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“I Was Wrong About Anti Semitism”: Sheryl Sandberg on Waking Up

Last Saturday, stunning news broke out of Israel: four hostages had been rescued by the Israel Defense Forces in a daring daylight operation in central Gaza. Noa Argamani, 26; Almog Meir Jan…

Last Saturday, stunning news broke out of Israel: four hostages had been rescued by the Israel Defense Forces in a daring daylight operation in central Gaza. Noa Argamani, 26; Almog Meir Jan, 22; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were liberated after 245 days in captivity.

The first name, Noa Argamani, was one that many people recognized immediately. Everyone remembered the footage of Noa being kidnapped on the back of a motorcycle on October 7 from the Nova Music Festival, a look of terror on her face, reaching for help. Eight months later, it was hard not to see the footage of Noa’s reunion with her father, crying in his arms, as anything short of a miracle.

But it wasn’t a miracle. It was the result of a complex and historic military operation that many are comparing to the raid on Entebbe in 1976. Not that you would have known that from the headlines. One BBC article was headlined: “Noa Argamani released.” A CNN chyron said the same. A UN official posted: “Relieved that four hostages have been released.” It was as if Hamas just handed them back to Israel and that was that. Other headlines focused on the Palestinians killed during the rescue, without mention of who started the gunfire, how many Hamas militants were killed vs. true innocents, who was holding the hostages, and of course, blindly quoting numbers given by the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health.”

Reading many of the headlines over the last few days—or the Twitter posts claiming that the hostage raid was some kind of decoy for the IDF to kill Palestinians—felt like nothing new from the last eight months: more distortions of reality, more spinning of words, more half-truths or outright lies. The day after the news broke, thousands of protesters encircled the White House waving Palestinian flags and calling for the death of Zionists. “Hezbollah, kill another Zionist now.” “Stand with Hamas,” read one poster. Another sign read “LGBTQ—Let’s Go Bomb Tel Aviv Quickly.”

How did this come to be? How is it that progressives are openly siding with Iranian-backed terrorist groups and against the country trying to stop them? And why are so many people shocked by this moral inversion?

Those are some of the questions Sheryl Sandberg has spent the past eight months asking.

As Sheryl watched the horrors of October 7 unfold, she was sure that everyone would rally against these unspeakable atrocities—particularly after the reports of sexual violence and rape committed by Hamas started coming in. When she saw that people did not, in fact, rise against it, and worse—when people began denying that it even happened—she was stunned. Sheryl was particularly stunned that many of her would-be allies—prominent feminists and progressives in this country and around the world—stayed silent.

This led her to make a documentary about the sexual violence of October 7 called Screams Before Silence. Sheryl described the film as the most important work of her life, which is saying something considering her substantial résumé. 

When people think of Sheryl Sandberg, they think of a girlboss, corporate feminism, and coastal politics—wearing a power suit and campaigning for Hillary Clinton. She is, in other words, a normal Democrat. A normal liberal. But as major parts of the left side against Israel, and downplay or ignore or actually foment antisemitism, a lot of people who consider themselves normal liberals are asking themselves: What happened to liberalism? 

The position that Sheryl finds herself in is relatable to many Americans, people who feel betwixt and between in a post–October 7 world where the very people they thought were their friends are proving themselves to be just the opposite. Today, Sheryl talks about this very fraught moment we are living in. She talks about her film, the silence from so many women’s organizations and feminists, the denialism, how antisemitism is thriving in America, her changing Jewish identity, whether she feels politically homeless, and much, much more.

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