Diversity officer loses job for criticizing anti-Semitic attacks on Jews

July 7, 2021 • 10:00 am

When the “Black Lives Matter” slogan was coopted for other purposes—like the “Blue Lives Matter” slogan lauding police or the “All Lives Matter” slogan meant to denigrate its model—the mimic phrases were rightly condemned as “whataboutery.”  By using the original words, the other slogans subtly mocked or even repudiated the slogan—and thus the goal—of Black Lives Matter.

This goes for other forms of ideological and moral statements. When one condemns, for example, attacks on Asians, as happened during and after the Florida Spa massacre (not definitely targeted at Asians) and during the pandemic, you should defend the rights of Asians to live in America without fear, and should condemn attacks on Asians motivated by bigotry. To lump in all other minorities at the same time dilutes the solidarity one expresses with a beleaguered group, and thus what solace the group can take. (If you want to condemn all bigotry, then just say that, but it confers more love to defend a specific group under attack rather than just saying, “Can’t we just love one another?”)

This holds for all beleaguered minorities except one. And you know which one that is: the Jews. Although they’re the most frequent victims of hate crimes in the U.S. on a per capita basis, Jews though a tiny minority, are not considered minorities and are not considered oppressed—despite the data I just gave and the increasing tendency of the American Left to tilt towards anti-Israel sentiments and, indeed, anti-Semitic movements like BDS. Lest you fault me for going off on anti-Semitism again, be aware that this is one of the biggest hypocrisies of the Western Left, right up there with the Left’s failure to defend the rights of gays and women that are regularly abrogated in Arab countries. After all, Arabs are considered people of color and Jews are honorary white people.

So, when you hear someone denigrate anti-Semitic attacks, you’ll often hear, right alongside it, denigration of “Islamophobia”. This whataboutery is, I think, almost unique to Jews. You cannot condemn attacks on Jews without condemning attacks on Muslims at the same time. It’s like saying “Black Lives Matter—and so do Asian ones.” It’s not simply an American attempt to be fair, but expresses the uniquely unhappy position of Jews in this world.

At any rate, the failure to include Muslims when condemning anti-Semitism just cost April Powers her job as the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Editors’ (SCBWI) first “Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer”. All she did was issue a statement condemning anti-Semitism. Her mistake was not only to issue that statement without mentioning “Islamophobia”, but also to defend what she did on Facebook. For that she was fired. The irony is that April Powers is not only Jewish, but black.

This ridiculous situation, so common in Young Adult Fiction—I nominate that field, along with the Knitting Community,  as the Wokest area of endeavor in America—is described on Bari Weiss’s site in a nice piece by Kat Rosenfield. You can read it for free by clicking on the screenshot below.

Here’s April Powers, the once Chief Equity and Inclusion officer, hired last year

Below: Rosenfield’s description of the SCBWI. I’ve followed their shenanigans over the years, and they seem to me nothing more than a group of sanctimonious Pecksniffs whose purpose is to ensure that no young adult literature is published that doesn’t conform to their ideological views. They are, pure and simple, a bunch of odious censors.

The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Editors is an organization for established and aspiring professionals in children’s and young adult literature. The publishing industry is famously left-wing, but the world of children’s publishing makes the rest of the industry look like milquetoast moderates. In the past few years, Young Adult authors have rewritten already published work deemed offensive. They have seen the ratings of a not-yet-released book torpedoed by organized takedown campaigns on Goodreads. They have cancelled their own titles after (often flimsy) allegations of racism, or been compelled to reveal private, even traumatic details of their lives in order to “prove” that they have the standing to tell certain kinds of stories. In one particularly notorious case, Kirkus Reviews retracted its starred review of the novel “American Heart” and issued a new one scolding its “problematic” elements after a Twitter outrage.

It was in that context that the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Editors put up a post on Facebook that began: “The SCBWI unequivocally recognizes that the world’s 14.7 million Jewish people (less than 0.018% of the population) have the right to life, safety, and freedom from scapegoating and fear.” The June 10 post went on to condemn antisemitism as “one of the oldest forms of hatred,” and asked readers to “join us in not looking away.”

Here’s that post.

Things rapidly got out of hand when SCBWI member Razan Abdin-Adnani (described as the daughter of Palestinian refugees) asked if the organization “also planned to denounce violence against Palestinians.” Powers responded that the statement reflects “recent surges in hate crimes & violence around the world. If we see a surge against Muslims globally as we have w/other groups, expect us to speak up.”

Engaging like that was a big mistake, and the Facebook fracas got hostile. Then it spread to Twitter, which of course is toxic, and Abdin-Adnani demanded a refund of her membership dues.

Rosenfeld describes the downfall of Powers, accompanied by the usual fulsome apologies, including, sadly, one by Powers herself:

You might imagine that this would have been a good time for the organization to take a principled stand, to condemn this member’s inappropriate behavior, and to make a strong statement in support of its employees, particularly its black, Jewish diversity chief.

Instead, SCBWI stayed silent as the controversy continued to blow up online. Both Powers and the SCBWI account blocked Abdin-Adnani as her tweets got more intemperate, contributing to a narrative that she had been “silenced.” Big accounts on YA Twitter signal boosted her complaints. Prominent authors demanded apologies and vowed boycotts.

Then, two weeks after the original Facebook post, Lin Oliver, the executive director of SCBWI, offered a groveling apology. Not to the Jews, for failing to stand by a simple denunciation of antisemitism, nor to a faithful employee, whom SCBWI had left to twist in the wind, but to “everyone the Palestinian community who felt unrepresented, silenced, or marginalized.” The statement went on to acknowledge “the pain our actions have caused to our Muslim and Palestinian members” — pain brought on, it seems, by daring to oppose violence against Jews. “I also want to offer my apologies to Razan Abdin-Adnani for making her feel unseen and unheard by blocking her. She has been unblocked from our feed,” Oliver wrote. (Oliver and Abdin-Adnani did not respond to requests for comment.)

Although Powers insists that SCBWI did not compel her resignation, SCBWI happily took credit for it. The apology noted: “As a remedy to these events, we have taken some initial steps: 1. Effective immediately, we have accepted the resignation of April, our Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer.”

Toward the end of the organization’s apology was an abject note from Powers herself: “By posting an antisemitism statement, our intention was to stay out of politics. . . . I neglected to address the rise in Islamophobia, and deeply regret that omission. . . While this doesn’t fix the pain and disappointment that you feel by my mishandling of the moment, I hope you will accept my sincerest apologies and resignation from the SCBWI.”

What began as a simple denunciation of antisemitism ended with a letter that reads like a hostage video.

Have a look at SCBWI director Lin Oliver’s apology for neglecting to include Palestinians. Here’s a bit of that:

The words fall into the familiar order, “undrepresented, silenced, or marginalized.” All that’s missing is “violence”, “offense”, and “erasure”.

I’m saddened that Powers felt she had to apologize, too, as she had not the slightest reason to. But she is described as being an accommodating and diplomatic person, and didn’t want to make waves. At least she refuses to apologize for writing the statement about anti-Semitism.

Rosenfield ends eloquently, even adding what I see as an allusion to the movie “Chinatown”:

For the moment, at least, Jews are Schrodinger’s victims; they may or may not be deserving of sympathy, depending on who’s doing the victimizing. When a group of tiki torch-wielding white nationalists chant “Jews will not replace us!,” the condemnation is swift. But replace the tiki torch with a Palestinian flag, and call the Jews “settler colonialists,” and the equivocations roll in: Maybe that guy who threw a firebomb at a group of innocent people on the street in New York was punching up, actually?

April Powers naively believed that American Jews should get the same full-throated defense as any other minority group in the wake of a vicious attack, without ambivalence, caveats and whataboutism. That belief cost her the security of a job.

In the words of that unseen videographer: This is America, guys.

Palestinians and Muslims have cowed the American Left to the extent that no denunciation of anti-Semitic violence is possible without including a mention of “Islamophobia”. Asians, Hispanics, and other minorities don’t have the same power.

Why is that? You know the answer. It’s the same reason why two dozen writers belonging to PEN America denounced the organization’s conferring its Freedom of Expression Award to Charlie Hebdo in 2015. It’s fear, Jake: fear of physical harm, fear of demonization, fear of hurting people’s feelings by standing up for what is right. and, above all, fear of looking like a racist for not explicitly mentioning one group considered “people of color.”

31 thoughts on “Diversity officer loses job for criticizing anti-Semitic attacks on Jews

  1. This is truly unhinged. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Powers’ statement, and the SCBWI was absolutely gutless not to stand behind her.

  2. When the “Black Lives Matter” slogan was coopted for other purposes—like the “Blue Lives Matter” slogan lauding police or the “All Lives Matter” slogan meant to denigrate its model—the mimic phrases were rightly condemned as “whataboutery.”

    Maybe yes, may be no. But if in practice some people act as if ‘Only Black Lives Matter’ then perhaps “whataboutery” has a point and is not just a diversion?

    1. The other problem with the “BLM” slogan is that it implies that the US police are killing blacks in ways that they would not kill whites. But the statistics do not support that.

      1. And black and Hispanic police officers are more likely to kill black and Hispanic suspects.

        And black young men killing black young men (and bystanders, often black children) is 100s of times a bigger problem (body count) than police killing young black men*. (Two most recent recent killings of young black men in this area were both for arrests (and resisting arrest — funny that) for firearms violations. In one case, the guy shot at police (gun and casings recovered from the car; passenger “never saw a gun”). If you can’t enforce the few gun laws we have — like prohibiting felons from having guns — what hope is there for preventing the carnage in the city? Minneapolis is “enjoying” a big surge in violent crime since last May. Not just shootings: muggings, robbery, car jackings are way up. I was somewhat nervous to go there for my son’s COVID vaccinations. The big vax clinics were all located to be convenient to the BIPOC communities.)

        And the woke often lump ALL black people killed by police with unarmed black people killed by police. (Bait and switch.)

        Etc.

        (* As I’ve said before many times, the goal for police shooting of unarmed people is zero shootings. Police should have (and maintain) training in grappling. Police dept.s should have CAPA systems that are taken seriously. The goal is: Better policing, not less policing.)

      2. The problem BLM deals with is not just black people being killed by police, but with the inaction that follows, hence the name of the movement, authorities were acting as though those lives did not matter. If it can be shown that similar inaction follows when white people are killed by police then that would seem to be a major problem in policing.

  3. It’s fear and a simple heuristic: if a stereotype makes a group look privileged, then that’s how it ought to be ranked. When an average person is asked to imagine a “Jewish family,” they’re likely to picture a well-educated couple with white collar jobs, children who take “lessons” in something, and a nice house. Now think of a “Palestinian family.” Easy to spot the oppressor. And done.

    This whataboutery is, I think, almost unique to Jews.

    Almost, but not quite. It’s also pretty much standard fare when it comes to condemning attacks or overt discrimination against feminists supporting the specific nature of their sex-based rights. You must immediately follow it up with sympathy and support to the Trans Community, who are being oppressed by this form of transphobia which was understandably attacked. And this from people who identify as feminist, with ‘women’ counted as a suppressed class.

    For a recent example, look at Essex University. As reported in the Guardian :

    A university has apologised to transgender and non-binary staff and students over a review that suggested it had unlawfully no-platformed two female academics whom some had accused of transphobia.

    No real apology to the women whom they had vilified and canceled, though it was the school’s own hired team of experts which had ruled that the school was guilty of unfair discrimination. Instead, the profuse, anguished, and extensive apology went to the Trans Community for having to be exposed to and oppressed by this ruling.

    https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/jul/04/essex-university-makes-further-apology-in-trans-rights-row

  4. The woman who contacted the SCBWI, complaining about their position condemning antisemitism, has a rather problematic history, including support of Hamas, and various antisemitic tweets. When this all came out, she played the victim. Cue lots of fellow antisemites and far left regressive types patting her on the back with the usual “yas, queen” stuff.

    We’ve all seen this playbook used over and over, and so many gullible people fall for it.

    It seems the SCBWI doesn’t know what to do now, and so they’re just hoping it dies away.

  5. The SCBWI is looking over it’s shoulder for an accusation of racism from Palestinians (or anyone else). Thus, the absolutely egregious behavior toward Powers. It reminds me of Saddam Hussein’s intimidation of legislators. He killed a handful and threatened the others, who immediately fell on their faces, groveling.

  6. Let’s hope some free thinking organization or institution will snap her up quickly. She would be a credit to any group she joined.

  7. Just sitting here contemplating how diligent the Woke (Praise be Their consistency) are about ensuring that no mention of Islamophobia passes their lips without an equally forceful denunciation of antisemitism…

    …still processing…

    1. In Germany, they do. This done to create equivalence between “Islamophobia” and antisemitism, in other words, to give more legitimacy to Islamophobia as construct.

      1. You seem to be implying that equating the two leads to islamophobia being perceived as bad, because antisemitism is perceived as bad, so that criticizing antisemitism but including or equating that to criticism of antisemitism is thus actually pro-Islam. I live in Germany and that has never occurred to me. Do you have any evidence that that actually happens (other than perhaps in small isolated incidents)?

  8. It’s too much to ask about consistency of such woke positions. Once again, we see that no coherent ideology is driving this behaviour, but pure association. Black and Jew would normally evoke the fabled “intersectionality” idea, but I stress again, none of the Very Online People have ever read or understood the idea. Critical theory, Marcuse or Marx, likewise play no discernible role.

    Some groups just feel like they deserve unconditional support. Some other groups seem like oppressors, and supporting them just feels wrong. You want to be an ally to the oppressed groups, according to your Twitter peers. Individuals don’t matter, but flounting moral superiority on the internet so that the future sees that Ms Karen Wokesniffery was “on the right side of history” and deserving of praise like Rosa Parks, for her bravery in calling out abject bigotry of her time.

    You see, it just feels that way, when you read the room, as they say. It’s irrelevant to them that Jews faced centuries of discrimmination. This only counts as a reason for women, because that has been established there as the correct position. Why? A post-colonial, multicultural (islamophile) “tradition” and comment section orthodoxy from “social justice” tweeting tell you why. It’s just a melange of Democrat identity politics and their sensibilities.

    The entire calculation is quick and simple, no deeper than a slogan couldn’t convey, and the rest just follows naturally. The response is likewise entirely social and show a cultural hegemony over a certain domain. If you want to fit in and survive in that niche, you adapt and that means apologising.

  9. The situation is even worse than Abdin-Adnani appreciates. All over the country, people complain about one thing or another—the government, the weather, the local sports team, restaurant food, TV commercials, their inlaws—without simultaneously expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, their apology to the marginalized victims of Islamophobia, and their rejection of white privilege wherever it is said to exist. Unfortunately, the Associate Provosts for DEI are not (yet) authorized to fire people outside academia. But perhaps, if SCBWI and the knitting and bird-watching organizations keep up the fight, the general public will gradually learn never to say anything on any subject without including the approved formulas of correctthink.

  10. Not that this would’ve made a difference to the outcome, but a better answer to the question:

    [Razan Abdin-Adnani] asked if the organization “also planned to denounce violence against Palestinians.”

    would have been a simple, one word, “yes.” Then SCBWI publishes such a statement at a later date.

    They still would’ve objected and demanded a retraction. But it puts to the test the lie that what they’re concerned about here is equal treatment.

  11. That’s one of the problematic aspects of working for a pecksniff organizations. Sooner or later one of them will find something problematic about you and it doesn’t matter if you were a pre-teen when you posted that problematic thing.

  12. I thought you folks would like to see this. For what it’s worth –

    “PEN America issued the following statement:

    “Issuance of a factual public statement within the scope of a professional’s job should not be grounds for discipline or resignation under pressure. Biases and bigotries take on many variations and targets—anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism, and other forms each have their own distinct characteristics and are worthy of forceful denunciation in their own right. The fight for human rights and dignity must oppose such hatreds in all their forms.

    “Absent any such indication, the condemnation of one form of hatefulness should not be read to imply indifference toward others. Complex and divisive issues are best addressed through reasoned dialogue, which can include heated debate. Ad hominem attacks, harassment, vitriol, and threats stifle debate, creating regrettable cycles of spiraling censoriousness that can silence important perspectives. We call on SCBWI to clarify the circumstances of Powers’s departure from the organization and to make clear its unequivocal, unapologetic denunciation of anti-Semitism, and of other forms of bigotry.”

    Sorry about the break. I just don’t trust my skills, but this is from;

    https://pen.org/press-release/pen-america-concerned-over-resignation-of-scbwi-equity-and-inclusion-officer-over-anti-semitism-statement/

    -Best, E

  13. I think there is a very simple explanation here.
    Most on our side think this is a matter of actual fairness and justice. When we notice problems with the logic of the arguments, or when they are applied hypocritically, we tend to speak up, as if the woke folks are interested in clearing such issues up.
    But this is not the case. All of their slogans and rules are designed only for the purpose of furthering their political goals.
    I am pretty sure that any case where they present themselves as fair and compassionate are situations where it has been decided that appearing to care about those issues will confer some advantage.
    They hate the Jews, and they hate Israel because it is full of Jews. However, standing outside of a Synagogue screaming “Juden Raus!” would surely cast them in a bad light among the majority of people, so they produce boilerplate statements condemning anti-Semitism, the way scam supplement companies run FDA disclaimer statements at the bottom of their ads.

  14. Shameful treatment of Powers. This is just the same point I was making earlier in a previous post here. I that post people who criticise the policies and actions of the current government of Israel were criticised for not also condemning Hama’s anti Semitic hate propaganda. If we criticise whataboutery in others we should not engage in it ourselves.

  15. “one of the biggest hypocrisies of the Western Left, right up there with the Left’s failure to defend the rights of gays and women that are regularly abrogated in Arab countries. After all, Arabs are considered people of color and Jews are honorary white people.”

    This is absurd. I think we can all agree that we cannot just walk into these countries and beat up their existing rulers and sprinkle some fairy dust and make everything super.

    The efforts to address these problems is being driven through the United Nations (hardly a perfect organisation, but the best we have for the moment}. The resolutions and declarations urging countries to end the oppression of women and gays did not just magically happen one day, it is a result of activism which encompassed all countries. The pressure and advocacy comes from both the Right and the Left. It isn’t a “left/right” thing, it is a “right/wrong” thing.

    Little by little countries are changing their laws, but the Arab and African countries appear to be stand outs. I do not know what you expect “the Western Left” to do about this. What magic wand is it that some people assume they have that they are not waving?

    1. I believe the point is that the Left, through opinion columns, articles, and blog posts, go on and on defending the rights of women and gays over here in the west (and this is a good thing, generally), and yet are completely silent about even worse crimes toward women and gays in Islamic countries. Their silence is deafening, and it comes across as highly hypocritical. No, I don’t expect that calling them out will have much impact. But those oppressed groups will at least know that people care.

  16. *This whataboutery is, I think, almost unique to Jews.*

    As I pointed out, it was done in this very blog about people who criticise Israel government actions.

    Also when we talk about homophobia we are usually bombarded with “what about the rights of people to practice their own religion?” type comments.

    If we point out an instance of prejudice towards Muslims we get the response “what about the treatment of gays and women in Muslim countries?” as though any defense of the right of a Muslim to be free from harassment automatically counted as support for the human rights abuses in many Muslim majority countries.

    Whataboutery is a pretty common response to just about any position.

    1. The criticism we usually hear about Islamic folks is not about what they believe. It is usually about what they do to other people, including their own people who might happen to be gay or female, or those who just don’t believe in gods.

      So why do so many woke western people single out Israel for criticism, when so may other places actually inflict on their citizens the sorts of things Israel is always accused of? I don’t think Israel should be any more exempt from criticism than anywhere else, but when the subject of injustice comes up, it always seems like Israel is the example brought up. And the examples of Israeli injustice seem to always be exaggerations, examples where important context is left out, or just complete fabrications.
      On the other hand, places and cultures where women are treated as subhuman,where gays get “stoned”, with real rocks being involved, (or gravity), or where people are routinely rounded up and killed en-masse are common not only in history, but now.
      There are places where one can openly buy chattel slaves, even children to be used for perverse abuses.
      How about the injustice of being born in a slave labor camp, knowing that not only will you never be free, but your children will always be slaves as well. That seems to be on the harsh side of cruel, but some of the folks traveling the southern US toppling statues are quite proud of their strong connections to the DPRK, the Great Leader, the Dear Leader, and the Juche Idea.

      Any of the above situations seem ripe for international condemnation and a bit of on the ground activism. Instead, everyone is all-in on Israel.

  17. Let me get this straight, every time I say Samta doesn’t exist, without mentioning Easterbunny or the Tooth Mouse do not either, I imply the latter two do exist?
    It would be farcically funny if there were not people actually fired.

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