red flag

Fred Guttenberg warns of creeping antisemitism among Democratic activists

Guttenberg says he’s alarmed by dominant anti-Israel activism in the March for Our Lives gun control group he once championed

Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Just Majority

Mondaire Jones and Fred Guttenberg speak at the "Just Majority" Supreme Court Reform Press Conference With Gun Violence Prevention Advocates on April 30, 2023 in White Plains, New York.

Fred Guttenberg, who became a nationally known gun control activist in the wake of his daughter’s death in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, warned in a recent interview with Jewish Insider that he’s concerned rising antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment in activist circles could, if not addressed, overtake the Democratic Party.

“I believe this party as a whole does not stand for hate, does not stand for antisemitism. But there is a minority of this party that does,” Guttenberg said. “And what worries me is we can look back on the Republican Party from years ago, when there was a minority of the party who stood for autocracy, and now it’s the platform of the party. They stood for hate against a lot of people, it’s now the platform of that party.”

“I don’t want that to happen to the Democrats,” he continued, “and right now is the moment in time where we can ensure that it doesn’t.”

Guttenberg has been outspoken since Oct. 7 about his support for Israel and his concerns about rising antisemitism in left-wing spaces since the Hamas terror attack.

Reflecting on conversations with Republicans who oppose former President Donald Trump, Guttenberg said he thinks that Democrats need to have serious, private conversations, and that he’s hopeful that the Democratic Party can find the way forward. 

But he warned that “these outside agitators are going to do everything they can to disrupt, and we need to know who those outside agitators are, so that we can work together for the good of America.”

Guttenberg said he thinks that both antisemitism and outside influence and funding are fueling the anti-Israel and antisemitic activity that’s rising in activist spaces, which he said isn’t new since Oct. 7, but has been happening for years.

“I hope the young people are hearing me loudly and clearly: I know many of you, I’ve worked with many of you,” he said. “I’ve talked with many of you who now say, ‘I used to like you, but’ — I hear that all the time. I still believe in you. I believe in your heart. I believe in your ability to be good. And now is your time to stand against hate, to stand against antisemitism, and to be good and to be decent.”

He warned of dire potential outcomes if they continue on the current path.

“If you can’t do that, the consequences of what you are doing, of painful behavior, may well result in an election outcome in ‘24 that will have a detrimental effect on your futures that you don’t understand,” he continued. “That will ensure your desires to be the future leaders of this country, to run in future elections in this country, will come to an end.”

Guttenberg recently publicly disavowed March for Our Lives, the youth-led gun control advocacy group started by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, over public statements in support of anti-Israel campus demonstrations. The group has also made pro-Palestinian advocacy a priority issue, alongside gun control.

He told JI that March for Our Lives and other progressive advocacy groups have been failing to live up to their values when Jews have been targeted by hate and violence.

“I marched with these kids, I know these kids, and not just in March for Our Lives, but the other progressive groups. And we were always fighting against hate and violence. That’s what we always did,” Guttenberg said. “Until the hateful rhetoric and the incitement of violence turned against Jewish kids and faculty, Jewish Americans.”

He expressed frustration that March for Our Lives and others in the progressive movement are standing up to defend what he described as anti-Israel and antisemitic messaging and goals being pushed by both students and outside agitators on campuses.

“All of a sudden, they started to excuse it, they started to try to explain it away,” he said. 

Guttenberg acknowledged that he also has “not felt a deep connection to March for Our Lives for quite some time” but “always valued what they stood for.” He said he feels they’re not living up to that mission.

“There’s going to be a lot of targeting of kids for the sole fact that they are Jewish. It’s wrong. It’s hate. It’s what March for Our Lives stood against in all its forms,” he said. “It would take strong stands to stand up against hate. And it’s not happening here.”

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