Response to US Campaign’s accusations against If Americans Knew – Alison Weir
We apologize that we didn’t do this sooner, but we prioritized our many projects to bring justice and peace to Palestine by giving the facts to the American public over the Campaign’s accusations.
We hope that anyone who is as tired of the subject as we are will feel free to skip this statement and continue on with the urgent work before us.
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation expelled If Americans Knew from its coalition. To justify the expulsion, the Campaign issued a detailed dossier accusing me of tolerating racism, white supremacism and anti-Semitism. (In follow-up Facebook posts, some steering committee members even went so far as to accuse me myself of being racist, white supremacist and anti-Semitic.)
(We promised at the time of the Campaign’s actions to respond publicly. After dealing with other more pressing projects, as well as personal concerns, I’m now taking the time to respond in detail for those who in good faith would like to hear our reply. For the record, I provide this defense to combat the effort to discredit me and If Americans Knew; let it be clear that the Campaign went after If Americans Knew and not the other way around.)
The idea of attacking someone who has dedicated herself (for over 14 years) to supporting the rights of one of the world’s most marginalized non-European indigenous populations via smears of racism and white supremacism ought to be ludicrous enough on its face to give many impartial readers pause.
Indeed, many people are, apparently, aware of the absurdity of this effort against me, judging by the many signers of a petition opposing the Campaign action and the many, many supportive commentaries and comments online.
Perhaps some younger activists do not recall the climate in this country when I became active on the Palestine-Israel issue at the beginning of this century. Very few progressives were yet talking about Palestine, and many left-wing organizations were dominated by people who supported Israel and its oppressive policies. The few who did discuss Palestine disdained Palestinians’ right of return and supported a two-state “solution” in which Palestinians would be robbed of 80 percent of their land. I was one of the few who fully supported Palestinian rights.
When I thus allied myself with Palestinians rather than with white liberal Zionists, I was designated “anti-Semitic” by JVP leaders who began whispering this against me. This was a decade and a half ago, when both JVP and I were located in the San Francisco Bay Area. (The claim of general “racism” has only suddenly cropped up this past year.)
The popular media of the time consistently portrayed Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular as cartoon villains (“see Reel Bad Arabs” by Jack Shaheen) and truly racist stereotypes about them were accepted and repeated without question across our country.
Then came the 9/11 attacks and soon an all-out war against Arabs and Muslims, with its attendant propaganda, began. Afghans and Iraqis began being mowed down: men, women, children, the elderly (and more and more young American men and women serving in our armed forces in our disastrous wars abroad).
Our government vastly curtailed civil liberties; freedoms that had persisted in our country for generations were slashed with hardly a backward glance. The foreign-born were rounded up, shut out, deported, even disappeared and tortured. Anti-Arab hatred was a violent and looming reality in this country.
This is the climate in which I spoke out at every opportunity about Palestine, explaining the core injustice at the heart of the worldwide “War on Terror,” and about which so many Americans knew so very little that they actually believed reality to be reversed—believing the attackers to be the attacked, the oppressors the oppressed.
When antiwar activists in the San Francisco area began mobilizing against an attack on Afghanistan but were unwilling to mobilize against the already massive attacks on Palestinians (this was at the height of the second Intifada), I distributed information about Palestine to encourage activists to also oppose this other violent oppression. While most leftist leaders resisted speaking about Palestine, eventually more and more activists joined me and those who’d led the way before me, and those leaders who had been deflecting criticism of Israel in the left for many years began to lose ground. (I wasn’t the first to do this. Jeffrey Blankfort and Barbara Lubin, for example, had valiantly worked in the Bay Area for Palestinian rights for many years before I finally woke up to the facts.)
When I began working on Palestine —and when those brave writers and researchers before me began—it was widely considered anti-Semitic even to explore facts that are now generally accepted, or to espouse positions that are now more widespread. For example, exploring facts about the Israeli lobby and supporting the Palestinian right of return or a one-state solution were written off as anti-Semitic; earlier, even believing 1948 refugees’ tales of massacres was smeared as anti-Semitic. Saying the word “Palestinian” itself was even considered controversial.
The Campaign dossier heavily echoes the Jewish Voice for Peace statement on me (one must be based on the other, unless both draw on a shared original source), to which my detailed response is above. The Campaign dossier does include additional accusations of the same nature, however. Numerous commentators have produced shrewd analyses and rebuttals of these various points, which we’ll reproduce below, along with my personal response.
Fundamentally, the Campaign dossier consists of misrepresenting the facts using filtered, misleading statements, spin, negative innuendo, and outright falsehoods. It relies on attempting to create an impression of ferreting out what I “really” think underneath my unwavering championing and espousing of universally equal rights. Whoever crafted it assumed readers would just take the Campaign leaders’ word for it, allowing them to interpret my actions, without skeptically examining the original sources and the full multitude of my interviews and writings. Happily, this didn’t prove to be the case, as the comments below will show.
I invite everyone who would like to hear me represent myself, rather than the Campaign represent me, to view a recent video of me here and an earlier one here. You can also see videos of my 2003 debate on the UC Berkeley campus.
I am not surprised that I and If Americans Knew have been attacked. As a British journalist recently stated: “Any writer who steps into the debate over this long and bitter struggle is almost certain to be subjected to an onslaught from detractors,” and will often be accused of being “anti-Semitic.” Since many people judge our organization’s website, media studies, materials, and approach to be particularly effective, this onslaught has been even more pronounced than usual.
Many attacks come from the Anti-Defamation League, which acts as an advocacy organization for Israel. If Americans Knew and I myself have been listed alongside several leading pro-justice organizations on their top ten “anti-Israel” organizations and individuals. (We interpret that as pro-justice, anti-censorship organizations and individuals, because we support compassionate justice and peace for Palestinians, Israelis, and all human beings.)
Like the ADL, some Palestine solidarity groups and individuals who wished to obscure the significance of the Israel lobby and who were not committed to full justice for Palestinians, began whispering campaigns against me and If Americans Knew. I touched on this during a talk in Iowa in 2012 in which I answered a question about efforts to prevent my talks – see the video here (starting at about 1:06:50).
Campaign leaders’ accusations against me boil down to five basic points (more detailed responses follow):
1. The campaign objected to a statement by a Jewish writer of long ago that was quoted in an article by a highly principled Jewish activist, published on his own website, which I reposted without endorsement on my own personal (and low-traffic) blog, as part of a partial roundup of opinions on a controversy of the day. The statement quoted was not the focus of the article.
2.The Campaign objected to some thoroughly cited information I included in a brief segment of an article published by the progressive news website CounterPunch—information that had been widely reported in the Israeli media, though largely omitted by US media.
3. I accept interview requests from a wide range of interviewers to take every opportunity to provide factual information on Palestine to all sectors of American society, without exception, in order to counter misinformation on Palestine, Muslims, Arabs, and Zionism disseminated by American media. The Campaign objects to this practice by me, but not by others who do the same thing, including its own leaders.
4. The Campaign accuses me of failing to respond adequately to some long, rambling statements by one obscure interviewer out of my hundreds of interviews. Other listeners of the archives of that show have disagreed with the Campaign’s negative assessment of my responses, and several have supplied their own very different analyses.
5. The Campaign attacks me for giving interviews to (or even being reposted by) websites or radio programs that Campaign management has decided are taboo. In reality, the sites and programs they point to have included interviews and commentaries by a wide variety of others, including:
- Campaign President Phyllis Bennis
- Campaign co-founder Josh Ruebner
- Peace activist Ray McGovern
- Writer Stephen Lendman
- Israeli academic Dr. Avner Cohen
- Code Pink directors Medea Benjamin and Rae Abileah
- CAIR director Zahra Billoo
- Cindy and Craig Corrie
- Peace activist Brian Terrell
- CAIR director Zahra Billoo
- Independent Jewish Voices Canada member Marty Roth
- Author Jennifer Dixon
- Gaza reporter Harry Fear
- Israeli co-founder of of the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions Meir Margalit
- Civil Rights Coordinator for Northern California for the Council on American Islamic Relations Rachel Roberts
- President of Muslim Public Affairs Council Salam Al-Marayati
- leader of the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign Ed Mast
- Project Censored director Mickey Huff
- Author and Founding Director of the American Jewish Congress Feminist Center Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell
- UK Guardian columnist Suzanne McGee, and numerous others.
Below we address the Campaign’s various claims. The Campaign dossier is quoted in full in italics, with our response to each point below it.
Part 1: Process and Decision with Respect to Complaint against Alison Weir and If Americans Knew
The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a coalition of hundreds of US-based groups working for Palestinian rights. In 2012, the Steering Committee of the US Campaign, elected at our annual conference, formed a working group to address racism within the coalition as part of our ongoing effort to become an anti-racist organization. The work of this group resulted in the adoption of our anti-racism principles in 2013 and the establishment of procedures for handling instances of racism and bigotry within the coalition.
Many groups and individuals objected to the fact that this policy was put in place without approval by the membership, and that it did not include Zionism among the racisms to be addressed – even though many assumed that was the specific focus of the organization. Although a number of people voiced these objections, Campaign management ignored them.
While the Campaign claims to represent 400 groups, it’s hard to know how many are actually involved. Those in “good standing” actually usually number a little over 40. The largest number we’ve seen is around 60; it’s hard to confirm the real numbers since the process is opaque.
In addition, we’ve noticed that “anti-racism” is often a banner that pro-Israel groups use, particularly focusing on alleged anti-Semitism (which too often is conflated with criticism of the state of Israel), while ignoring Zionism.
Earlier this year, the US Campaign received a formal complaint from a member group regarding actions and statements by Alison Weir while representing a coalition member group, If Americans Knew. A committee was formed to review this complaint, to allow Ms. Weir to respond to the complaint for herself, and to determine whether our anti-racism principles have been violated; importantly, the committee also assessed whether these violations are likely to continue in the future.
The organization that filed the complaint has been kept secret. This, of course, violates fundamental principles of justice in which the accused has the right to confront the accuser. In addition, no one else outside the handpicked committee was allowed to provide information or to participate in the interrogation or final determination. This was much like Israel’s kangaroo courts.
A multitude of people opposed the Campaign’s actions. A group organized An open letter to the U.S. Campaign and other Activists for Justice in Palestine that quickly gained over 1,200 signatures (and now has closer to 2,000). Numerous diverse, highly respected individuals in Palestine, the U.S., and elsewhere signed it. (More on this below.)
After a thorough review and a correspondence with Ms. Weir, the committee has concluded that Ms. Weir’s repeated statements and actions, often as the Executive Director of If Americans Knew, did indeed violate our anti-racism principles, as detailed later in this statement. Ms. Weir’s responses led us to believe that these violations will continue in the future. Based on the report of the review committee, our Steering Committee voted in favor of removing Ms. Weir and If Americans Knew from our coalition.
To come up with their preordained “guilty” verdict, Campaign directors followed Israel partisans’ modus operandi: misrepresentation, double standards, taking statements out of context, omitting important information, and alleged guilt through false association, as will be shown below.
Since the official Campaign statement was published, some Campaign directors and staff have made even more malicious, defamatory and outright false statements against me. See, for example, this.
Because of the escalating and particularly vicious nature of these statements, I finally feel it justified to reveal some early history of the Campaign and its founders. We have long been reluctant to name names, as our earlier statements indicate; we hoped that we would all move on to what we felt was our real work – ending US support for Israeli oppression – in our case through giving Americans the full facts on this issue. However, we now fear that Campaign leaders prioritize their work quite differently than we do, given that they seem to be expending a great deal of effort on controlling the discourse—time and resources that we believe ought to be dedicated to saving lives.
For all its good work, there have been some problems with the Campaign since its beginnings.
Founders Phyllis Bennis (its current president) and Israeli citizen Josh Ruebner have produced excellent work and valuable books. They also, however, have a history of limiting the parameters of Israel-Palestine debate.
They were slow to endorse the Palestinian right of return (which they still largely ignore), slow to call Israeli actions apartheid, and slow to call for ending aid to Israel. Bennis refused to acknowledge that Israeli actions were genocidal.
It is telling that they named their organization “US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation,” although even when it was founded most dedicated activists acknowledged that the discriminatory nature of Israel itself and the ethnic cleansing of all of historic Palestine were the core problems—not just the occupation that began in 1967.
Similarly, Bennis has long attempted to deny the significance of the Israel lobby and to minimize its power, as documented by longtime Palestine activist Jeffrey Blankfort.
When they created the Campaign, Josh Ruebner rebuffed efforts by a major Palestinian Muslim organization working on Palestine to join it. After 9-11, when Palestine activists were working desperately to end the ban on Palestine within leftist and antiwar activism, Bennis (representing the Campaign) undermined these efforts by privately telling some activists to omit mention of Palestine from antiwar actions.
If Americans Knew and I took different stands and discussed principles (the right of return and minority rights in Israel-Palestine) that the Campaign was ignoring, making us unpopular with Campaign leaders. At one point early on, the Campaign sent out a call for proposals, and If Americans Knew submitted one. This deadline was suddenly unilaterally extended so that others could file different ones; the IAK proposal was never discussed. There were other such incidents. This was long before any of the points included in the Campaign dossier even occurred.
Yet, If Americans Knew became and remained a member of the Campaign in order to support the good, if limited, work it did, and because many good people have been involved. We have been glad to work with these individuals through the years.
As mentioned above, the Campaign’s accusations largely repeat accusations made shortly before by Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization whose membership explicitly includes Zionists and which refuses to call Zionism racism, despite its blatantly discriminatory nature and practice.
Like the Campaign, JVP accusations against me reference specific actions (or inactions) of mine, as though these are the reasons it has opposed my talks.
However, this has turned out be a falsehood. We were told by a friend in JVP that during a recent JVP conference call, a JVP boardmember admitted that their opposition to me and If Americans Knew was not a new policy. He explained that from its early days as a local organization in Berkeley, California, JVP had a policy not to work with me.
That was many years before my interview on the obscure Internet radio program and the other “offenses” that JVP – and the Campaign — claimed for their opposition. It was the time, however, when I openly supported full Palestinian rights and opposed the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, not just the injustices of the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as exploring the actions of the Israel lobby in the US.
The boardmember additionally explained why JVP issued its directive against me: Several JVP chapters apparently wanted to bring me for book signings, so the leadership issued its decree not to work with me.
Why did JVP and the Campaign escalate their efforts against us at this particular time?
Why did they suddenly draw on obscure and frankly insignificant interviews and posts from years ago in order to ramp up attacks on us and essentially try to expel us from the pro-Palestine movement?
Numerous people have argued that the real, if unstated, target is my book, Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the US Was Used to Create Israel. Indeed, a friend has recently shared privately that some activists who dislike the book are now combing it and its multitudinous footnotes for any errors or anything at all they can use to try to discredit it.
A CounterPunch article recently stated:
The timing of the excommunication is not random. I suspect that it is publication and Alison’s promotion of her book, Against Our Better Judgment, that has released long-stockpiled ammo against her, however flimsy – especially her revelations of arguably treasonous conduct by our first two, widely revered Jewish Supreme Court justices, both pledged to Zionism above loyalty to country as members of a secret Zionist organization, the Parushim…
Despite not being published by a major book publisher and not being reviewed in the mainstream media (it has recently come out that even Mondoweiss refused to publish a review by a contributor), the book has taken off. We have so far sold over 19,000 copies and it has over 300 Customer Reviews on Amazon, the large majority of them giving it five stars. I believe this is because impartial readers are open and ready for accurate information and discussion of the history of the colonial Israeli project and of America’s role in it.
Before the Campaign suddenly began its inquisition against us, we had already sent in our money to the Campaign to have a table at the upcoming convention in Atlanta, where we were going to offer the book at a special discount to attendees. Now, we can no longer even post messages to Campaign listserves. There are messages on these email lists concerning us, but we can neither see them nor respond to them.
Ms. Weir and If Americans Knew have been notified of this determination which is effective immediately. Per our established procedures, Ms. Weir and If Americans Knew are entitled to reapply to join the coalition, at which time the US Campaign Steering Committee will assess whether concerns detailed herein have been addressed.
Numerous members of the US Campaign objected vehemently to the Campaign’s inquisition, many in considerable detail, before it expelled us. As mentioned above, some created an Open Letter objecting to the Campaign’s original interrogation, rapidly signed by over 1,200 people (and now nearly 2,000), including a diverse array of extraordinarily distinguished, courageous and principled individuals on the front lines of the struggle in Palestine itself, in the US, and elsewhere.
When the Campaign expelled If Americans Knew, the petition organizers sent out a follow-up statement that included the following:
If you are reading this, it means you joined former UN special rapporteur on Occupied Palestine Richard Falk; Holocaust survivor and peace activist Hedy Epstein; founding member of the Board of Trustees of Birzeit University Samia Khoury; Palestine-based director George Rishimawi; peace activists Cindy Sheehan and Arun Gandhi; former senator and founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee James Abourezk; former US government officials-turned-peace-activists Ray McGovern, Edward Peck, Philip Giraldi, and Ann Wright; and over 1200 others in defending Alison Weir and If Americans Knew from the vitriolic attacks on that organization by the national leadership of US Campaign and Jewish Voice for Peace.
But like them, you were ignored.
Earlier today, the US Campaign released a statement officially expelling If Americans Knew and Alison Weir from their non-profit coalition.
In doing so, they ignored over one thousand dedicated activists and human rights defenders like you, including many members of their coalition, who signed our Open Letter within 48 hours.
They ignored at least 15 activist leaders who risked their lives to break the siege of Gaza by boat.
They ignored at least 83 members of Jewish Voice for Peace from around the country, the organization whose national leadership originally released a statement attacking Alison Weir without the approval or consensus of their membership
They ignored several hundred members of several dozen US Campaign member organizations.
The statement by the US Campaign repeated some of the same accusations that have been addressed meticulously before, with little new material. The only new item is yet another guilt-by-association argument, targeting Alison Weir for re-posting a lengthy piece — without endorsing it — by Roger Tucker on her blog. While the piece is undeniably controversial, it hardly suggests that Alison Weir seeks to “blame Jewish people for any bigotry they might face” as the US Campaign suggests.
It is worth noting that the same accusation was recently leveled against Norman Finkelstein and Yale University chaplain Bruce Shipman, for suggesting that Israeli actions could have prompted a spike in anti-Semitism, and even against renowned German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, for discussing what she called “Jewish responsibility” for the rise in anti-Semitism during the interwar period.
Even after the Campaign leaders expelled us, people have continued to sign this petition, and among the signatories, in addition to those named above (and alongside thousands of other committed individuals), are:
- Iyad Burnat, Palestinian grassroots activist, Bil’in Popular Committee
- Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, Co-Founder Al-Awda-Palestine Right to Return Coalition.
- Arun Gandhi, Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute
- Khalil Nakhleh, author of “Globalized Palestine: The National Sell-Out of a Homeland”
- George N. Rishmawi, Director, The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People, Beit Sahour, Palestine
- Rita Giacaman, Professor, Research & Program Coordinator and founder, Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University; active in 1980s Palestinian social action movement.
- Edward Peck, Americans for Middle East Understanding, Former US Ambassador to Iraq & Mauritania, Participant in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla
- Abbas Hamideh, National Board Vice Chair, Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition, son of one of the few survivors of the massacre at Deir Yassin Palestine on April 9th 1948
- Bassem Tamimi, Palestinian Popular Resistance Movement, Nabi Saleh
- Cindy Sheehan, anti-war activist and former presidential candidate, Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox
- Mary Ratcliff, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper – Editor
- Joe Meadors, USS Liberty Survivor, Past President, USS Liberty Veterans Association, Participant in three Gaza Freedom Flotillas, Free Palestine Movement*.
- The Rev. David W. Good, Minister Emeritus for The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, President: Tree of Life Educational Fund
- John Erickson, NorCal Friends of Sabeel* — Co-Chair
- Sunaina Maira, Professor of Asian American Studies at UC Davis, USACBI
- The Reverend Canon Richard K. Toll, former Director, Friends of Sabeel* , Retired Episcopal Priest
- Samir Abed-Rabbo, Professor Emeritus of International Law, Director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies
- Lawrence Davidson, Professor Emeritus, West Chester University
- James Petras, Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
- Joel Kovel, author of “Overcoming Zionism,” “White Racism,” “Red Hunting inn the Promised Land,” and other books; editor; former psychiatrist; Bard College professor emeritus
- David Rovics, Folk Musician, American Federation of Musicians Local 1000
- Abdallah Omeish, award-winning documentary filmmaker of “Occupation 101” and “The War Around Us”
- Andrew Killgore, former Ambassador, publisher, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, providing facts on Palestine for over 30 years.
- Janet McMahon, Managing Editor, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, author, “Seeing the Light: Personal Encounters With the Middle East and Islam”
- Kathleen Christison Author, “Perceptions of Palestine” and “The Wound of Dispossession”; Co-author “Palestine in Pieces”
- Jerry Levin, former CNN network journalist. Christian Peacemaker Teams. Writes on nonviolence. Recognized by the Dalai Lama as one of 2009’s “Unsung Heroes of Compassion.”
Our decision was informed by the following actions taken that we believe violate our anti-racism principles. In the attachments to this decision, we include full footnotes and evidence undergirding each point:
1. Ms. Weir posted a blog on her personal website that references Jews as a race being “an object of hatred to all the peoples among whom it has established itself,” effectively blaming Jews for anti-Semitism. (See Section 1 of Part 3)
This makes it sound like I wrote that. In fact, the Campaign is referring to a statement by a Jewish writer of long ago that was quoted in an article by a highly principled Jewish activist, published on his own website, which I reposted without endorsement on my own personal (and low-traffic blog) as part of a very partial roundup of analyses by a wide variety of commentators on a controversy going on among activists at the time. The statement quoted was not the focus of the article.
My personal blog announces that it includes a somewhat random assortment of posts and refers readers to the If Americans Knew website for the important articles. It further explicitly states that posting an article on my blog does not constitute an endorsement.
My low-traffic blog shares information and articles that are of interest to a small constituency of thinkers and activists who may be interested in considering various information that’s not relevant to the general public, including as-yet unverified or controversial articles that I haven’t taken a position on but find potentially interesting for debate. Articles that I feel are important to disseminate widely are posted on the much higher-traffic If Americans Knew website and Facebook page, not on my personal blog—and indeed, we often create and distribute printed booklets and flyers of those.
Specifically, my blog announces:
I believe in the free marketplace of ideas and sometimes post articles by other individuals and organizations when I feel they contain information or analyses that could be interesting for people to read and ponder. Such posting does not necessarily denote agreement with the article and does not necessarily denote agreement or endorsement of the author and other articles he or she may have written in the past or may write in the future.
…For my main articles and the most important information, please go to the If Americans Knew website. Also, we post a great deal of information on our Facebook page. In addition to those, however, now and then I like to tell people about behind-the-scenes happenings, random information that I’ve stumbled across but not written an article about, etc. and so place these on this blog.
…I am part of a wonderfully diverse movement of people of all ages, ethnicities, races, faiths, and political backgrounds.
We are secular and religious; Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and many other; of all ages, economic classes, and political backgrounds; we are united by a commitment to justice and truth, opposition to bigotry, and determination to end the violence and oppression against Palestinians and others that generates war and profound tragedy throughout the Middle East and far beyond.
The posting in question was on March 27, 2012. At the time, Israeli expatriate Gilad Atzmon was being attacked—and subsequently supported—by various people for his book, The Wandering Who. I viewed this controversy as a distraction from our work and as outside If Americans Knew’s arena, as it centered on discussions of Jewish identity that I considered side issues to our work and outside my personal expertise.
If Americans Knew continued to focus on our efforts to inform Americans about Israel-Palestine without getting embroiled in the controversy, but I re-posted a number of articles delving into it on my personal blog. The one mentioned by the Campaign was by a principled Jewish activist named Roger Tucker, published on his website, which is dedicated to supporting a one-state solution.
Tucker’s article was also posted on DeLiberation, which I linked to in my re-posting. DeLiberation identifies itself the following way:
We oppose Zionism and other forms of supremacism where ever they may occur. deLiberation are thinkers, writers, artists, musicians and activists, each committed to freedom of thought and to telling the stories that the mainstream media is there to conceal.
Tucker’s article concluded:
…I realized that we needed to operate under a big tent. After all, we are a small, relatively powerless group of people, up against the most powerful and ruthless fascist endeavor in history. At the very least, we need to accommodate one another even if some people have some views that rub us the wrong way…
Perhaps, in retrospect, I could have cut out the offending quote from the article and just posted excerpts from it rather than its entirety, but I felt that the article contributed an interesting viewpoint to the debate.
In my personal commentary on the controversy, which encapsulated my approach in re-posting other writers’ analyses of it, I wrote:
While people are suffering in Israeli prisons and being killed in Gaza, it is sad to see time and energy expended in a campaign against Israeli author and saxophonist Gilad Atzmon. I respect and like people on both sides of this controversy and am troubled over this distracting and destructive (but, I hope, temporary) split.
I, of course, come down on the side of open discussion, even when the subject matter is difficult or troubling – in fact, that’s probably when it’s most needed. I believe in such old fashioned but critical concepts as the free marketplace of ideas, and I oppose censorship and would-be “thought police” telling others what they may or may not do, even when those attempting to do this have created valuable work that I admire.
(From my blog 3/15/2012)
I find it heartbreakingly ironic that anyone truly concerned about racism and real anti-Jewish hatred wastes time attacking me, when my life history confirms my own personal commitment that I would be among those to stand up if ever our society began to round up Jews (unthinkable as that may be), just as I have publicly stood up for Palestinians and Muslims despite the risks that I knew this involved. Unlike some who are understandably cautious, I use my real name, and I do not post anonymously.
2. In writing about a controversy surrounding allegations of the Israeli military harvesting the organs of Palestinians in 2009, Ms. Weir responded to supporters of Israel claiming this was a new “blood libel” by citing the research of Ariel Toaff, who purported to have uncovered ritual murder of Christian children by Jews in medieval Europe (the very definition of “blood libel”). (See Section 2 of part 3)
RESPONSE: In one of two long, detailed articles published by CounterPunch and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs about Israeli organ trafficking – Israeli Organ Harvesting: The New “Blood Libel”? and Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine – I included a short section on an episode that had been headline news in the Israeli media. This was therefore widely known by Israelis and by those who read the Israeli and Jewish media; I felt others had the right to know it also. Clearly, the Campaign and JVP do not agree, apparently feeling that some information should be restricted.
Contributor Henry Norr posted a comment on Mondoweiss that thoroughly addresses this accusation (my own further response is below):
First of all, the article in question was not something Alison came up with out of the blue, to make Jews look like ogres – it was a real-time report on a huge controversy that was swirling through the Israeli media the very week she posted the article.
Second, it wasn’t Alison who introduced the “blood libel” concept into the discussion about organ trafficking – that came from a whole slew of Israeli pols and pundits. Alison’s article includes a direct quote from the Israeli foreign minister using the phrase.
As many others here have already noted, in the article Alison explicitly explained that the “blood libel” refers to “widely refuted stories that Jews killed people to use their blood in religious rituals.” Should she have gone into a discussion of the meanings of “refuted”…?
If you read what Alison actually wrote, she introduced Toaff’s book into the piece not to say the proven Israeli involvement in organ trafficking was just another instance of a pattern going back a thousand years, but to compare the all-out Israeli assault on Swedish reporter Donald Bostrom that was going on as she wrote to the similar attacks on Toaff that had swept through the Israeli media just two years previous, in 2007: in both cases, investigators had brought up some facts that were uncomfortable for Israeli Jews, and instead of trying to disprove those facts, the Israeli mainstream responded with a hysterical campaign to crucify the authors in question.
Do you know … that Toaff was not some kook from the anti-Semitic fringes, but a professor of medieval and renaissance history at Bar Ilan University in Israel,, widely considered one of the leading academic authorities on medieval Jewry? And that he was (and is) also a rabbi and the son of a hugely popular former chief rabbi of Rome? Yes, the vicious assault mounted against him in the Israeli media and political when he published the book on the blood libel succeeded in breaking him, and he finally “retracted” the book. All of that is all the more reason it was appropriate for Alison to cite his treatment in reporting what the Israelis were doing that very week to Bostrom.
… Another couple of comments on the organ trafficking: at the time Alison wrote her article, there was no solid definitive evidence that organs were being taken from Palestinians as well as Jewish Israelis. That’s why Bostrom’s article contained – as Alison noted in the very first sentence of her article – only “testimony and circumstantial evidence” about that phenomenon. But a few months later in 2009 an Israeli TV network ran a documentary including an interview with chief Israeli pathologist Dr. Yehuda Hiss in which he explicitly acknowledged that some of the organs he’d been trafficking came from Palestinians.
We urge people to read both of my articles on organ trafficking, which are thoroughly cited and contain a great deal of significant information. The section that Israel partisans and the Campaign particularly dislike was essentially an aside at the end of the first long article. It consists of the following:
In scanning through the reaction to Bostrom’s report, one is struck by the multitude of charges that his article is a new version of the old anti-Semitic “blood libel.” Given that fact, it is interesting to examine a 2007 book by Israel’s preeminent expert on medieval Jewish history, and what happened to him.
The author is Bar-Ilan professor (and rabbi) Ariel Toaff, son of the former chief rabbi of Rome, a religious leader so famous that an Israeli journalist writes that Toaff’s father “is to Italian Jewry as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.” Ariel Toaff, himself, is considered “one of the greatest scholars in his field.”23 24
In February 2007 the Israeli and Italian media were abuzz (though most of the U.S. media somehow missed it) with news that Professor Toaff had written a book entitled “Pasque di Sangue” (“Blood Passovers”)25 containing evidence that there “was a factual basis for some of the medieval blood libels against the Jews.”
Based on 35 years of research, Toaff had concluded that there were at least a few, possibly many, real incidents.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper (the book was published in Italy), Toaff says:
“ ‘My research shows that in the Middle Ages, a group of fundamentalist Jews did not respect the biblical prohibition and used blood for healing. It is just one group of Jews, who belonged to the communities that suffered the severest persecution during the Crusades. From this trauma came a passion for revenge that in some cases led to responses, among them ritual murder of Christian children.’26 27
Professor Toaff was immediately attacked from all sides, including pressure orchestrated by Anti-Defamation League chairman Abe Foxman, but Toaff stood by his 35 years of research, announcing:
“‘I will not give up my devotion to the truth and academic freedom even if the world crucifies me… One shouldn’t be afraid to tell the truth.’”
Before long, however, under relentless public and private pressure, Toaff had recanted, withdrawn his book, and promised to give all profits that had already accrued (the book had been flying off Italian bookshelves) to Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League. A year later he published a “revised version.”28
Donald Bostrom’s experience seems to be a repeat of what Professor Toaff endured: calumny, vituperation, and defamation. Bostrom has received death threats as well, perhaps an experience that Professor Toaff also shared.
If Israel is innocent of organ plundering accusations, or if its culpability is considerably less than Bostrom and others suggest, it should welcome honest investigations that would clear it of wrongdoing. Instead, the government and its advocates are working to suppress all debate and crush those whose questions and conclusions they find threatening.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than responding to calls for an investigation, is demanding that the Swedish government abandon its commitment to a free press and condemn the article. The Israeli press office, apparently in retaliation and to prevent additional investigation, is refusing to give press credentials to reporters from the offending newspaper.
Just as in the case of the rampage against Jenin, the attack on the USS liberty, the massacre of Gaza, the crushing of Rachel Corrie, the torture of American citizens, and a multitude of other examples, Israel is using its considerable, worldwide resources to interfere with the investigative process.
It is difficult to conclude that it has nothing to hide.
Both articles were extensively footnoted. Below are some of the sources that were cited for the above information on Toaff. Please note that they all come from mainstream Israeli media:
Ha’aretz. The Wayward Son, by Adi Schwartz, March 1, 2007
Ha’aaretz, Bar-Ilan to order professor to explain research behind blood libel book By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Feb 11, 2007
Haaretz, Bar Ilan to order professor to explain research behind blood libel book, by Ofri Hani, Feb. 11, 2007.
On my personal blog, I posted a lengthy follow-up to my article, in which I included the following statement;
Finally, it is interesting that some writers with friendly and family ties to Israel, who are slowly overcoming their denial on Israeli war crimes, still quite often leap to Israel’s defense against evidence of Israeli wrongdoing.
Some of these bloggers attempt to cover up Israeli actions by alleging that facts in some of my articles are incorrect — for example, like other Israel partisans, some claim that Israeli Professor Ariel Toaff, a preeminent Israeli historian who wrote a book initially suggesting that there had apparently been cases of ritual killings of Christians during the Middle Ages (after massive pressure he later recanted) is actually — they allege — not an expert.
However, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz and other Israeli sourcees refer to Dr. Toaff as “an international expert on Italian Jewry,” “an expert on the history of medieval Italian Jewry“, “who is considered an international expert on Italian Jewry“, “one of the greatest scholars in his field‘”, “the university also reiterated that Toaff was among the senior lecturers in his field in Israel and internationally“; reviews of earlier books noted his “scholarly rigour” and stated, “Toaff is the acknowledge master of the social history of Umbrian Jewry“
It is interesting to note that Professor Toaff, who is also a rabbi, initially said: “I will not give up my devotion to the truth and academic freedom even if the world crucifies me.” Following multiple and diverse threats, he recanted.
Ha’aretz reports some of Toaff’s statements:
“I tried to show that the Jewish world at that time was also violent, among other things because it had been hurt by Christian violence,” the Bar-Ilan history professor said. Of course I do not claim that Judaism condones murder. But within Ashkenazi Judaism there were extremist groups that could have committed such an act and justified it,” he said…
Although the use of blood is prohibited by Jewish law, Toaff says he found proof of rabbinic permission to use blood, even human blood. “The rabbis permitted it both because the blood was already dried,” and because in Ashkenazi communities it was an accepted custom that took on the force of law, Toaff said. There is no proof of acts of murder, Toaff said, but there were curses and hatred of Christians, and prayers inciting to cruel vengeance against Christians. “There was always the possibility that some crazy person would do something.”“Over many dozens of pages I proved the centrality of blood on Passover,” Toaff said. “Based on many sermons, I concluded that blood was used, especially by Ashkenazi Jews, and that there was a belief in the special curative powers of children’s blood. It turns out that among the remedies of Ashkenazi Jews were powders made of blood.”
As I wrote earlier, people who wish to take the time to delve into this further and to determine whether or not Toaff’s evidence supported his initial conclusions can read an unauthorized translation of his book here. (This book, despite an enthusiastic review by Italian Jewish historian Sergio Luzzatto, was withdrawn by Toaff following pressure from the Israeli Knesset, the ADL, death threats, etc.)
Unfortunately, his new, revised book has not yet been translated into English. In the meantime, parts of it are available. For example, Toaff’s detailed description of the attacks on him and his defense of his work is available here. It is well worth scanning.
Ha’aretz reported that, at least before his book came out, “Faculty members described Toaff as a unique lecturer who is well-liked by students.”
(By the way, it’s probably worthwhile to point out that despite the immense focus from some quarters on Toaff, information on his book and the massive attacks on him were actually a minor part of my CounterPunch article; he is not even mentioned in my recent ones. People who wish to look into this further might wish to view this analysis of Toaff’s research.)
In another follow-up on my blog I wrote:
Do I agree with the need for an investigation [about allegations of Israeli organ trafficking (now largely corroborated)]?
Absolutely. Below are some reasons:
When a multitude of people describe similar incidents, all pointing to the same serious human rights abuse, it is important to listen to them and investigate their concerns – particularly when there are additional, outside clues that seem to support their statements.
The world has a history of ignoring Palestinian (and others’) charges – only to find later that they were true.
- In the early part of the 20th century some Palestinians were concerned that Zionists were moving to Palestine with the intention of taking it over for a Jewish state. To some people at the time, both inside and outside Palestine, this seemed far-fetched, perhaps even anti-Jewish. It turned out to be true.
- After Israel’s founding war Palestinian refugees said that they had not left voluntarily but had been violently expelled from their land. This was viewed as extremism and anti-Semitism. Again, it was true.
- Palestinians described horrific massacres during this war, relating grisly tales of brutality; again they were largely dismissed. Later, former Israeli soldiers corroborated their claims.
- For decades Palestinians have described grotesque abuses against them while in prison. Again, these were portrayed as lies and exaggerations, until finally they were documented by outsiders.
- For many years American veterans of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty claimed that this had been an intentional attack. They were called anti-Semitic and disdained. Thirty years later, the senior prosecuting attorney of the one official investigation into the attack stated in a legal document that he and others had been ordered by the White House to cover up the fact that all of the evidence indicated that it had been a deliberate attack.
It is time to listen – and investigate.
As we all know, accusations do not prove guilt, and not all Palestinians are making these particular ones. However, when there are a great many such charges, and when they are accompanied by circumstantial evidence, they should be explored.
The innocent can then be absolved; the guilty discovered. An investigation leads to both.
On a side note, there is no doubt that journalist Bostrom and his editors were aware that they would be viciously attacked and threatened if they published his information and gave voice to the questions it contains. I feel that they should be supported for fulfilling their journalistic responsibility to print the news. When numerous people are making serious charges, these are normally reported. It was appropriate to bring them to the public’s attention.
Incidentally, it appears that the Palestinian Association in Sweden, which represents more than 30,000 Swedish Palestinians, agrees. Reportedly the group has sent a letter to the Aftonbladet newspaper, expressing their appreciation.
I also wrote:
Some comments on my own article…
My short section near the end of my article on Ariel Toaff’s suppressed book on blood libel was a very small part of the fairly long article, but, as expected, it has drawn considerable wrath from some quarters. Others have raised the question of whether it was relevant to include in the article, a reasonable question and one I pondered ahead of time, knowing the anger it would engender among those who wish such things to remain hidden. (Much more information on Toaff is here. A video of Toaff is below.)
Obviously, I decided in the affirmative. Given that virtually all Bostrom’s critics were using the epithet ‘blood libel’ in their attempts to block any real consideration of the article’s content, I felt that the successful silencing of an Israeli scholar who had raised significant questions about this very subject was quite relevant and useful for people to know about — especially since the Toaff controversy had been covered so extensively in the Israeli press at the time. I don’t like the idea that some people are permitted to know something, but that others are not supposed to learn about it.
If people read Toaff’s book for themselves, and I provided the link so that they could, they can see the content for themselves and determine whether they feel that his evidence supports the conclusions he had drawn or not. If they do feel that some small groups did do what he believes they did, this conclusion in many ways simply indicates that the Jewish population is basically similar to anyone else, since history shows that there have been sects in numerous religious groups, that have committed “religious” violence.
The problem is that some people believe that the Jewish population is better than all the rest of humanity; others allege it’s worse. My view is that individuals within this population run the whole gamut, just as in other populations.
The continual portrayal of an entire population that has never done anything wrong (as Alfred Lilienthal once discussed), and that is eternally the victim of allegedly bigoted, always baseless accusations is part of what buttresses the Israeli myth, replete with its astonishing claim of ‘purity of arms.’ (The fact that so many people can believe that the soldiers of one army — unlike all others — have never committed a single abuse is an example of the pervasiveness of this myth of extreme exceptionalism.)
I feel that the continual attempt to censor all negative facts and allegations – to suppress books and block investigations — is a dangerous, two-edged sword. Many people believe the myth, at least for awhile, which enables continued and expanded misconduct. Others, however, do not, and they, recognizing the suppression, sometimes then imagine a reality that is considerably worse than the actual facts — and such suspicions smolder and grow.
I believe it’s always better for the truth to come out.
My second article on organ trafficking, commissioned by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, contained extensive documentation of Israeli involvement. By the way, before I wrote these articles, some Palestine solidarity leaders (unlike most Palestinians in Palestine) had scoffed at the suggestion that Israelis had taken Palestinian organs, which has since been proven true. Israeli organ trafficking periodically continues to appear in the news today.
3. Ms. Weir has appeared at least five times for hour-long episodes on notorious white supremacist and militiaman Clayton Douglas’s radio show, the “Free American Hour,” between 2010 and 2012. A cursory glance at Douglas’s homepage would raise concerns about the host and program’s political content. Douglas’s homepage features the confederate flag, a video that opens with the title “9/11 Brainwashing and the Holohoax,” and numerous references to the “Jew World Order” and its “war on Adolph Hitler,” as well as claims of “ritual murder of Christians and Children by Jews.”
Douglas is hardly “notorious.” Until JVP and the Campaign decided to go after If Americans Knew, almost no one had heard of him and he quite likely had a tiny listenership. Even now, after all the attention brought to him by JVP and the Campaign, his videos seem to have a very small viewership.
The Campaign ignores the fact that many people have gone on Douglas’s show, including peace and justice activists Charles Carlson, Ken O’Keefe, and Stephen Lendman, a radio host for the Progressive News Hour whose articles have been promoted on the news page of the Campaign website itself.
The Campaign cites things that were apparently on one of Douglas’s several websites at the time it issued its dossier (2015). Yet that is irrelevant, given that the interviews the dossier takes issue with are from years ago. In looking at Douglas’s 2010 homepage using the Way Back Machine, I see that not a single one of the items highlighted by the Campaign were there then, though the crowded web page did included hundreds of items that frankly made my eyes swim; I didn’t attempt to read them all, though they appeared to vary wildly.
As explained elsewhere, I don’t delve into the websites or biographies of the stations, publications, programs and individuals who interview me. Rather, I give interviews to attempt to share important information with the public. I research people who I interview, not those who interview me – that’s the normal way of things.
I have appeared on a multitude of diverse shows over the past 14 years, many of them on small, obscure Internet radio stations, such as this (interview starts at about the 1:00:00 mark) and this and this and this, and numerous others.
The large majority of my interviews have been on progressive stations, such as KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, and KBOO in Portland. I have also been on some television newscasts, such as RT (also here and a few other times) and Al Jazeera, and even on some local mainstream TV news programs, NPR outlets, and at least twice on C-Span. Often I have been on Public Access shows such as this one and radio stations around the country. It’s astounding to think that someone has apparently been monitoring these probably hundreds of appearances to try to find something negative about me. This is the type of thing Israel partisans and intelligence agencies tend to do.
The Campaign goes on to cite a number of my and Douglas’s statements during the interviews. Most of the following accusations are untrue or subject to the Campaign’s negative and inaccurate spin. My point-by-point response is below, as are comments from a number of other people who have examined the interviews and disagree with the Campaign’s assertions.
While interviewing Ms. Weir, Douglas…
3. made derogatory remarks about Arabs (See 3.a and 3.d of Part 3) b. repeatedly asserted Jewish control of the world (3.b, 3.g, 3.h, and 3.j) c. quoted and played speech by the former head of the KKK, David Duke, proclaiming a war on Christianity (3.c, 3.e) d. demonized adherents of communism, insinuating it is a Jewish conspiracy (3.h) e. downplayed or denied the existence of apartheid historically in South Africa, analogizing criticism of white South Africans during apartheid, which Douglas sees as unfair, to the treatment of white Americans today. Similarly, Douglas analogizes the average German between WWI and WWII and average white American today (3.f 3.j) Confronted with these assertions and statements, and knowing full well Douglas’s larger record of white supremacist views, Ms. Weir made little to no effort to challenge, confront, or rebut any of these views; on the contrary, she continued to appear on the show, placing Palestinian rights advocacy within the context of — rather than in opposition to — those views. 4. During appearances on Douglas’s radio show, Ms. Weir: a. explained her view that Muslims are much closer to Christians than Jews, stating “…sadly, if you look at the theology of Judaism, that is quite different. So again, it’s not that I like to tell negative things about any group, but we do need to be fully informed on this.” (See Section 4a of Part 3) b. acknowledged several books Douglas mentioned when ranting about communism and its connection to Jewish people, stating that she “read some portions of those books and they are as you say, they do discuss the Jewish connection to the Gulags…”(4b, Part 3) c. acknowledged that Douglas is perceived as racist, but indicated that she dismissed these allegations. (4c, Part 3)
Many of these statements are completely false. The others largely consist of exaggeration, spin, lying through omission, or perhaps sometimes (in the spirit of extreme fairness) misinterpretation. We suggest that people listen to the interviews for themselves, impartially and skeptically, rather than accepting the Campaign’s interpretation. Numerous people who have done so testify that the Campaign is negatively spinning the interviews. That said, I am certainly not perfect and, like everyone, often think of things later I wish I’d said (though, of course, time is limited and hosts sometimes interrupt before one has finished speaking). I did my best and will strive to do even better in the future. My goal always is to stay focused on using my airtime as effectively as possible to provide facts on Palestine and to counter the misinformation that is enabling Israeli oppression – and that is also endangering Arab and Muslim Americans, who are increasingly victimized by media-induced hostility. I also always strive to convey my personal philosophy of opposing all racism and violence, and to adhere to my belief that we should speak to one another with respect and civility. I don’t always succeed in these goals, but do my best.
I have repeatedly indicated that my giving an interview to a person or outlet does not indicate endorsement of the individual, the outlet, or of anything else done or disseminated by the individual or outlet.
During my interviews with Douglas, he skated across a wide variety of topics, often touching on numerous points in long statements that I found sometimes hard to follow, before asking me a question. I continually tried to bring the interviews back to Palestine-Israel, find ways to reach his listeners, seek and reinforce common ground and emphasize the importance of principles of justice, equality and fairness.
While my only concern in examining and sharing these interviews is to counter misrepresentations of my own statements and actions, I hope listeners who wish to delve into the interviews further will examine them carefully; I suspect that Douglas is more complicated than the ogre the Campaign depicts. I haven’t explored all of Douglas’s statements during his interviews of me, and in fact there are many claims I didn’t understand and references I didn’t know anything about. There were, however, some statements that initially sounded problematic to me that seemed to be less so when now, in the course of writing this response, I’ve had the chance to untangle what he was saying. Just as one example, at one point he states that some Christians he talked to were “just as evil as the Jews they were pointing the finger at,” or words to that effect. This statement sounded offensive on the face of it, but within the context of the interview it appeared quite clear that he was talking about some small subset of Christians and some small subset of Jewish people. While I personally don’t consider people to be evil, but rather actions (as I like to believe all people are capable of change), murderous policies supported by individuals across a variety of faiths surely are.
Other statements similarly sounded disturbing on the face of them but appear to be referring to factual occurrences, though sometimes in overly broad terms. In other cases, he does reference theories that to my knowledge are unsupported by evidence. He certainly made inappropriately sweeping references at times, which I endeavored to counter, and passing references to various far-flung topics on which he and I disagree, which I generally ignored, trying to stay on message and bring the interviews back to Palestine rather than discussing other subjects.
My phone interview with Douglas in 2010 can be heard at:
An additional interview from 2012 is here (the upload by Douglas claims that it aims to be “An honest discussion without any trace of racism about Israel”):
Below are analyses by a number of independent, pro-Palestine activists who looked into the Campaign/JVP accusations for themselves. Next is my point-by point response.
- An activist in northern California wrote the following to JVP and copied us on her message:
I am puzzled. The letter sounds as if it were drafted by the ADL, exhibiting one of the ADL’s chief tactics of defamation: character assassination by association. (Yes, despite the fact that the ADL claims to be against defamation, it frequently uses guilt by association to defame people whose views do not coincide with theirs.)
Did you read the source material on which the allegations were made? I found the transcript of Clay Douglas’s interview with Alison on August 25, 2010. Here is the only mention of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion:
CD: You know, I got threats. And mine were recorded too. Not exactly threats on my life but… “You need to take that link off of your site to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion… And Alison Weir, you know, she’s a communist… she’s a communist, she’s funded by the Arabs, and you need to take that film off of your site.” And this was…
AW: Let me just comment on those threats. First of all, I’m not a communist. It’s interesting that they go to conservatives, uh, Americans, and claim that I’m a communist. They go to liberal Americans, and claim that I’m a Right-wing associate of the Klan. So they make opposite claims about me, both of which are false, to whatever they think will sound the most negative to that audience.
Your comment was:
“In the course of your appearance with Clay Douglas on August 25, 2010, for example, you were silent when Douglas invoked the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and engaged in a racist diatribe against Jews.”
Given the context in which The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was mentioned (not “invoked”), I don’t see why she needed to respond to that part of his statement. She did respond to the comments on her that he reported. While reading the rest of the interview, I was struck by how she made a distinction between “the Jews” and “Zionists.” She stressed the need to verify statements by checking them out and doing further research.
- An East Coast activist wrote:
In RE JVP’s charge that you did not jump on Clay Douglas over his reference to the Protocols, Jon Stewart, Uri Avnery and Tanya Reinhart all compared the power of the organized Jews to the Protocols
Philip Weiss, “Jon Stewart Calls AIPAC ‘Elders of Zion’”, June 6, 2008
Philip Weiss, “Late Tanya Reinhart Reportedly Likened Lobby to ‘Protocols of Elders of Zion’”, September 15, 2008;
Uri Avnery, “The Charge of the New York Times”, CounterPunch, July 22, 2011
www.counterpunch.org/2011/07/22/the-charge-of-the-new-york-times/ (all August 11, 2013)}
- Two members of Jewish Voice for Peace-Bay Area, wrote:
Dear Jewish Voice for Peace,
As members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), we are distressed and saddened at the public stance that JVP has recently taken vis-à-vis journalist and author Alison Weir, founder of If Americans Knew (IAK)…..
Alison Weir and Clay Douglas
Member 1: Some time in 2014 a JVP member disseminated, via an internal JVP Google group, links to four one-hour radio conversations between Weir and Clay Douglas which took place on Douglas’ radio show, “The Free American Hour”, in late 2010 and early 2011. I had never heard of Clay Douglas and was interested to hear examples of Weir’s anti-Semitism – about which I’d heard but which I’d never witnessed. Accordingly, I listened to three of the four programs in their entirety and could discern nothing anti-Semitic in any of Weir’s statements….
Another reason why I was eager to hear the Weir-Douglas conversations is that, over the past few years, I have been involved in conversations – more often than not by email – with anti-Semites, and I was interested to see how Weir handled this sort of exchange. When I’m engaged with an anti-Semite I try to keep them engaged and I try not to “spook” them. This takes delicate handling, especially if one is as repulsed by these creatures as I am. What I heard in Weir’s responses to Douglas’ provocative pronouncements was someone trying, as I try, to maintain the conversation and the relationship so as to return to fight another day. Weir is much more skilled at this than I am, but there was no question in my mind that this is what she was trying to do: keep Douglas interested in further conversation with her while he continued to assume that she held similar beliefs to his.
It is understood that everything is in the eye and ear of the beholder, but I do not interpret Alison Weir in the same way that JVP does.
I have never found anything anti-Semitic in Alison’s writings or in her lectures, nor did I hear anything anti-Semitic in any of her utterances during a thirty-minute conversation I held with her, in person, in 2014. In fact, I found myself liking her and admiring her very much, as her work on behalf of justice for Palestine and the Palestinian cause is compassionate, intelligent and unrelenting.
Member 2: I have also been very distressed by the actions of JVP toward Alison Weir. I do not know Alison well, have heard her speak a couple of times, read and disseminated her materials and read her most recent book and find her to engage in a high level of scholarship in digging out reports of historical events that most Americans have no idea about. A lot of us in the movement spend a lot of time preaching to the choir, but Alison gets out into what I’ve been known to refer to as “the real world” to educate about the oppression of Palestine. During the 1980 Presidential election, I was living and working in redneck country, and told my friends in the Bay Area that Ronald Reagan was going to win the election – I was told by the Bay Area liberals that that would never happen, no one would vote for him. Since then I’ve tended to regard the Bay Area as “not the real world.” There’s a lot of work that needs to be done outside our comfort zones, and I see Alison as one who is going there and has a clear vision of what needs to happen – if Americans knew what is going on in Palestine, it would stop.
.……. One criticism is that JVP is indicting Weir for associating with anti-Semites such as Clay Douglas, while at the same time JVP associates with Zionists – Zionists defined as those who accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state. JVP is being perceived as engaging in exceptionalism and identity politics, not to mention hypocrisy. We find that this criticism has a considerable amount of merit.
- An early member of JVP addressed JVP’s similar accusations on Democratic Undergound:
…in your Statement you explained that you decided “not to work with her because… she has consistently chosen to stay silent when given the opportunity to challenge bigotry…” Your statement particularly objected to her August 2010 interview with Clay Douglas, which contained the following exchanges(3):
DOUGLAS: …the Jews put a full page ad in the New York Times declaring–
WEIR: Let me just correct you. Don’t say “The Jews”. It may sound to people that you are saying every Jewish-American did this, which, as you’ve just said is not true.
DOUGLAS: No it’s not true…
DOUGLAS: David Duke’s pointed out about the menorahs being up. You can put it on the White House lawn but we can’t have a Christmas tree on the White House lawn anymore?
ALISON WEIR: I don’t know–is that true? I can’t… You know, sometimes we all hear things and we pass them on, and sometimes the things that we hear and pass on are true, and sometimes it turns out to be one of these urban myths that many of us have believed and told others and then it turns out somebody looks into it and it’s not true. So I personally don’t know for sure if it is the case, that a menorah can be on the White House lawn, but a Christmas tree cannot.
Further, Weir explained to Douglas that: “I don’t, by the way, however, when I write about this or speak about it, I never say “the CIA” does this, I never say “the Jews” do this. What it is are specific individuals within these groups that are doing these things.” And she promoted Jews, Muslims, and Christians living together peacefully while practicing their religions:
Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in Palestine for centuries, without armed conflict, without conflict, all practicing their religions. Christians and Jews lived throughout Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco… They lived throughout what’s… Jewish, Christian and Muslim human beings all living, without wiping one another out… Wouldn’t these statements by Weir qualify as opposition to bigotry?
Next, you pointed out that during this interview “she was silent when Douglas invoked the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and engaged in a racist diatribe against Jews.” In that exchange, Douglas said that people told him: “You need to take that link off of your site to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion… And Alison Weir, you know, she’s a communist… she’s funded by the Arabs, and you need to take film off of your site.” Weir responded that she was not a communist, Douglas continued to ask her questions, and as you said, she didn’t return to challenge Douglas having a weblink to the Protocols. Did her failure to do so imply that she condoned this? She has two essays on her website rejecting the Protocols as an “old czarist forgery”.(4)
You wrote further that:
“Her troubling associations and choices further include giving interviews to a range of far-right outlets including The American Free Press (AFP), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group, and the anti-gay, anti-Jewish pastor Mark Dankof.”
I understand your objection to her interviewing with far-right outlets, but Weir claims that she just wants to reach audiences with a wide range of political views. Why else then did JVP’s National Director Rebecca Vilkomerson have an interview with The AFP’s online editor Dave Gahary to discuss Divestment?(5) How should we view Stephen Lendman, whose essay favorably mentioning JVP was hosted on the Tikkun website(6) and yet was also on Clay Douglas’ radio program?(7) How should we view the interviews of Ray McGovern, the Corries, Dr. Avner Cohen, CodePink director Rae Abileah, Guardian columnist Suzanne McGee, and CAIR director Zahra Billoo for The AFP?(8) And what about interviews of Ray McGovern, Jennifer Lowenstein, Ilan Pappe, Dilip Hiro, with Rev. Mark Dankof, mentioned above?
…….. you objected that “Weir and IAK have a fundamental political framing that the U.S. is not implicated in the same racist and white supremacist structures as Israel.” Did you mean that her political framing (A) does not implicate the US system in having the same kinds of domestic inequalities in its institutional “structures” as the Israeli system does (eg. laws discriminating against Israeli Palestinians), or that it (B) does not implicate the US in Israeli discriminatory structures?
I think that you meant (B), because you added: “This ‘tail wags the dog’ theory is a form of chauvinistic nationalism that absolves American interest in perpetuating injustice–not just in Israel but in other regions around the world.” Is Weir’s “tail wags dog” theory that the Israeli government makes the US accept unjust “structures”, like unequal laws for Israeli Palestinians and the settlements/dispossessions in the West Bank. If so, what do you see as a potential “American interest” in those unjust domestic laws and West Bank land confiscations?
Additionally, do you think that Uri Avnery’s position on the US-Israeli relationship and the “tail wags dog” theory (as Avnery wrote in parenthesis) published on the JVP website is acceptable:
This discussion came to a head when the American professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, published their research paper, according to which Israel imposes on the United States a policy that is contrary to the American national interest. The conclusion upset many who believe the opposite: that Israel is but a small wheel in the imperial American machine. (I permitted myself to argue that both versions are right: the American dog wags its Israeli tail, and the Israeli tail wags the American dog.)(10)
- Another Palestine activist wrote a detailed analysis on louisproyect.org that contained the following:
Reading the transcript of her interview with the right-wing extremist, Weir sounds like she is doing her best answering questions from a person who does not sound as though he is “all there”. Interrupting this individual any time he made racist comments would require interrupting him virtually every other sentence. But that is not a reason to completely avoid this individual’s listener base, especially as that base is particularly vulnerable to the sort of racist and violent propaganda that is regularly pushed by both anti- and pro-Israel segments of the far-right against Arabs, Muslims, immigrants, and others (see section VII below).
…… I think it is worth discussing a major organizing flaw that seems to permeate well past Palestine-organizing: not engaging the communities that are most likely to be exploited by the right…
….. in the past, many of the people who listen to such people [Douglas] are not committed to such hateful messages. They buy into it because those kinds of hateful people are the only ones that speak to their sense of frustration with real problems, like the economic crisis. ……. That is not because he is an avowed racist, it is because he is vulnerable to such messages from people like the radio host in question.
…… in my own personal experience of meeting people with, quite frankly, ignorant views on host of race-related subjects, I have found that many of them are not hateful or violent but simply misled. Properly engaging people in a way that they will actually understand and be placed on the right path is important, even if tricky. If even one person stopped listening to the radio host in question and started reading If Americans Knew, where they would hear not only from white American voices like their own, but also from Jewish voices, Palestinian and Arab voices, the United Nations, and the like, that is in my mind a small victory. That would not be possible if Alison Weir did not go on his bizarre radio show or interrupted him every time he said something racist, which was every other sentence.
Most importantly and ironically, it appears that JVP already knows this: that is why they have gone out of the way not to condemn Zionism, knowing (correctly) that to do so would immediately alienate Jewish people who have been brought up in communities where Zionism is a prevalent form of racism. There is wisdom is telling those segments of a society that are committed to various forms of racism to take a hike, but there is also wisdom in trying to put them on the right path, even if it means not always being able to shame them in the strongest terms.
- West Coast Palestine and Veterans for Peace activist Jack Dresser wrote:
…. if you listen to the interview. He’s a guy honestly distressed at what he sees in the world, as are his callers, as we all should be, and trying to piece together an understanding from lots of information, much of it reasonably accurate however often detail-imprecise and simplified. I heard nothing suggesting violence. Most of his anti-Semitic feelings reflect resentment of disproportionate Jewish/Zionist influence in the media and US government policies – which is inarguable – and result from Israel’s own self-declaration as a Jewish state representing the world’s Jews, thereby blaming them generically for its criminality. Alison carefully corrected that perception and, in general throughout the interview, tactfully moved him (and his listeners) into more nuanced and more solidly evidence-based understandings. He said – I suspect in response to her gentle and rational tone – that we should all “listen to both sides” and decide for ourselves, and people “shouldn’t just take my word for anything.
We think this is a particularly perceptive and compassionate comment. Perhaps Dresser’s own experience as a veteran helps him to empathize with Vietnam veteran Clay Douglas, rather than jump on the JVP bandwagon to condemn him. The Campaign has made Douglas into a cartoon villain, ignoring his statements against violence, war and oppression; his opposition to the criminalization of so much of our population via the war on drugs; his outrage at the US dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and our nation’s treatment of Native Americans.
The Campaign would make Douglas and all his listeners into the enemy; we don’t automatically write them off and instead believe it is possible that some of them could become part of an anti-racist, pro-justice movement, just as many former Zionists are now part of this movement.
With regard to the specific points cited by the Campaign about these interviews, I will give the actual context and further information below. Naturally, I am giving context about what I said and about what I responded to during my interviews. Readers may draw their own conclusions about Douglas’s positions, but the issue in question is my own statements within the context of his questioning, so I hope that concerned readers will consider the full interviews, focusing more on what I said than what Douglas said.
3. Statements made by Clay Douglas to Ms. Weir during his interviews of her on his radio show:
a. Made derogatory statements about Arabs [5:00],
The supposedly “derogatory statements about Arabs” consisted of recounting some hostile voicemails against him, including quoting one caller who said: “And Alison Weir… she’s funded by the Arabs.”
b. referenced the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – a long debunked forgery claiming Jewish plans to control the world – as fact [22:25],
Douglas claimed that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion referred to “our terrible power of the purse.” In reality, it was Zionism founder Theodor Herzl who said that.
c. played clips of former head of the KKK David Duke speaking in which he declares that there is a war on Christianity in the United States, supporting sentiments Douglas himself frequently expresses. [35:00],
The recording said: “Why is it that a giant Jewish menorah can be erected in the White House, while Christian Christmas symbols are banned?” and “America is an overwhelmingly Christian nation, yet we are now forbidden by law to put Christian Christmas symbols on public property. Jews are less than two per cent of our population, are permitted to put up their religious symbol, the menorah…” At the time, I responded at length warning listeners against accepting such assertions or rumors without examining them. After the Campaign dredged up this long-forgotten interview, I checked out Douglas’s claims. I surmise that he was referring to a 1989 Supreme Court decision that displaying a Menorah on government property was constitutional, while displaying a Christian nativity scene (an overtly religious symbol) was found to be unconstitutional. A David Duke segment played by Douglas appears to be wrong: Christmas trees (not considered a religious symbol) are allowed at the White House.
d. asked Ms. Weir, “The Palestinians aren’t Arabs; there’s a lot of them that are Christians TOO, aren’t they?” [32:23]
Douglas voiced a fairly widespread mistake. I took the opportunity to clarify the facts for Douglas and his audience:
“Well, Arab is just like saying Europeans, it doesn’t denote a religion. So yes, many Arabs are Christians, many Arabs are Muslims, some Arabs are Jews. You know, these are all different… these are all religions and/or cultures, and Arab is a culture and a region, it’s not a religion.”
e. cited David Duke criticizing the presence of a menorah on the White House lawn but not a Christmas tree. Ms. Weir responded skeptically to the menorah story, but went on to state, “You know, if I moved to a country that was largely Muslim or largely Jewish, I wouldn’t feel, “Well, my.., I should suddenly take over and change that country, I would have to fit in and play a role.” [41:23]
I continued: “I think minorities should be respected, I think all people should be respected, but I do think the majority of a population of a country should be paid attention to. That’s democracy.” Of course, in regard to taking over a country, it was Zionists who went into Palestine and took it over.
f. downplayed the existence of apartheid in South Africa, criticizing the treatment of white South Africans and pejoratively calling Nelson Mandela a communist. Douglas went on to suggest that “Americans” (presumably referring to white Americans) are now similarly being unfairly treated as he believes white South Africans were under apartheid. [24:25]
At this point, as he did frequently throughout the interview, Douglas went into a very long statement that touched on many different topics outside my areas of expertise and which I found rather hard to follow. He did discuss South Africa (after touching first on communism in the early 20th century), though I did not hear him mention Nelson Mandela at any point. He seemed to take issue with the idea that all South Africans were uniformly nasty; he compared South African colonization to the European colonization of the US: “I tried to point out to people… they’ve been there in South Africa as long as we’ve been here in America and they probably treated the blacks better than we treated the Indians. Why were they demonized?” He went on to other topics, declaring that he was not racist, listing people of various backgrounds who he’d had on his show, and then saying that the SPLC and ADL were “demonizing” various people including the Tea Party, before eventually ceding to me with a vague question.
In my response, I focused on the need for people across the political spectrum to engage in tolerant, civil, evidence-based debate in order to find common ground, rather than sinking into greater polarization and extremism, attempting to reinforce to listeners the importance of sticking to meaningful principles: “I think the big problem is that we’re not being able to have the kind of open, honest discussion that a democratic republic needs to have to maintain its health and to create reasonable, moral, principled strategic policies. People like you and myself who are living in different parts of the country, probably have different views about different aspects of what you just discussed, about racism, about the history, etc., can and should and need to have honest discussions, where you present and the evidence you’ve discovered, your research, I discuss the evidence I’ve discovered, my research, we both have a civil, moral, principled discussion.” I went on to cite the debate between Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party as an example of useful, civilized debate.
g. claims that all of our media is controlled by Jewish people, then asks Ms. Weir, “If the Jews control the media and the newspapers, all of our sources of news, and they call our money… Alison, are we Palestinians on our own land, right now?” Ms. Weir responds challenging the use of the term ‘the Jews,’ highlighting that Jews aren’t monolithic and mainstream Jewish organizations may take actions that not all Jews agree with. Yet at no time does she challenge Douglas’ assertions including that Jews “call our money,” control all of the media, etc. [30:06]
I emphasized that “it’s never accurate to say ‘the Jews,’” and continued in that vein quite awhile. Douglas interrupted me to say that he would stop talking about “the Jews” when they stopped talking about “the Palestinians.” I responded that it’s acceptable to use that term if it’s used with accuracy and precision. He continued: “Here in the United States, if you question the Federal Reserve, if you question the US policies towards Israel, or Iraq or Iran for that matter, then again you’re called anti-government. If you talk about the Israeli state, which I consider a criminal state, having 400 nuclear weapons, bragging that they can hit every capital in Europe, then suddenly you’re anti-Semitic….” At that point, he moved on to the point below, and I never did get a chance to comment on the movers and shakers behind financial power (outside my expertise) or the media (within my expertise, and about which I would have a good deal to say) beyond my initial statement that it’s not accurate to make a statement about “the Jews” collectively controlling anything.
h. begins ranting against Communism, claiming that all of the communist [used pejoratively] leaders were Jewish. Douglas says that the Russians used to call communism “Judaism for the masses.” He continues on a bigoted and factually inaccurate rant, “60 million White Christian Russians were killed after the Soviet Union took over. The politburo in the Soviet Union was 90% Jewish. Marx and Lenin, the founders of communism, were Jewish. Stalin was Jewish. And all of the commissars that forced the Russians into battle against the Germans… they happened to be Jewish.” Douglas then claims that the people running detention centers in the Soviet Union were Jewish. He continues, “We have the same setup, the same scenario, going on in America now.” Ms. Weir begins her response to this rant by stating, “There’s a lot happening that people truly need to wake up to…” [36:00]
This makes it sound like my comment quoted above came in response to Douglas’s claims about Jewish Soviets. In reality, Douglas moved on to say a good deal more before I spoke. He said the US had detention centers in the US built by Halliburton and then listed groups and people at some length that he felt the ADL and SPLC were unfairly demonizing, finally finishing by saying that’s “what’s happening right now.”
While Douglas did make some of these exaggerated statements, the Campaign fails to mention that the source Douglas gave for the Jewish connection to Soviet detention centers was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel laureate whose writings on this topic are sometimes mentioned in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Ha’aretz, among other publications—where I heard about them.
I said: “I’m not an expert on the Soviet Union or its history” and emphasized that this was outside my field of expertise. I stated that I had read some portions of Solzhenitsyn’s books but that much was not translated into English, saying that I was bothered by this, as I feel we should have full information on history and should always oppose censorship. I then attempted to bring the interview back to Palestine-Israel by describing censorship against If Americans Knew, but was interrupted by a break in the show (I returned to this anecdote as soon as possible after the break).
As an additional note: I attempt to challenge generalizations about groups of people and to contradict errors when I hear them, but my approach is not to attack claims without knowing whether they’re true or not. In this dense statement, Douglas made numerous claims about which I did not have expertise. Many may have been true; many may not. The Campaign errs in focusing on his claims themselves as bigotry. The problem comes in painting a whole diverse swath of humanity with one brush, applying collective judgment based on the actions or alleged actions of individuals in distinct times and places, not in exploring various claims. I like to investigate the evidence supporting or refuting facts, but this was not a topic I was equipped to evaluate with any authority, nor was it what I had gone on the show to discuss.
i. Douglas regularly attacks communism and communists in all of the episodes of his show reviewed, including denouncing the late South African President and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and his ANC party as communist.
I have no idea of the accuracy of statements about Douglas’s other shows. (Although the Campaign has a poor track record in accurately representing the interviews with me, I’ll assume its claims about other shows could be correct.) However, in the show the Campaign is referencing, Douglas did not mention Mandela. He did denounce communism and refer to millions of people who died under the Soviet Union – perhaps a reference to the massive Holodomor in Ukraine under Stalin.
j. mentions the possibility of President Obama being impeached due to a “lack of a birth certificate,” which Ms. Weir does not directly respond to but rather says she and Douglas agree on the point that “people should be getting the full facts.” [44:50]
This is another case in which Douglas spoke for quite some time, rambling across a number of topics. I’m not sure what the Campaign’s point is; Did I violate the Campaign’s anti-racism principles by failing to engage in a debate about President Obama’s birth certificate?
Douglas began this long statement with an announcement about a petition to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky that he said could use support, then moved on to say California was looking at legalizing marijuana, which brought him to Arnold Schwarzenegger. He said: “I think Gov. Schwarzenegger will ok that… because I think Obama is setting the stage for Schwarzenegger to be our next president. The movies have been telling me that, like ‘Demolition Man’ and a few others… If Obama doesn’t get impeached and thrown out for his lack of a birth certificate, then the door is open for Schwarzenegger. Is that a comforting thought for you, Alison?”
I attempted to bring the interview back around to my anecdote about censorship of If Americans Knew about Palestine-Israel, beginning: “These days I’m not comforted by the way our political system is working, because most of us aren’t getting the full facts, and so when voters go to cast their vote, they often are–intelligent, well-meaning, principled people are voting in ways they would not vote if they had the full facts. I think that’s where you and I certainly especially share a lot of commonality, which is we think people think we should be getting the full facts on–” Douglas cut in there to agree: “[unintelligible] both sides. Tell me both sides and let me decide for myself. I tell people don’t just believe what I tell you, go out and check it out for yourself.” At this point I got back to my anecdote about censorship against If Americans Knew.
k. says that Hitler was “perceived as a hero to the German people because they were starving to death, their economy had crashed” and then appears to suggest that Americans are dealing with similar issues. Douglas subsequently blames the “Schiffs and the Rothschilds” for these issues, presumably referring to the two Jewish families. [45:40]
Douglas said: “I also see parallels between what’s happening here in the United States — We’ve seen a police state being formed and Hitler … he was perceived….” In context, I took this to be a statement connecting economic collapse and the rise of police states, not a belief that Hitler was a hero. The author of the Campaign dossier considers the salient point about the Schiffs and the Rothschilds to be that they were Jewish; to me, the relevant point was that they were mega-rich elites profiting while most of their compatriots suffered.
As Douglas started off on what looked like a tangent, I cut in to discuss his assertion that the US was turning into a police state (“I think many of us are very, very worried about what’s going on in our country, I think there are laws being passed…”) but then there was some sort of technical glitch that drowned out my words.
When I was able to be heard again, I explained that I believe we should all “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and said that if everyone would live that way we would have a “much safer and better world for all of our children.” I continued: “all of the children of the world deserve a safe world… in which they can prosper, they can flourish. When you look at a small child, all of us want the best for that child, and I think it’s our responsibility to do our best to make that sure that happens, and right now the policies in the United States by our government are jeopardizing that kind of world….”
l. stated that, instead of calling those he was referring to “Jews,” he would call them “Morlocks,” a reference to fictional reptilian antagonists, in H.G. Wells novels, who dwell underground. [23:15]
This was a term I was unfamiliar with. However, Douglas used this term to refer to powerful individuals who exploit everyone, and specifically said they “used the Jews the same way they used the Judaic Christians.”
4. Statements made by Ms. Weir to Clayton Douglas on his radio show.
a. Ms. Weir explained her view that Muslims are much closer to Christians than Jews, stating “…sadly, if you look at the theology of Judaism, that is quite different. So again, it’s not that I like to tell negative things about any group, but we do need to be fully informed on this.” [29:00]
This came immediately after I had emphasized that we need to have open, honest conversations with each other. I was discussing that we have the demonization of one side by the other side, when American voters should be seeking common ground and principles that we share, holding up the debate between Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin as an example. Shortly before, I had explained that Muslims, Christians, and Jews had all lived together as neighbors in Palestine for centuries without conflict.
I then took the opportunity to try to combat the Islamophobia that was then being so heavily pushed to conservatives, relating that something I discovered on visiting Palestine was that “Muslims actually are very close to Christianity. They revere Jesus as one of the major prophets. He is considered very sacred to Muslims, as is Mary, who is considered the most revered woman in Islam, so you find a great reverence for Jesus Christ, for Christians, for Christianity among Muslims.” I continued by saying: “Sadly, if you look at the theology of Judaism, that is quite different, so again it’s not that I like to tell negative things about any group, but we do need to be fully informed on this, and the fact is that Muslims are very close to Christians; they feel very close, they live close to Christians in Palestine, in Bethlehem, where you find Christians and Muslims living side by side for centuries and still today, so it’s important to get the full facts on this and we’re not getting that; we’re getting very manipulated, filtered facts from most of our American media.”
I was commenting on the situation in Palestine-Israel, where discrimination against non-Jews is sanctioned (and in fact prescribed) by law and woven into the whole system (thwarting some Jewish Israelis who try to fight it), and where extremist Jewish theologies are exploited to justify that discrimination, as well as killings and horrific brutality; for example, a best-selling book by a prominent rabbi saying that the killing of non-Jewish children was religiously permissible. There has been a great deal of violence against Christians and Christian institutions from the very beginning of Israel’s existence (see my book), in addition to the more-known violence against Muslims; more recently a mayor rounded up New Testatements and burned them. I am not a theologian and my comment was not meant to speak for all Jewish beliefs. I don’t know that I made that fully clear in the context of my statements, in which I always tried to remain focused on the situation in Palestine.
Americans frequently discuss extremist theologies within Islam and critique various Islamic beliefs – right-wing Americans in particular, but also mainstream and even progressive Americans. This is also true of various Christian theologies and extreme Christian positions. I dislike that we critique certain positions and extremism within those two religions, but that it’s taboo to do so with regards to Judaism.
However, let me reiterate for the record that I firmly support both religious freedom and religious tolerance; I do not condone discriminating against or stereotyping individuals of any group. My belief is that promoting truth, civil dialog, tolerance and justice will ultimately benefit all people, while propping up an unjust system with coverups, lies, and ever widening taboos can only backfire. If we condemn and stop the atrocities being committed in the name of Jews and with the known support of the US, we can do the right thing and forestall backlash against those parties that would (as backlash tragically does) target innocents rather than the perpetrators.
b. Ms. Weir acknowledged several books Douglas mentioned when discussing communism and its connection to Jewish people, stating that she “read some portions of those books and they are as you say, they do discuss the Jewish connection to the Gulags…” [38:55]
They’ve here jumped back to my discussion of Alexander Sozhenitsyn, an extremely famous, celebrated writer whose later books were not translated into English. I said I opposed censorship and was troubled that this information was not available to Americans. I said I had read some portions of these books and they did discuss the Jewish connection to the Gulags. (I learned about this when I read Jewish & Israeli media, where this was discussed.)
c. Throughout her interviews with Douglas, Ms. Weir repeats her belief and agreement that Douglas is not racist, violent or anti-Semitic.
I did attempt to positively reinforce Douglas’s statements against racism, violence, and anti-Semitism, as well as the goal of living moral, decent lives.
I also wrote previously on the Clay Douglas accusations:
Interviewing me or sharing my work in any medium does not indicate endorsement by me personally or by If Americans Knew. My views and positions are represented solely in our own statements and writings. We are not so much an activism organization as an informational one, and we focus on providing the most accurate, transparently sourced information we can.
With that goal and mission in mind, I have aimed from the first to reach beyond the “choir” of people who already know about and sympathize with the Palestinian plight. I have sought ways to reach a broad audience, inform Americans across the political spectrum and present the most factual, well-cited information possible – all with the goal of truly bringing an end to the ongoing Mideast tragedy, by preparing Americans to change policies that enable Israel’s criminal actions. Effectiveness has always been my watchword. The tragedy is far too great for anything less.
I also wrote about this in an earlier statement.
In addition to appearing on the “Free American Hour”, Ms. Weir spoke more than once, and as recently as April 2015, to the American Free Press, another white supremacist publication whose homepage currently features numerous defenses of the confederate flag, including an article proclaiming that the outrage around the Charleston shooting of nine Black church-goers is a tactic in the “ongoing war on traditional America.” The front page of their print publication declares “Civil War II: Hate group exploits tragic shooting as catalyst for vicious assault on Christian, Southern culture.” (See Section 5 of Part 3)
RESPONSE: I have no idea why the Campaign talks about what today’s print publication may or may not contain since this is entirely irrelevant, while omitting the fact that the interview with AFP mentioned was about my book and the censorship of our book advertisement by the American Historical Association. The article quotes me saying: “One thing that motivates my work is opposition to racism and discrimination.”
Others who have appeared on the American Free Press are peace activists Ray McGovern, Cindy and Craig Corrie, Brian Terrell, Israeli academic Dr. Avner Cohen, CodePink director Rae Abileah, UK Guardian columnist Suzanne McGee, CAIR director Zahra Billoo, Independent Jewish Voices Canada member Marty Roth, author Jennifer Dixon, Gaza reporter Harry Fear, Israeli co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions Meir Margalit, Rachel Roberts, the Civil Rights Coordinator for Northern California for the Council on American Islamic Relations, President of Muslim Public Affairs Council Salam Al-Marayati, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin, spokesperson for the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign Ed Mast, Project Censored director Mickey Huff, author and Founding Director of the American Jewish Congress Feminist Center in Los Angeles Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, and numerous others.
The Campaign’s Executive Director Yusef Munayer and Prof. George Bisharat were on Fox News.
The Campaign’s Policy Director Josh Ruebner was recently a speaker at an event organized by the Maryland Constitution Party, whose Presidential Candidate complains about “elevating” minorities and whom the Human Rights Campaign considers a White Supremacist. Its platform opposes “any legal recognition of homosexual or civil unions,” affirms “the rights of states and localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior,” and supports “a moratorium on immigration to the United States” as an article on the controversy in Media With Conscience notes.
I don’t believe this makes any of us guilty of anything; clearly, we’re all working to get important information to the American public.
While the Campaign apparently attempts to dictate that no one should be interviewed on right-wing shows, it is interesting that in reality it seems only to apply this requirement to me.
(In its earlier interrogation, the Campaign also accused me of being associated with Veterans Today, which, the Campaign said: “regularly posts racist and anti-Semitic content.” However, when we pointed out that the site also contained articles by the Campaign’s Josh Ruebner and Campaign President Phyllis Bennis, the Campaign apparently decided to leave this aspect of our “guilt” out of its indictment. Among the many others whose writings are on the website are Sabeel writer James Wall and professor Lawrence Davidson.)
According to her response to our inquiry, Ms. Weir is fully committed as a matter of principle to continuing to contribute to American Free Press, “Free American Hour”, and any other show regardless of its agenda. That may be her principle but it is not ours.
Their statement isn’t entirely true, as its leaders have specifically been interviewed on shows and given talks sponsored by groups from across the political spectrum, including right-wing ones.
It is our policy to give the facts to everyone, without exception, for the reasons detailed above. As we state on our website:
We believe all people are endowed with inalienable human rights regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality. We believe in justice, fairness, and compassion and in treating all human beings with respect, empathy, and in the manner in which we would wish to be treated.
If Americans Knew is a nonpartisan, educational organization. We are happy to provide information and speakers on Israel-Palestine to individuals and groups of all religious, ethnic, racial, and political backgrounds. If Americans Knew supports justice, truth, equal rights and respect for all human beings; and we oppose racism, supremacism, and discrimination of any and all forms.
We profoundly disagree with the Campaign’s decree that supporters of Palestine-Israel justice should never speak to non-progressive outlets. Certain individuals aggressively promoting or parroting the Campaign line are white Christian Americans who are secure from anti-Arab, anti-Muslim violence fomented by some right-wing programs. Many Muslim Americans do not enjoy that privilege to be so purist. A great many have suffered from verbal and physical harassment from Americans who have been influenced by some conservative TV and radio programs to believe that all Muslims are “terrorists.”
Therefore, we believe it is critical that this sector of the American population also receive the real facts that counter such media-generated, mistaken beliefs – beliefs that pose a real danger to Muslims and Arabs. While some activists prefer to remain “pure” and would perhaps only go on Democracy Now and Al Jazeera, we feel this is an abdication of responsibility. We need to reach the people that are NOT listening to Democracy Now and other programs deemed acceptable. One of the few ways to reach them, and probably the most direct, is by appearing on programs that they listen to.
Many others agree with this approach.
Prominent peace activist and former US Congressional representative Cynthia McKinney, who is herself African-American, made an important point in an interview several years ago with Chris Hedges:
It is time for us to stop talking about right and left. The old political paradigm that serves the interests of the people who put us in this predicament will not be the paradigm that gets us out of this. I am a child of the South. Janet Napolitano tells me I need to be afraid of people who are labeled white supremacists but I was raised around white supremacists. I am not afraid of white supremacists… I am willing to reach across traditional barriers that have been skillfully constructed by people who benefit from the way the system is organized.
Taken as a pattern, we concluded that Ms. Weir’s views and actions, on behalf of If Americans Knew, contradict the US Campaign’s anti-racism principles.
I would argue that the Campaign needs to embrace “anti-racism” that includes true opposition to racist Zionism, as well as embracing anti-bullying and free speech principles. I’ve been honored and vindicated to receive public and private statements from many people I respect greatly, who are truly committed to opposing bigotry and oppression, that indicate my and If Americans Knew’s actions do not violate their own anti-racism principles.
The US Campaign contacted Ms. Weir privately so that she could respond to the assertions herself, in her own words. Our correspondence with Ms. Weir was sent in accordance with our anti-racism procedures. Ms. Weir chose to publicize the private inquiry and misrepresent it as a public, “attack” on her and her freedom to organize. Ms. Weir’s representation of our communication is inaccurate and functioned as a substitute to addressing the serious concerns we raised.
Firstly, we responded fully and directly to the Campaign, so the accusation that we avoided addressing its concerns is spurious.
Furthermore — unlike the Campaign — we believe strongly in openness and transparency. The Campaign purports to act on behalf of hundreds of organizations representing thousands of individuals – very few of whom were informed of its plan to expel If Americans Knew. This was not a private discussion, but supposedly an action of a “coalition.”
We are against secret tribunals and behind-closed-doors manipulation. We felt it was important for others to know of Campaign leaders’ actions – especially since this is the latest example of ongoing actions to block my speeches, prevent people from learning of my book, and prevent the American public from learning of our highly informative, thoroughly sourced website about Palestine. (It’s also one of many public and behind-the-scenes attacks on other activists.)
Campaign leaders wanted us to submit to an unfair, un-transparent, pretend process, much like Israel seeks “peace” through Palestinian submission, and yet then accept our expulsion from the coalition, which would most certainly have been public and which is wielded as a weapon to attempt to discredit us. We chose to publicly resist.
Although the Steering Committee of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation deliberated solely on the allegations made and the subsequent facts uncovered by our review, we acknowledge that this issue has raised significant political questions that are relevant to the movement at large — issues such as white supremacy, anti-Semitism, privilege, racism, and others. In the following section, we elaborate on some of these issues.
Once again, it is notable that they don’t even mention Zionism, the core issue our movement is addressing.
Part 2 – The US Campaign’s Position on Issues Raised by the Alison Weir Case
We are striving to build a progressive, inclusive, and effective movement for Palestinian rights in the US. If Americans Knew and Executive Director Ms. Weir have long contributed to our movement, providing useful resources and tirelessly advocating for Palestinian rights. It is precisely for this reason that many of us were taken aback and disappointed by the stance Ms. Weir took in responding to what we believed would be an opportunity for a member organization to send a clear and powerful message opposing white supremacy, hate and racism. Some, including Ms. Weir, have incorrectly claimed that the US Campaign is acting at the behest of Jewish Voice for Peace. This suggestion seems to assume that only Jews can be concerned about anti-Semitism and racism in our movement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our movement cannot flourish and achieve its aims if we tolerate the same biases and bigotry against which we fight.
The Campaign sets up a straw man argument. No one that we know has ever claimed that “only Jews can be concerned about anti-Semitism and racism in our movement.” The fact is that one of the first pieces I ever wrote about this issue was entitled “Anti-Semitism Is Wrong.” The reason so many people think JVP played a role in this attack is for the very obvious reason that most of the accusations made by the Campaign echo almost exactly those earlier made by JVP.
The Campaign claims that it is “striving to build a progressive, inclusive, and effective movement for Palestinian rights in the US.”
In reality, however, it is clear that Campaign leaders, far from being inclusive, are working to exclude us and many, diverse others.
Recently, it has refused to include Free Gaza, even though Free Gaza is the organization that initiated the entire flotilla movement at profound life-and-death risk. This exclusion was done without even a pretense of process. Similarly, we’re told that it recently excluded the Global March to Jerusalem; again without any process.
Campaign leaders early on alienated one of the most committed organizations on this issue, Al Awda. As mentioned earlier, it rebuffed a Palestinian Muslim organization that wished to be involved. It is unwelcoming to principled conservatives who fervently support Palestinian rights, as well as minority rights, and to many Muslims, Christians, and Jews who hold religious beliefs the Campaign management does not approve. (This is its prerogative, but it is foolish to claim that it is striving to be “inclusive.” Indeed, we wonder whether the Campaign would allow Palestinians’ elected governmental representatives to participate, given that some may hold views that do not conform to the Campaign’s position on social issues.)
Rather than focusing on reaching all Americans as effectively as possible in order to end the tragedy we’re all supposed to be opposing, the Campaign leadership is unilaterally attempting to constrict both the movement and whom we inform about Palestine. This is not only highly improper, it is also the recipe for failure. The Campaign’s approach would target only a narrow segment of the American public – the segment that largely already agrees with us. (Perhaps supporters of the Campaign’s approach think that then this small slice of society will force the rest of the country to stop supporting atrocities, but that is both undemocratic and incredibly unlikely.)
It is absurd to claim that the Campaign is simply acting for its own purity, and not restricting If Americans Knew and my actions. When smears and accusations are being used to exclude us from conferences, convince groups not to host us at events and encourage individuals to discount our work, they certainly are restricting us. Recent Facebook posts by some Campaign leaders have become increasingly vitriolic and are clearly aimed at discrediting us entirely – it’s impossible to think the aim of that isn’t to block the information we share.
We are disturbed to learn that some Campaign Steering Committee members are also bullying some longtime activists on this issue. This needs to stop.
On allies: In Ms. Weir’s response and public comments, she insists that we need to spread the word about Palestinian rights, wherever we can, to gain more allies to our cause. We strongly believe that one cannot be an ally to the Palestinian cause if one’s objection to Israel’s actions toward Palestinians is part and parcel of one’s broader worldview of hatred toward all non-whites and non-Christians. Such “allies” want to use our movement to further their racist aims rather than truly help the Palestinian people. Just as we would not accept the KKK as an “ally” we also cannot accept individuals or groups that believe in its hateful ideology. It is the same logic we apply in not accepting any overtly Islamophobic, Zionist or homophobic groups in our coalition.
Again, the Campaign has created a straw man argument. Nowhere do we talk about gaining racist allies. Converting a misguided, ignorant or hateful person into an ally working for peace and justice and moral policies, however, is a triumph any time it is achieved.
Our approach is to reach everyone with our facts and our philosophy, in the belief that many will be convinced by real evidence, and in the fervent hope that they will then work on behalf of justice and fairness, and demand an end to destructive, immoral US Middle East policies.
On strategic value: Claiming a strategic value in appearing on white supremacist media without challenging the racist or bigoted views presented, on the basis that it allows our message further access, may sound compelling, and even courageous to some, but it is an argument rooted in white privilege. We know that it is Palestinians, their struggle, and other people of color who suffer the consequences when movement members carry such affiliations. Principled advocates of Palestinian rights appear on media outlets that have promoted bigoted narratives, such as Fox News or CNN, in order to challenge, not reinforce, racism in all of its forms, including anti-Palestinian bias, Zionist propaganda, Islamophobia and white supremacy.
I did – and do – speak out against racism, and opposition to bigotry and oppression clearly permeates If Americans Knew internet and print resources. I specifically spoke against racism on the Douglas shows, emphasizing the importance of “speaking out against racism of every sort.” Numerous neutral people who examined my appearances for themselves have also stated this fact.
It sounds like the Campaign is, absurdly, trying to say that I didn’t appear on conservative outlets in order to challenge anti-Palestinian bias, Zionist propaganda, and Islamophobia, even though this is exactly what I do in every interview.
While I oppose white supremacism, that subject didn’t come up and therefore I did not explicitly address it. However, I feel that speaking out for justice and truth and specifically for non-white, minority rights is implicitly and productively challenging white supremacy. Incidentally, I’m not aware that the numerous other individuals who appeared on AFP directly addressed white supremacy either. I’m also not aware that Yusef Munayer condemned this during his appearance on Fox News.
We’re disappointed that the Campaign has been so dishonest about this.
On white supremacy: White supremacy is racism emanating from white privilege, or the belief that white people are superior to all other groups and races. The institutionalization of this hateful ideology has led to the killing and oppression of millions of native, African-American and other non-white people throughout the history of the United States. Institutionalized white supremacy continues its attack on black and brown communities today in various forms including police brutality, mass incarceration, anti-immigrant policies, and widespread Islamophobia. Appeasing white supremacists for political gain empowers and legitimizes white supremacy, which contributes to its ongoing ability to materially affect people’s lives.
Perhaps these ideas are new to some Campaign leaders and for that reason they felt the need to enunciate them. We believe that the movement for justice in Palestine is full of people acutely aware of the horrors of racism, who have long opposed it, and for whom this principle is a fundamental motivating factor in their activism, as it is for us. None of us believe in “appeasing white racists for political gain” (though some individuals suggest that many of our attackers appease Zionists for this reason).
By the way, while some Campaign leaders have called me a white racist, largely due, I suspect, to my European-American ancestry, the fact is that the staffs and boards of my two organizations have been quite diverse ethnically and religiously, including individuals who are Muslim-American, African-American, Palestinian-American, Latin-American, Jewish-American, Catholic-American, Protestant American, etc.
On divisiveness: We have heard concerns that bringing up these issues can be considered ‘divisive’ in our movement. We do not take those concerns lightly. We weigh them against the tendency in dominant culture to shy away from discussion about race and racism in order not to break a perceived consensus. This is as true for race in this country as it is for Palestinian advocacy. However, to be true to our principles, we must recognize that what is truly divisive is condoning racism or bigotry of any kind. Appeals to unity that fail to address issues of racism are rooted in white privilege, ultimately placing the burden on people of color to accept this racism as part of joining the movement or our coalition.
This is yet another straw man argument. All of us are opposed to racism, and I consistently speak against it. I was active in the Civil Rights movement (as is posted on our website) before some of my accusers were born, and I was arrested in a demonstration for civil rights many years ago. On our website we specifically state: “If Americans Knew supports justice, truth, equal rights and respect for all human beings; and we oppose racism, supremacism, and discrimination of any and all forms.”
While some members of the Campaign have spoken out about their own so-called “Jewish privilege” and have opposed the particularly virulent Jewish supremacism found in extremist elements in Israel (especially among the most violent settlers), we are disappointed that the Campaign statement leaves out these forms of supremacism and racism, even though these contribute most to the oppression of Palestinians, the specific issue the Campaign is supposed to be addressing.
It’s unclear if the Campaign wishes to place Jewish people of European descent under its “people of color” umbrella, since its abstract discussion of the burdens on people of color seems to clash with the specific issues it raises, which revolve around alleged anti-Semitism. Perhaps the writers should focus more on respecting equal rights for all and opposing the abuse of power wherever it’s found, and less on this confusing categorization and labeling of human beings.
On muzzling of dissent: We recognize that advocacy for Palestinian rights is often met with attempts to muzzle speech or portray legitimate criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitic. We have all learned to be vigilant to bring these efforts to light whenever they occur. Just as we insist on continuing to speak up loudly and forcefully for Palestinian rights, we hold the same commitment regarding racism and other forms of bigotry. Failing to do both violates our principles and damages the movement at large.
It is ironic to see the Campaign speak against muzzling dissent in the middle of doing just that. Its accusations have already had, and will continue to have, a chilling effect against others who might speak out about Palestine, Zionism, the Israel lobby and the US connection to the Palestine-Israel tragedy (including not just American responsibility but the American power to pull the plug on aid and thus on the tragedy itself).
This is reminiscent of a similarly Orwellian incident in 2001. After I returned from my first trip to Palestine, I went with a small group to a progressive event in San Francisco called “Silent Voices Speak.” This event addressed virtually all types of oppression except that of Palestinians, even though the series took place during a particularly brutal period of Israeli violence.
When I and the others tried to peacefully and legally hand out flyers about Palestine, the “progressive” organizers called the police and had me taken away in handcuffs. In other words, at “Silent Voices Speak,” my voice on Palestine was silenced.
Today, the Campaign and its fellow attackers, who proclaim they are against muzzling speech, are attempting to do just that.
Part 3 – Evidence and Documentation Supporting the US Campaign’s Decision
The evidence and supporting documentation presented below pertains to actions taken by Ms. Weir and referenced in Part 1 of this statement. It contains quotes from materials that she posted on her website, and statements made to her in public conversations that she did not challenge. None of the evidence presented below refers to re-posts of her materials on third party websites or other acts or expressions not under her control.
We feel compelled to present this information in detail as it fully conveys the gravity of the situation. This is not an isolated incident, and it is not rumor or hearsay; rather, it is a series of repeated, documented instances of accepting and condoning extreme racist speech. Moreover, the quotes below illustrate that this is not a case of re-branding legitimate criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitic; rather, it is a case of an individual favorably re-posting racist content on her website and failing to challenge racist statements made during interviews she participated in.
Well, the Campaign certainly makes me sound like a monster! But what the Campaign actually revealed is its similarity to the ADL and Israeli propagandists. It has used deception and intentional misrepresentation to attack me and others at If Americans Knew, despite our years of committed work on behalf of peace and justice in Palestine, and despite our life histories of opposing injustice and racism and of standing up for the oppressed. It has demonstrated a level of malice and dishonesty that I find appalling and that forces me to question the authenticity of its commitment.
The rest of the Campaign dossier comprises reiterations of the Campaign’s false statements, sometimes with additional detail. These accusations have been addressed in detail above. In some cases, the reiterations introduce new errors and misrepresentations; in those cases, they’re addressed below each point.
1. As part of a series of attacks on Palestinians who signed a statement distancing themselves from Israeli writer Gilad Atzmon, Ms. Weir hosted an original blog post on her personal website by Roger Tucker.
Please refer to the section on this above. However, since I dislike inaccuracy, let me correct two further errors or misrepresentations in this reiteration of this point.
First off, the reality is that 33 individuals (few, if any, Palestinian) initiated a statement attacking Atzmon. (Much like the timing of the later attacks on Greta Berlin and myself, this was just before a scheduled book tour in the United States). A few months later a similar letter came out, this one signed by a grand total of 23 Palestinians, most living in the US.
Many other Palestinian, Jewish, and diverse activists supported Atzmon at that time, among them Ghada Karmi, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ramzy Baroud, Richard Falk, Lauren Booth, David Rovics, Sameh Habeeb, Sheldon Richman, Nahida Izzat, Cynthia McKinney, Samir Abed Rabo, James Petras, Rich Siegel, and many others.
Second, the post cited was not “an original blog post,” as the Campaign claims. It was reposted from the Deliberation website and was, I believe, first on the author’s site.
2. See Ms. Weir’s 2009 article “Israeli Organ Harvesting” http://www.counterpunch.org/2009/08/28/israeli-organ-harvesting/
3. Statements made by Clay Douglas to Ms. Weir during his interviews of her on his radio show.
As already stated above, please listen to the interviews or see the transcripts to learn what was actually said, or read the analyses above by people who did this. And please also see my other interviews and talks, some of which are posted here: http://ifamericansknew.org/about_us/accusations.html#six
We invite you to also read the following, by other writers (the full text is below):
- The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook by Jack Dresser
- An open letter to the U.S. Campaign and other Activists for Justice in Palestine
- Statement of an activist who a Campaign staff member pressured to remove her name from the open letter
- Information about the origins of the Clay Douglas accusations
1. The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook, by Jack Dresser (CounterPunch, Aug. 3, 2015)
From the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Journalist Alison Weir has tirelessly investigated and reported on the history and realities of Israel’s dispossession and occupation of Palestine through her organization and website, If Americans Knew. Now, she has come under guilt-by-association attack by two umbrella organizations of the Palestinian Solidarity movement, Jewish Voice for Peace and US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, for granting interviews to “white supremacist, anti-Semitic” and “vile” radio shows, specifically Clayton Douglas and American Free Press. Judged as tarred by a common brush for not using her limited air time to challenge their objectionable ideologies, her offenses include being called a “patriot” by her defenders.
Alison’s politically incorrect policy has been to disseminate salient facts to anyone, anywhere to achieve the broadest possible reach among American citizens, without political discrimination. The expelling organizations undoubtedly fear that the knowledge will feed anti-Semitism. Maybe it will, but the appropriate remedy would be a collective demand by the Jewish diaspora to end the Zionist project, make reparations to its victims, and establish a democratic state, not to withhold information from people who might use it to make Jewish Americans uncomfortable.
The complaint itself is strongly bigoted against the presumptively “white” political “right-wing” of America and the evidence is extremely thin, so what might really – and so suddenly – be behind this? Unlike the two organizations attacking her, Alison has always taken an unequivocal and uncompromising position against the legality and morality of the entire Zionist project, focusing on the 1948 Nakba and UN-established right of return, not just the Israeli occupation. So-called “liberal” or “progressive” Zionists evade the former and pretend that the crimes began in 1967. Why this adamant denial of honest history and Palestinian human rights?
Fully honoring the right of return would threaten or eliminate Israel’s Jewish majority and any defensible claim to be a “Jewish state.” Survey data from Israelis and occupied Palestinians show this as the largest disparity between them and the most insurmountable obstacle to resolution. Hand-wringing Jewish Israelis and their US enablers see establishment of an integrated, multi-ethnic, Western-style constitutional democracy as an “existential threat” to be fought tooth-and-nail. Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street says, “One-state is not a solution. One state is a dissolution.”
This is pure segregationist racism, not simply annoying discourtesies but the kind of racism that really counts, imposed by armed violence for 67 years upon helpless victims by a self-declared “Jewish state” with a Jewish religious symbol on its flag and emblazoned on the wings of its Hellfire missile-equipped, US-supplied F-16s murdering whole families in Gaza. How can this not inevitably generate some anti-Semitism? And how does it differ in spirit from the Jerusalem Cross of Crusaders that remains a mark of shame upon the history of Christianity? Emotional reactions are not finely parsed, however sometimes unfair to the innocent, and are less likely to be nuanced when Israeli atrocities remain uniformly unopposed by the 50+ Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Jews everywhere are put on the spot by Israeli arrogance and outlawry to collectively stand up, declare “not in my name,” take sides, and choose the side of international law and justice. If they don’t, they have themselves largely to blame. Given awareness – which is readily available, however ignored – silence becomes complicity.
And equally disturbing, it is our country that protects these outrages in violation of our declared principles and our own laws, so why should “patriotism” not be evoked? And why should American WASPs not be prominent among opponents of the government for which they are responsible? And why should organized and politically influential Jewish Americans who march in lockstep defending Israel, as well as those who remain silent, not be held accountable by all US taxpayers who involuntarily support this? And who are the USCEIO and JVP to tell Americans of any political persuasion what to think, to what information they are entitled, or what to conclude from the evidence? Until the righteous critics find effective ways to end Israeli oppression of people suffering under it daily, who are they to judge the attitudes or strategies or political outreach of others?
Those of us firmly supporting justice for Palestinians have observed JVP for many years as compromised by Zionist colonial sympathies but improving recently by endorsing the full BDS campaign. We also found ourselves suspicious a while back when USCEIO convened conference calls, highly controlled in format and content, concerned with “anti-Semitism” – the threadbare fallback complaint of Israel and its US lobby to change the subject and regain the offensive from attention to Israeli state crimes. Curiously, “Zionism” was omitted from their statement on racism while generically condemning “other racist or bigoted behaviors, practices and structures,” an undefined subjective net that could sweep up almost anyone deemed objectionable. Why were putative Palestinian human rights advocates echoing Israeli propaganda themes?
Setting aside the possibility of infiltration, both Alison-attacking organizations have mixed memberships of people scattered along the learning curve of knowledge regarding international law, human rights and documented history, and at different levels of readiness to give up attachment to Israel and its mythologies. Alison would inevitably make many of these members very nervous. And to make matters worse, she has been spreading inconvenient facts widely and very democratically, providing these, inter alia, to people from whom we “liberals” may choose to ideologically distance ourselves. But they too are voters, with a right to know how and where their tax money is spent, to draw their own conclusions, and to exert political influence. Political influence is what is desperately needed against AIPAC power, and many of our federal legislators who bow to AIPAC are also “right-wing.”
The timing of the excommunication is not random. I suspect that it is publication and Alison’s promotion of her book, Against Our Better Judgment, that has released long-stockpiled ammo against her, however flimsy – especially her revelations of arguably treasonous conduct by our first two, widely revered Jewish Supreme Court justices, both pledged to Zionism above loyalty to country as members of a secret Zionist organization, the Parushim. If Justice Louis Brandeis was instrumental, as the evidence suggests, in persuading President Wilson to betray his 1916 campaign promise and declare war on Germany (as a quid pro quo for the Balfour Declaration, with or without his knowledge) – a decision costing over 116,000 American lives (double those killed in Vietnam) – this is explosive information indeed. In addition, Alison’s research indicates that future Justice Felix Frankfurter was instrumental in preventing an early WWI peace treaty with the Ottomans that would have obviated the Balfour Declaration, terminating or seriously restricting the Zionist movement and the havoc that has followed. This information had been published elsewhere but remained obscure.
Some would like to keep it obscure. Blackening the reputation of Justice Brandeis in particular, an iconic figure with a university bearing his name, is undoubtedly intolerable in the realm of “Jewish identity politics” (the real criteria, it would appear, defining Alison’s “anti-Semitism”). It also drives another nail in the coffin of Israel’s proclaimed “right to exist” on land stolen from others. Alison had to be discredited and silenced.
These attacks are serious and malevolent, threatening both Alison’s influence and her livelihood, intended to reduce or extinguish her book sales and speaking engagements. Both expelling organizations are national in scope with many JVP chapters and USCEIO member organizations that may fear inviting her to their communities with her opposition now freshly armed to harass her events and their sponsors.
Readers wishing to oppose this muzzling attempt can endorse a petition supporting Alison here.
Jack Dresser, Ph.D. is National vice-chair, Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East and Co-Director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, Oregon
As active participants in the struggle for justice for Palestinians, coming from a variety of ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds, we call for an end to internal attacks on fellow activists and organizations. These only impede the work for justice.
We appreciate the important contributions to that cause made over many years by If Americans Knew, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
In that light, we are dismayed by the recent unfounded attacks on one of the top organizations working on this issue, If Americans Knew, and its dedicated leader, Alison Weir, by the leadership of Jewish Voice for Peace and the U.S. Campaign. Many of us are members of these groups and are unhappy at these significant actions made in our name but without consulting us.
We recognize that important differences among these organizations exist – each has its own constituencies, approach, and style, as is the case with the scores of other organizations that together make up the solidarity movement. Some may disapprove of taking the Palestinian case to people who don’t define themselves as “liberals” or “progressives.” Others may disapprove of working with Zionist groups and failure to state that Zionism is racism, etc. We have no problem with any group articulating such differences and even making principled criticisms of another’s work – that is part of the life of any healthy democratic movement.
But we believe strongly that secret dossiers, ideological inquisitions, double standards, misrepresentations, spreading innuendo, and attempting to excommunicate groups or individuals one disagrees with from the ranks of the movement sow unnecessary divisions and distract from what must remain our primary focus: building the broad united front that’s necessary to change United States policy in the Middle East and to help Palestinians obtain justice in their homeland.
We also believe that the vitriolic, ADL-like accusations that Alison Weir is “anti-Semitic” and/or racist are scurrilous and without foundation. They are based on guilt-by-association arguments through which numerous committed activists – including the leadership of the US Campaign and JVP – could equally, and also incorrectly, be called “anti-Semitic” and/or racist.
We are painfully aware that there are well funded opponents who spare no effort to undermine and divide this movement for justice and human rights in Palestine. We therefore expect those who sincerely share our goals to be mindful of the potential to fracture the movement and be judicious and principled in their critique of groups and individuals who make significant contributions to the movement.
We call for these attacks to cease and for those initiating them to return to their main task, working for justice in Palestine.
TO SIGN scroll down below the signatures to add your name. Full list of signatories to be added here periodically, and at http://tinyurl.com/StopDivisiveAttacksPDF
SIGNATORIES (over 1,750; last updated 3.45pm PDT WED 8/05/2015)
Affiliations for identification purposes.
* = US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation Member Organization
** = Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University, and former Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, UN Human Rights Council.
Samia Khoury, founding member of the board of Trustees of Birzeit University and Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre, author, “Reflections from Palestine: A Journey of Hope” (descendant of Birzeit University founders).
Ann Wright, retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat turned peace activist; passenger on 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla; co-organizer and passenger on Gaza Freedom Flotillas 2011 & 2015; co-organizer of 2009 Gaza Freedom March.
Iyad Burnat, Palestinian grassroots activist, Bil’in Popular Committee
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, Co-Founder Al-Awda-Palestine Right to Return Coalition.
Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor; St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee*; Jewish Voice for Peace – St. Louis** , Free Gaza Movement
James Abourezk, former Senator, South Dakota, founder of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Arun Gandhi, Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute
Pete McCloskey, former Member of Congress (R..Calif. 1967-83) and Co-Founder, with Paul Findley, of the Council for the National Interest; and Helen McCloskey
Dr. Khalil Nakhleh, author of “Globalized Palestine: The National Sell-Out of a Homeland”
George N. Rishmawi, Director, The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People, Beit Sahour, Palestine
Ray McGovern, Retired CIA officer turned peace activist. Co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
Rita Giacaman, Professor, Research & Program Coordinator and founder, Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University; active in 1980s Palestinian social action movement.
John Whitbeck, Director, Council for the National Interest
Edward Peck, Americans for Middle East Understanding, Former US Ambassador to Iraq & Mauritania, Participant in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla
Abbas Hamideh, National Board Vice Chair, Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition, son of one of the few survivors of the massacre at Deir Yassin Palestine on April 9th 1948
Bassem Tamimi, Palestinian Popular Resistance Movement, Nabi Saleh
Philip Giraldi, Former CIA Officer turned anti-war activist & journalist; Executive Director, Council for the National Interest*, member, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Cindy Sheehan, anti-war activist and former presidential candidate, Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox
Joe Meadors, USS Liberty Survivor, Past President, USS Liberty Veterans Association, Participant in three Gaza Freedom Flotillas, Free Palestine Movement*.
The Rev. David W. Good, Minister Emeritus for The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, President: Tree of Life Educational Fund
John Erickson, NorCal Friends of Sabeel* — Co-Chair
Sunaina Maira, Professor of Asian American Studies at UC Davis, USACBI
The Reverend Canon Richard K. Toll, former Director, Friends of Sabeel* , Retired Episcopal Priest
Dr. Samir Abed-Rabbo, Professor Emeritus of International Law, Director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies
Donald A. Kruse, Retired Foreign Services Officer, Consul, Consulate General, Jerusalem 1976-1980
Lawrence Davidson, Professor Emeritus, West Chester University
Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy Intellignece Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council
James Petras, Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
Joel Kovel, author of “Overcoming Zionism,” “White Racism,” “Red Hunting inn the Promised Land,” and other books; editor; former psychiatrist; Bard College professor emeritus
Ernest Gallo, President, USS Liberty Veterans Association
Ronald Kukal, USS Liberty Survivor: Petty Officer in Charge of the Body Recovery and Identification after June 8, 1967 attack
David Rovics, Folk Musician, American Federation of Musicians Local 1000
Mary Ratcliff, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper – Editor
Abdallah Omeish, award-winning documentary filmmaker of “Occupation 101” and “The War Around Us”
Andrew Killgore, former Ambassador, publisher, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, providing facts on Palestine for over 30 years.
Janet McMahon, Managing Editor, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, author, “Seeing the Light: Personal Encounters With the Middle East and Islam”
Kathleen Christison Author, “Perceptions of Palestine” and “The Wound of Dispossession”; Co-author “Palestine in Pieces”
Jerry Levin, former CNN network journalist. Christian Peacemaker Teams. Writes on nonviolence. Recognized by the Dalai Lama as one of 2009’s “Unsung Heroes of Compassion”.
And 1,800 others….
3. Statement of an activist who a Campaign staff member pressured to remove her name from the open letter
We were astounded to see the Campaign and its supporters opposing all these principled signatories of the open letter and were deeply saddened to learn that Campaign staff have attempted to pressure people to remove their signatures. Happily, they have been unsuccessful in these efforts.
Longtime activist Marianne Torres, of Takoma, Washington, responded to a request by a Campaign staff member that she take her name off the petition with the following statement. She gave us permission to publish it here:
Yes, my name remains on the letter from Falk, Mazin, Ann W, etc calling for an end to this. I’ve been doing this work far too long not to recognize the attack on Weir for what it is — a way to split, decimate, and neutralize the solidarity movement and to telegraph a message of absolute censorship and destruction should others want to expose what she has exposed to the general public eye.
I understand that many people whose hearts are solid for Palestine, whose loyalty is not in question, have joined the executives of JVP and US Campaign without having an understanding of the long view, or perhaps even of the machinations over the decades to stop the move toward equality in the region and thus the end of the “Jewish State”. One such attempt was the call for “dialogue” in the early 90’s, when it was becoming clear the movement for Palestinian freedom and equal rights was growing. All of a sudden, the disruption and re-direction was “dialogue”, which stopped most of the work for a couple of years and marginalized all who were not Jewish or Muslim or Arab, before folks began to understand that stopping the work was the reason for the disruption, not dialogue.
Before I speak for myself, I quote one of the comments on a FB discussion that I think asks a very unsettling question, and one that requires serious reflection.
Why did End the Occ find it necessary to develop “anti-racism principles?” This assumes that racism is prevalent in ranks of Palestine supporters, a strange idea. There are no adherents of Islamophobia in Palestine ranks, one of two “isms” mentioned. The other is anti-Semitism, which the principles in effect accuse Palestine supporters of.
Astonishingly, for a Palestine group, there is no attention to the broad history and literature on Zionism as a form of racism, and on Jewish anti-gentilism, chauvinism and separatism in the “diaspora.” This signal omission suggests that “anti-racism” is being used to persecute people whom Jews disagree with.”
One of the most puzzling aspects of JVP’s and Campaign’s justification of this attack on Alison is their statement that she has “legitimized” racism by appearing on certain shows (Joseph said exactly that on FB posts), yet the organizations refuse to see the contradiction and hypocrisy when they work with Zionist groups, thereby giving “legitimacy” to the racism of Zionism – remembering that across the globe, Zionism is recognized as racism. It IS, on its face, racism.
No, Alison didn’t respond to every single statement or pick up on every nuance. Do you know of anyone who has ever been able to do that? She’s not a goddess. She’s not even perfect.
I believe the real reason for the attack against Alison is that she exposed Jewish power in the US, the rather stunning power that resulted in the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. She was certainly not the first to do that — it’s been written about for years (long before Atzmon), including extensively in the Daily Forward for decades — but she put it into easily readable form available to the public and substantiated and confirmed it with solid research and references. This is not allowed. It is “beyond thinkable thought,” as Chomsky says.
The Jewish community speaks with pride about its presence and influence in many areas, as would any oppressed or formerly oppressed group. That in itself is not a bad thing, but to destroy a movement because someone outside that community said the very same thing, is evil. The hypocrisy and contradictions in this attack are almost beyond comprehension.
I also believe concern about that revelation is why Chomsky and Bennis, so good on nearly everything else, refuse to recognize the power of the Lobby in the face of all evidence to the contrary. They, and certainly we, are all concerned about a real rise in anti-Jewish racism.
It’s a very slippery slope, isn’t it? No sane person wants to see a repeat of the 1930s and 40s, so we avoid talking about things that might generate a similar anger again. And yet the things being done by Israel in the name of Jews everywhere are exactly the things that generate deep anger and contempt against nations that do such things and against people who are perceived to support them. It is those actions, that state in its current configuration, that must end, not the work of people exposing them.
As long as that state insists that it is the state for all Jews, and that it speaks for all Jews, all Jews get tarred with the ugliness, even my Jewish husband who has been in the struggle for Palestinian freedom longer than I have — almost 35 years.
For Jewish groups, or Jewish-led groups, to split the movement (one simply cannot deny that is what has happened, and what was surely expected to happen) is so transparent and completely unacceptable that there is almost nothing more to say on it.
We will have to agree to disagree about this attack on Alison. She is certainly not perfect, has done things she perhaps might wish she had done differently, but to single her out for not being 100% pure is not only damaging to the movement but is hypocritical in the extreme.
I have been saying for years that there would come a time when our erstwhile allies split away from us, for many are not in the struggle for Palestine — they are in it for Israel. They want to end the occupation because it is clearly harmful to Israel. They believe that once the occupation and siege are ended, Israel can continue to live as an apartheid state and the world will leave them alone.
After we lose those folks, I thought, the next to go will be those who are afraid of the exposures needed to finally get to justice. Perhaps I had the timing backward, for this is where we are now. It will take great courage on all our parts to lay out the reality and to demand a change, to demand that power be used for justice, not for continuing apartheid and a false sense of security.
Just for the record, I’m thoroughly familiar with the arguments against racism, about ends and means, about the need to fight racism wherever we find it and have been a significant part of that struggle all my life. That is NOT what this is about, and the very people saying it is are working with racists.
…… I cannot stand back and watch this movement be destroyed by people whose first concern is clearly not Palestinian freedom.
4. Information about the origins of the Clay Douglas accusations
We’ve discovered that the origin of the Clay Douglas accusations seems to be an anonymous website registered in 2010: ifamericansknewalisonweir.org. The subhead is “Documenting Alison Weir’s Anti-Semitic Activism.”
Contested Terrain is no longer in operation, but an archived page shows that it is largely about “anti-Semitism.” It focuses on a number of ideologies that the author seems to consider problematic, including “left-right convergence” and “anti-zionism.” Other topics include “Holocaust History” and “Fascism/Antifascism.”
The site lists four contributors, all using pseudonyms. The domain was registered by a person named Robert Foster Ogman. Ogman appears to oppose those who speak positively of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance movement and elected government, Hamas.
The site announced the launch of the ifamericnsknewalisonweir.org website, declaring:
“If you have information about anti-Semitic activism by Alison Weir or her ‘If Americans Knew’ organization, please get in contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also share this announcement with any groups or email lists whose participants may find it of interest.”
A person going by the name “Malkat HaKeta” commented: “Thank you thank you thank you for this amazing site!” HaKeta’s facebook page shows the person to be an Israel partisan.
The other blog in the site’s blogroll, Political Research Associates. Soon after the posting of the transcript, PRA assigned an individual named Spencer Sunshine to do an article on me. (Two months earlier Sunshine had condemned me in a speech at an Oregon “antifa” conference after I had gone to an antifa event a few months before to announce a rally against AIPAC; an organizer then called me “anti-Semitic.”)
The person who assigned Sunshine to do the article was an individual named Chip Berlet, who often focuses on allegations of anti-Semitism. Israel-Palestine analyst Jeffrey Blankfort calls Berlet “a strong supporter of Israel and former collaborator with the ADL.” Berlet wrote a long report on “conspiracism” that Project Censored called a “diatribe of meaninglessness” consisting of “demonization by association.”
Among those Berlet acknowledges as helpful and encouraging in his report are:
- Gershom Gorenberg, whom the Electronic Intifada calls an “apologist for ethnic cleansing,”
- Richard Landes, who invented the term “Pallywood” to claim that incidents of Israeli violence against Palestinians were staged,
- and Daniel Pipes, an Israel partisan who founded Campus Watch and is known for his anti-Muslim
Berlet is also reported to have worked with a Wikipedia editor known for abusing the system, often in favor of Israel.
Sunshine contacted me at the last minute – his article was due the next day – and it quickly became apparent that he planned to do a hatchet job on me. After a phone call in which he referred to my “European-American” ethnicity but refused to divulge his own, he emailed me 20 questions. After I provided detailed responses, his article didn’t materialize.
Within a few months of the anonymous website posting of the Douglas transcript, a Berkeley individual named Jim Harris began referring to it and misrepresenting what had occurred. I don’t know how he learned about this obscure interview among my multitudes of interviews.
Four years later, after my book was published, PRA suddenly published Sunshine’s article. At the same time, the JVP whispering campaign against me accelerated, and within a year, both JVP and the Campaign attempted to discredit me (JVP blocked members from hosting my talks and told some people I was associated with David Duke, an absurd and false charge they seem to have dropped, at least publicly). Sunshine’s article about me was featured on the PRA home page.
Sunshine is a member of the small “anti-racist” “antifa” (“anti-fascist”) movement. This seems to be a scattered and widely varied movement. Apparently, it often has a pattern of focusing on “anti-Semitism,” which it seems to too-often conflate with criticism of the pro-Israel lobby or even of Israel itself. Some related groups in Germany march with pro-Israel signs. A CounterPunch article by political analyst Gearóid Ó Colmáin, based in Paris, asserts that antifa particularly “targets intellectuals who denounce Zionism.”