
Board Member, Jason Diponzio
phone: (585) 784-5256 (VoiceMail) or (585) 530-8515 (Office)
Board Member, Christopher Werner
phone: (585) 784-5254 (Voice Mail) or (585) 232-5300 ext. 254 (Office)
Brighton Stands Against Antisemitism