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June 24, 2022 2:08 pm
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Boston Politician Walks Back Tweet Alleging ‘Zionist Shake Down’

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Boston City Hall. Photo: Daderot/Wikimedia Commons.

A Boston-area politician apologized for promoting antisemitic tropes on social media after being rebuked by Jewish Twitter users and community organizations.

“Ya’ll are letting the Zionists SHAKE YOU DOWN. phew!” Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara tweeted on Thursday, responding to the 8th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruling Wednesday that laws restricting corporations from boycotting Israel are not unconstitutional.

Lara deleted the post, but wrote in a series of tweets later on Thursday, “I maintain my disappointment with the eight circuit courts ruling and believe that conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism will ultimately prevent us from being in true solidarity with both Jewish people and Palestinians.”

She continued, “It was made clear to me, that the use of the phrase ‘shake them down’ reinforces antisemitic tropes about Jewish people. Although that was not my intention, the impact — especially in a moment when we’re seeing alarming rates of violence against Jewish people — is the same and I should’ve known better.”

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Responding to Lara’s thread, New England office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL New England) tweeted, “Acknowledging the harm caused is an important first step,” linking to a short film on the history of antisemitic conspiracies about Jewish money and power.

ADL New England regional director Robert Trestan told The Boston Globe that Lara’s tweet “sure sounds and looks like an antisemitic trope.”

“When you put ‘shake you down’ for people in the Jewish community, there’s an immediate connection to tropes about money and power,” he said. “‘Shake you down’ is connected to some form of intimidation.”

The Globe noted that antisemitic incidents in Massachusetts have reached record highs, citing an April ADL report showing that they increased by 48% and “outpaced the 34 percent increase in such incidents nationally.” Antisemitic incidents in the entirety of New England, including Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, are up 42%.

Councilor Lara’s remarks emerged days after a chilling “Mapping Project” listing the location of Jewish organizations with a call to “dismantle” them was circulated on social media by supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The incident alarmed Boston’s Jewish community and prompted 37 members of Congress to urge federal investigators to assess its potential use by “violent extremist organizations and terrorists.” They also called for reinforcing security measures for the groups it targeted.

One Twitter user connected Lara’s comments to the map, writing, “Wow, awfully potent 1930s-era Germany odor coming from your comments. Not asking sarcastically, but are you affiliated with the Boston BDS mapping project? Something seems to be going terribly wrong for Jews in Boston, and the calls are coming from inside the house. Really scary.”

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