Monthly Archives: April 2008

Report on April 5 NYC GI Organizing Conference

U.S. Army soldier wears peace sign as he patrols a village south of Baghdad, AP photo/Maya Alleruzzo

“Bridging the Gap, Making It Happen” Organizers’ Conference, New York City, April 5
By Elaine Brower, The Military Project

I. Introduction

Organized by The Military Project, with the assistance of GI Special (www.militaryproject.org) and Traveling Soldier (www.travelingsoldier.com), the Conference “Bridging the Gap, Making it Happen,” held on Saturday, April 5th in Middle Collegiate Church, New York City, was, to say the least, spectacular! At last there was an organizers’ conference to bring together people who are sick and fed up with endless war, and endless protests, to exchange ideas, learn techniques and speak to others who are actually doing face to face outreach with active duty military, National Guard and Reserves. Bringing together union members and veterans who oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to do direct, face-to-face outreach to troops will prove to be a combustible combination that can help troops turning against the wars build a movement that stops them.

Speakers included Selena D. Coppa, an active duty Army Sergeant stationed at Darmstadt, Germany and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW); Jeff Englehart, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW); Mike Hastie, Vietnam Veteran and photographer; Garett Reppenhagen, IVAW; Dennis Serdel, Vietnam Veteran and poet; Richard Boyle, author and Vietnam war reporter; Sanford Kelson, Veterans for Peace (VFP); and Clarence Thomas, National Co-Chair of the Million Worker March and Executive Board member of Local 10, International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union based in San Francisco.

GI resistance was the instrument that ended the Vietnam War. Those who spoke on the panels, such as “First Hand Reports on Sentiment Against the Wars in the Armed Forces;” “Resistance Through Evocation: Photographs, Poems;” “Troops Resist War; Vietnam and Iraq, Eyewitnesses;” “Outreach to the Troops: Organizing Tactics in the Real World;” and, a presentation from Daniel Joseph Black, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Clarence Thomas, Local 10, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, totally roused the audience of veterans and civilians interested in talking face to face with active duty military, guard and reserves.

Richard Boyle, Vietnam War Reporter, and author of “Flower of the Dragon: The Breakdown of the US Army in Viet Nam“, spoke about how he personally risked his life to drop into Firebase Pace during a time when soldiers there numbered about 400 and the VC enemy forces were upwards of 4,000. He gave a chilling account of how the soldiers were told to perform a recon mission and scout the perimeter, while they all knew they were completely outnumbered and did not want to die in a useless bloodbath of a war.

They decided to refuse orders, and mutiny. Boyle documented the resistance with photographs and on his small cassette tape recorder. He was able to smuggle the documentation of this mutiny out of the country, where he then tried to get Congress to listen and learn about how, even though the Pentagon and military officials kept insisting there were no troops in that firebase, that they were there and had refused to fight. (for more about Richard Boyle see http://movies.nytimes.com/person/82692/Richard-Boyle)

II. IVAW: Spread and nurture resistance!

Selena Coppa, active duty military Army Sgt. and a member of IVAW, as well as a mother, is an example of organizing against the war while still “on the inside” of the military. She speaks to believing in the oath she swore to, and feels it is her duty to lead by example. She joined IVAW believing it is the only moral thing to do in the current situation. Sgt. Coppa is currently stationed in Darmstadt, Germany and spends time talking to other soldiers about the war. She organized active duty military while at Ft. Hood and also at Ft. Meade. She states, “I just start by asking someone ‘what do you think about this war?’ and get into a conversation.” “At first, the officers weren’t too happy about what I was doing, but now it is much easier.”

Daniel Joseph Black, United States Marine Corps, 2000 to 2005 (served in Fallujah, Iraq, as well as Kuwait) and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke brilliantly about how he discovered after his tours in Iraq, that the war was illegal and immoral. Black states, “We never swore to obey, we swore to defend and if defending requires our disobedience of an autocratic war criminal, then we are so bound by our oath to defend the Constitution.” (read more at www.ivaw.org/member/daniel-joseph-black).

Garett Reppenhagen (former Army Scout Sniper, 2-63 AR BN 1st Infantry Division 2002 to 2005) and Jeff Englehart (former Army Specialist, 19 Delta-Cavalry Scout from 2001 to 2005) served in Iraq at the same time, but were in different locations. While stationed in Iraq, they started a blog against the war “Fight to Survive“, which they did when each of them were stationed in different locations, not even spending time together. They worked along with fellow soldiers on the frontlines to keep the blog going. This blog, the first of its kind, attracted the attention of the officers, and caused problems for one soldier. However, the anti-war messages kept going out and received notoriety amongst the ranks. They were also inspired to continue their fight against the war while still stationed in Iraq by reading “Flower of the Dragon.”

Both Garett and Jeff spent time in Iraq talking to other soldiers about the futility of the war, the total lack of reasons to be there, and the horror of it all. They put up stickers around the base where they were stationed which said “Bush Lied, Who Died!” Now, members of IVAW, they continue their struggle to speak to active duty military at various military bases about organizing tactics against the war (visit the links to read more postings written by Garett (www.ivaw.org/member/garett-reppenhagen-0) and Jeff www.ivaw.org/membersspeak/supporting-gi-resistance).

Fabian Bouthillette, former US Naval Lieutenant, and a graduate of the Naval Academy; a member of IVAW and the Military Project, led the discussion about how important it was for members of the anti-war movement to do outreach to the troops. He said, “When I got out of the Navy, I knew the war was wrong, but didn’t know how to go about expressing that. I joined IVAW, and then met members of the Military Project. It dawned on me that this was the thing to do. Go and speak to the troops. And that’s what I have been doing ever since.”

III. Support from Labor Against the War, Veterans For Peace & Civilian activists

Sandy Kelson, VFP, who organized two weeks of outreach at Ft. Stewart Army base, which is home to roughly 19,000 soldiers, of which approximately 15,000 are currently deployed, talked about direct outreach at the base. In February, 2008, he and others, stood at a traffic light right before the entrance and distributed 500 copies of “Sir, No Sir!”, the Dave Zieger film about GI resistance during Vietnam, and 385 copies of “The Ground Truth”, a film documenting resistance by the military against the war in Iraq, as well as 1300 packets of leaflets, including VFP and IVAW applications, Appeal for Redress, GI Rights pocket cards, and other materials. Sometime after they did this outreach they discovered that the PX and other locations on the base were discussing the materials that they had delivered.

Mike Hastie, Vietnam Veteran and photographer, presented his evocation against the war by displaying his vividly moving pictures from Vietnam. His photos were hung around the room surrounding the audience and reminding them about the quagmire that this Country led us into almost 40 years ago, and how eerily similar it was to what is happening today. He particularly moved the crowd by removing 5 of his hanging photos and read stories related in the captions. Faces of Vietnamese children, men & women, soldiers who were all adversely affected by the devastation they had witnessed and lived through.

Dennis Serdel, Vietnam Veteran and member of VFP, read his extremely moving and heart wrenching poems which can be found regularly in the publication GI Special at www.militaryproject.org. The audience was completely silent and greatly touched during the reading.

Other veterans who spoke about the importance of doing face to face outreach to the troops were Alberto Jaccoma, and Alan Stolzer, both members of VFP and the Military Project. Jaccoma said, “I went to a meeting where a group was planning to do something… hold hands….and we did that, and I thought ‘what does this mean’. Then I go to the armory and feel like I have accomplished something.” “It’s hard to be there at 5:30 in the morning, in the snow and rain, and you think ‘what am I crazy?’ but when you leave you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

Of course there are the civilians who believe that outreach to the troops is the way to end this war. Presentations by Katherine Gorell, Johanna Petit and Elaine Brower, all of the Military Project, talked about how they got involved in this kind of work. Katherine Gorell, whose father was a Vietnam Veteran, and died from agent orange poisoning, is a zealot when it comes to trips to the local Harlem armory. “There’s nothing more productive, or useful. Protests just don’t work.” Johanna Petit, who lives by the naval base in Connecticut, started by handing out GI Rights materials to the sailors either in the mall or at the Groton Naval Base.

I spoke about roaming the Country in search of military installations to hand out flyers to the troops. Starting outreach at 29 Palms Marine Corps Base in California when my son was stationed there to leave for Iraq in 2005, I told the audience, “Before I left for California, I called some friends who are part of a local chapter of “World Can’t Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime. They met me and we went to the corner, about a block outside the main gate and we held a banner that said “Drive Out the Bush Regime!” “We handed out flyers to cars at the intersection that talked about how bad the war was, as well as the problems with this government, and marines in uniform took them. They gave us the peace sign, thumbs up and fists up all the way and that was in 2005! When I got back on the base to see my son, he said ‘mom, some of the guys said they saw you on the corner with signs and stuff?’, “no not me,” I said.

Michael Letwin of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), who spoke and introduced a fellow union member from California, Clarence Thomas. The conference wrapped up with a presentation by Thomas, National Co-Chair of the “Million Worker March“, and Executive Board member of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union who spoke on “Iraq Veterans + Union Workers = History In Motion.” The history of this particular Local 10 and its members is one of courageous acts. Before the war started, Thomas addressed a crowd of over 2 million anti-war activists in London that February 2003.

In a statement made to labor leaders gathered last year in San Francisco he called on workers to stand up and take organized action against the war in Iraq, saying that politicians can’t be counted on to halt the bloodshed. “Until people get off their asses and do something, there won’t be change.” On May 1st the ILWU, dockworkers plan to stop work for eight hours in U.S. West Coast ports. “No peace, no work” holiday was declared for May Day, International Workers’ Day.

His fiery speech at the conference brought cheers as he spoke to the importance of union solidarity with Iraq Veterans Against the War and his commitment to supporting outreach to the troops. “It’s a working man’s military, and we are all part of the same union of brotherhood.” (to watch video go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jxhrDNzugo and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms9-NBYltL4)

IV. The new generation of resisters

This conference helped provide materials, motivation and acted as a catalyst to those who understand that outreach to the troops is the way to end not only end the occupation in Iraq, but could exert an influence on how and when our government decides to deploy the armed forces. Some of us remember the days of the GI resistance during the Vietnam war, and how it grew exponentially while the peace movement remained stagnant and ineffective. Once the force of those military members turned against the governmental structure and all that it was doing, they were unstoppable.

We are seeing the growth of a new GI rebellion. On the heels of “Winter Soldier 2008: Eyewitness accounts of the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan” (see http://www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony), this conference stressed the need to nurture that resistance by forming an alliance, or bridging the gap, between the civilians who are determined to put an end to the imperialistic occupation, and the members of the armed forces who are refusing to protect and defend a lie, continue the bloodbath that politicians refuse to stop, kill and die in the process.

If you are paying attention, you will see that not only the power of this resistance is mighty, it is increasing daily. Members of the military completely understand what is happening in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, and have the ultimate power to stop it.

Those civilians who get it must organize to do outreach wherever we live, whatever military installation you can frequent, and talk to those soldiers, sailors and marines. They want to hear you, see you, and hunger for the information you can share with them, as we have done.

War at Home: NYPD Gets Away With Murder of Sean Bell

3 Detectives in Bell Shooting Acquitted

Three detectives were found not guilty Friday morning on all charges in the November, 2006, shooting death of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a club in Jamaica, Queens.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/26/nyregion/26BELL.html?hp

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Sounding the Bell for Justice: Hundreds converge to protest unjust acquittal [With Photos]

On Friday, April 25th, hundreds of outraged protesters converged at the Queens County District Attorney’s office in Kew Gardens, Queens to protest the acquittal of police officers responsible for Sean Bell’s death. From there they walked several miles past Queens Boulevard to the heart of Jamaica, where the shooting took place.

http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2008/04/96606.html
http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2008/04/96653.html
http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2008/04/96639.html
http://community.webshots.com/album/563217143uSUDSH

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Justice for Sean Bell

Sean Bell joins a long list of young men of color infamously murdered or assaulted by the NYPD, including Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Anthony Baez and Abner Louima. Yet police officers are almost never indicted — let alone convicted — for their crimes.

Police shootings, and the systemic failure to effectively prosecute their perpetrators, shows that the problem is not a “few bad apples” in the NYPD. Rather, they are the predictable result of a criminal justice system that — as a matter of deliberate policy — systematically targets communities of color for search-and-destroy arrest sweeps, widespread criminalization and inhumane drug sentences.

http://nyc.indymedia.org/or/2007/05/86519.html

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Nicole Paultre Bell on Sean Bell verdict: ‘They killed Sean all over again’

“Every march, every rally, I’m going to be right up front,” Paultre Bell said, breaking her silence for the first time since the cops were cleared Friday.

“The justice system let me down,” Paultre Bell said, her voice strong, her message clear. “They killed Sean all over again. That’s what it felt like to us.”

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2008/04/26/2008-04-26_nicole_paultre_bell_on_sean_bell_verdict.html

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Bell’s Family and Friends, With Rising Anger, Say Fight Is ‘Far From Over’

William Bell showed the most frustration. At one point, while everyone stood and chanted, he sat stiff-jawed in his seat, his elbows on his knees and his fingers interlocking. Later, he stepped to the microphone and said, “Is this 1955 Alabama?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/nyregion/27response.html?ref=nyregion

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In the Sean Bell case, it was the gang that couldn’t prosecute straight
No matter what Justice Arthur Cooperman’s verdict in the Sean Bell trial is Friday, court watchers will remember the prosecution of this case as one of the strangest ever. . . . “Even if Cooperman finds the cops guilty, I just wish the Queens DA would prosecute all its cases like this one,” Murphy said. “In front of a jury, it would be a defense lawyer’s dream.”`

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2008/04/25/2008-04-25_in_the_sean_bell_case_it_was_the_gang_th.html

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In Bell Case, Black New Yorkers See Nuances That Temper Rage

“My mother always has to look outside her window and worry about us because of the cops,” said Ray Powell, 23, a Queensborough Community College student who was at the memorial on Friday. “If it was me, if I shot a gun 30 times, I would get the death penalty.”

And even those who noted that two of the officers involved in the Bell shooting were black said their race was less important than their badges. “Some would argue that these were not black cops,” said Kaleem Musa Keita, 49, who was outside the courthouse in Queens when the verdict was announced. “They’re black in color, but they didn’t represent their community. They were representing the police.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/nyregion/27bell.html?hp

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Rev. Al: Freeing Bell cops would be verdict worthy of Old South

“If we say Friday that people’s attitude gets them shot by police, are we going to say next that it’s all right for people to assault women because they look like that’s what they wanted?” Sharpton asked.
Martin made the remark during his closing argument in the case against three NYPD detectives. Guzman was the person who “had the attitude to go get a gun and come back and use it,” Martin said.
Guzman has denied threatening anyone with a gun, and Sharpton was outraged by the argument. “This smacks of Emmett Till – of reckless eyeballing,” the civil rights activist said.
Till, 14, was murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman in 1955. His killers were acquitted.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2008/04/23/2008-04-23_rev_al_freeing_bell_cops_would_be_verdic.html

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Obama “Respects” Verdict

“The judge has made his ruling, and we’re a nation of laws, so we respect the verdict that came down,” he said in response to a question at a gas station in Indianapolis, where he was holding a news conference. . . . The verdict, which has touched off a storm of protest in New York, arrives at a delicate time in the campaign for Obama. After his loss to Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary, some Democrats are quietly worrying whether Obama’s difficulty in winning over working-class white voters could pose a problem for the party if he is the nominee.

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/04/25/obama_takes_questions_on_sean.html

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Some notable shootings involving New York police officers
Some fatal shootings of black men over the past decade involving New York City police officers.

newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny–policeshooting-gl0425apr25,0,3604643.story

NYCLAW Support for ILWU May Day Work Stoppage

April 23, 2008

Robert McEllrath, ILWU President
1188 Franklin Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 775-0533
(415) 775-1302 FAX

Dear Brother McEllrath:

New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) salutes the ILWU’s Pacific Coast May Day Shutdown to Stop the War in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the beginning, Bush & Co. have sought to justify this war for oil and empire with phony claims about “fighting terrorism,” finding”weapons of mass destruction,” and spreading “democracy.” Despite overwhelming rejection of its policies at the polls, the administration has steadily escalated its war in the Middle East.

This has meant not only ordering thousands more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, but also arming and financing Israel’s war on Lebanon and its increasingly brutal slow-genocide of the Palestinians, launching a proxy invasion of Somalia, bombing Pakistan, and threatening to attack Iran.

As in all such wars, ordinary working people pay the price. In Iraq and Afghanistan, this war has killed more than a million people, caused more than 50,000 G.I. casualties, promoted civil war, cost at least $1.2 trillion and pushed the economy into crisis — with no end in sight.

At home, the administration continues to attack civil liberties, the Arab-Muslim community, undocumented immigrants, Katrina refugees, people of color and labor.

Yet this is a bipartisan war. Congressional Democrats — including senators Clinton and Obama — have given Bush every penny he has asked for. They have refused to filibuster war spending (which requires only 41 Senate votes) and won’t even promise to get out by the end of the next presidential term in 2013. At most, they call for “redeployment” to maintain U.S. control of the region.

A generation ago, a war ended when Vietnamese resistance and the Black freedom movement ignited a grassroots working class mutiny in the military, auto plants, ghettos and barrios, against what Martin Luther King Jr. accurately called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today . . . my own government.”

It will take a similar mutiny to end this war. The ILWU has a proud tradition of work stoppages to protest South African apartheid and U.S. death squads in Central America. Your May Day action shows how workers — both in and out of uniform — have the collective power to end this war, bring the troops home now, and get the U.S. out of the Middle East.

Issued by NYCLAW Co-Conveners
(Other affiliations listed for identification only):

Larry Adams
Former President, NPMHU Local 300

Michael Letwin
Former President, UAW Local 2325/Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys

Brenda Stokely
Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; N.E. Regional Coordinator, Million Worker March Movement

May Day 2008: Stop the War in Iraq & Afghanistan (To enlarge, click on photo and zoom in)

Bridging the Gap: Making it Happen An Organizers Conference

Bridging the Gap: Making it Happen An Organizers Conference

April 5, 2008: 10 AM

Middle Collegiate Church
50 East 7th St., New York, New York [Just east of 2nd Avenue]

Politicians Can’t Be Counted on to Halt the Bloodshed The Troops Have the Power to Stop the War

Program

10 am: First Hand Reports on Sentiment Against the Wars in the Armed Forces; Organizers

Noon: Resistance Through Evocation: Photographs, Poems; Mike Hastie & Dennis Serdel, Vietnam Veterans; Al Jaccoma, Vietnam Veterans Against the War

12:45: Lunch Break.

1:45 pm: Troops Resist War; Vietnam and Iraq: Eyewitnesses: Richard Boyle, Vietnam War Reporter; Garett Reppenhagen & J.d. Englehart, Iraq Veterans Against the War; Al Jaccoma, Vietnam Veterans Against the War

3 pm: Outreach to the Troops [Organizing Tactics in the Real World] Fabian Bouthillette, Iraq Veterans Against the War & the Military Project

4:20 pm: On Guard: “We Never Swore to Obey; We Swore to Defend” Daniel Joseph Black, Iraq Veterans Against the War

5:15 pm: Iraq Veterans + Union Workers = History in Motion: Michael Letwin & Clarence Thomas, Local 10, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, San Francisco

Organized By: The Military Project: Contact@militaryproject.org
917.677.8057 [With the Assistance of Traveling Soldier & Gi Special]

“The single largest failure of the anti war movement at this point is the lack of outreach to the troops.” Tim Goodrich, Iraq Veterans Against the War

“The military are the final, essential weak point of Bush and Cheney.” David McReynolds 9.29.07

Occupation Isn’t Liberation — Bring All the Troops Home Now!
If You Don’t like the Resistance, End the Occupation

——————–
Need Some Truth? Check out Traveling Soldier

Telling the truth — about the occupation or the criminals running the government in Washington — is the first reason for Traveling Soldier. But we want to do more than tell the truth; we want to report on the resistance — whether it’s in the streets of Baghdad, New York, or inside the armed forces.

Our goal is for Traveling Soldier to become the thread that ties working class people inside the armed services together. We want this newsletter to be a weapon to help you organize resistance within the armed forces.

If you like what you’ve read, we hope that you’ll join with us in building a network of active duty organizers. http://www.traveling soldier.org/

And join with Iraq War vets in the call to end the occupation and bring our troops home now! (www.ivaw.org/)

If printed out, this newsletter is your personal property and cannot legally be confiscated from you. “Possession of unauthorized material may not be prohibited.” DoD Directive 1325.6 Section 3.5.1.2.

Interview with Mike Marqusee, Author of If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/letwin040408.html

April 4, 2008

Interview with Mike Marqusee, Author of If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew
by Michael Letwin

If I Am Not for Myself
IF I AM NOT FOR MYSELF:
Journey of
an Anti-Zionist Jew
by Mike Marqusee

BUY THIS BOOK

Your book is subtitled “Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew.”  Were you always an Anti-Zionist?

No. I grew up, in the 1960s, in a left-wing household in a largely Jewish New York suburb — where Israel was seen as a progressive beacon and support for the Jewish state was taken for granted.  My parents combined activism in the civil rights and anti-war movement with blind devotion to the Israeli cause.  I attended a Reform Sunday school in which Israel played a much more important role than God or the Hebrew Bible.  When Israel won the Six Day war, I felt the same triumphant glow as everyone else in my community.

What changed your mind?

The contradictions I came to feel between my anti-racist and anti-war views and what Israel was doing.  It was a prolonged process, pushed along by two factors.  First, events in the Middle East and the increasingly obvious injustice of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.  Second, the stubborn and repeated re-emergence of Palestinian struggle, without which, we wouldn’t be talking about the issue at all.

Why did you chose to make your grandfather a central focus of the book?

After my mother died in 2001, I inherited a box stuffed with my grandfather’s papers: diaries, letters, campaign literature and hundreds of columns written for a Bronx newspaper called the Jewish Review, from the 30s to the early 50s.  He spent several decades as a political activist — pro-labor, pro-civil liberties, anti-racist and anti-fascist.  He got involved in the Scottsboro campaign and chaired the Bronx branch of the Committee to Aid Republican Spain.  He joined in the street confrontations against the anti-Semitic Christian Front and fiercely criticized the passivity of the Jewish establishment.  Though he worked with Communists, and loathed red-bating, he was never a member of the party and had no patience with what he considered to be party-line regimentation.  In 1946 he ran for Congress on the American Labor Party ticket and secured 20% of the vote.

Fascism and anti-Semitism turned him into a militant Jew (he was actually half Irish), but he only became interested in Zionism from about 1940 — when he interviewed Jabotinsky (and criticized him for making a war-time alliance with the British).  In 1948, he filled the pages of the Jewish Review with his glee at Israeli independence (“the Bar Mitzvah of our people”) and his outrage at the British and the Arabs.  He had always seen himself as an anti-imperialist, he hated the British Empire and saw the Arabs as savage pawns of the British.  All his worst traits come to the fore.  His tone is militaristic and chauvinist and at times bloodthirsty.  The man who had been a stand-up champion of refugee rights since he’d opposed the Quotas Act of 1924 was now, in 1948, almost gloating over the Palestinian exodus.  One of the questions my book sets out to answer is how that transition came about.  Partly, it’s an object lesson in the perversities of the politics of identity.

But my grandfather wasn’t alone.  The Western Left overwhelmingly supported the Jewish state.  In the presidential campaign of 48, Henry Wallace constantly attacked Truman’s alleged betrayal of the Jews in Palestine, which he, and much of the Left, viewed as part of Truman’s Cold War, anti-Soviet, pro-British policy turn.

In my grandfather’s papers, I found echoes of current controversies and of my own experiences as a political activist.  For me it was an intriguing example of life on the Left, in a particular time and place, and how activists, like everyone else, are driven both by inner demons and larger forces.

Some on the Left limit their criticism of Israel to the occupation of additional Palestinian territory since 1967.  Is that the extent of the problem?

No.  The Palestinian refugee population — descendants of those driven out in 1948 — now numbers at least 5 million, one half of whom live in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.  One million remain stateless, with no form of identification other than a UNWRA cards.  The end of the occupation would strengthen them in various ways, but in itself would not rectify their situation or meet their demands for justice.  In addition there are 1.4 million non-Jews in Israel, who suffer institutionalised discrimination and segregation and are confined to second-class citizenship.

These two groups of people — the refugees and Palestinians within Israel — are not just additional problems that can be addressed separately.  They are part of the wider and deeper problem created by the Zionist state.  At this point in history, it’s clear that the Zionist mission has an in-built exclusivist and expansionist dynamic.  Maintaining a Jewish state requires maintaining a sizeable majority Jewish population with an ideological commitment to the state.  Palestinian demands — and actually existing Palestinians — stand in the way of that.  Zionism is an obstacle not only to the realisation of a single democratic state in Palestine but immediately to any acceptance of genuine self-determination in any form for the Palestinians.

Why do Palestinians refuse to “recognize the Jewish state,” and insist on the right of return for refugees from the Nakba in 1948?

The Palestinians’ right of return is guaranteed in Resolution 194 which has been reaffirmed by the UN many times since 1948.  It embodies a basic and widely recognised principle, without which, there would be no protection for victims of wars, and ethnic cleansing would be legitimised.  To abandon the right of return is to abandon several million people, and to exempt Israel from the requirements we make of other states.  It’s not an impossible utopian demand, either.  It’s something that could be practically implemented through negotiations, though it would of course require major concessions from the Israeli side.

While Israel refuses to recognise its responsibility for the refugees and their descendants, it demands that these very people recognise its own “right to exist”.  It’s an extraordinary demand.  No one denies the fact of Israel’s existence, but why should anyone anywhere be compelled to recognise the “right to exist” of a particular state formation?  What’s being demanded here is an ideological seal of approval: support for the right of the Jewish state to exist, in perpetuity, in Palestine, regardless of what that entails for others.  Palestinians and their supporters are condemned because they refuse to certify as legitimate a national project built on dispossession and ethnic supremacy.

Is there reason to hope that a greater number of Jews will reject Zionism?

Yes.  Israel’s record has now been so exposed that it requires huge amounts of willful blindness to continue to defend it.  The facts are now too well documented, too available.  Also, despite everything, there remains a leftward bent within the US and British Jewish populations.  It’s a tradition that’s been profoundly eroded over the years but is still quite tangible, and it can’t be reconciled with Israel’s behavior or Zionism’s assumptions.

Despite strenuous efforts to keep Jews in the corral, most Jews in the US or Britain live wider lives and their views are shaped by the same things that shape other people’s views.  Like others, they find ethno-nationalism and blind chauvinism unappealing.  I think the aggressive tactics of the ADL and the like have to some extent backfired — though in the meantime they’ve taken plenty of victims.  As the pro-Israel establishment finds doubt spreading among the people it claims to represent, it gets more strident and vicious.  One of the themes of my book is that Zionism’s hegemony within Jewish communities was the product of a particular history; it wasn’t automatic; it’s changed over time and it’s changing now.

How do you evaluate the significance of growing opposition to a “two-state solution” and increasing support for one democratic state in all of historical Palestine?

It springs from Israel’s refusal to countenance any meaningful form of Palestinian independence.  All the “two state solutions” envisioned by Israeli leaders are aimed at perpetuating Jewish supremacy.

In one sense, the argument is simple: democrats oppose ethnically-privileged states everywhere.  The logic behind the demand that Israel becomes “a state for all its citizens” ought to be self-evident, yet when it was raised by Palestinian members of the Knesset, it was met with outrage and those who raised it were subject to repression.

Is it conceivable that a Zionist state in the Middle East will rest at peace with its neighbours?  It would certainly continue to require huge subsidies from the USA and other Western countries and would continue to tie the Jewish population of Palestine to the broader imperial project in the region.  That’s a recipe for endless instability and injustice.

Mike Marqusee’s Web site: <www.mikemarqusee.com>Extract from If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew, by Mike Marqusee, in The Guardian: “The First Time I Was Called a Self-hating Jew” (4 March 2008)

Review of If I Am not for Myself in The Independent: Michael Kustow, “If I Am Not For Myself, by Mike Marqusee: Next Year — Not in Jerusalem” (21 March 2008)

NYCLAW: U.S. Labor and Gaza

From: New York City Labor Against the War <nyclaw01@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 5:53 PM
Subject: NYCLAW: U.S. Labor and Gaza

Since it was first issued on Monday, New York City Labor Against the War’s statement, U.S. LABOR AND GAZA (below) has been endorsed by 330 people around the world, and posted at numerous sites, including:

*MRZine
http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/nyclaw250308.html

*Labournet
http://www.labournet.net/world/0803/gaza20.html

*Pacbi
http://www.pacbi.org/boycott_news_more.php?id=705_0_1_0_C

But to break the silence on Palestine, we need you and/or your organization to:

1. Endorse: http://www.petitiononline.com/Gaza/petition.html

2. Post and forward.

3. Otherwise publish.

4. Stay in touch with these efforts by joining NYCLAW’s listserv at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/

Thank you!

—–

U.S. LABOR AND GAZA
New York City Labor Against the War
March 23, 2008

New York City Labor Against the War joins the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions in denouncing Israel’s recent massacres in Gaza, the victims of which include at least 130 Palestinians — half of them civilians, including dozens of women and children — since February 27.

WHO ARE THE TERRORISTS?

Israel claims that it is fighting “terrorism” in Gaza. This is the same hollow excuse with which the U.S. seeks to justify war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the erosion of civil liberties and labor rights at home.

In fact, Israel’s attacks are part of a relentless, U.S.-orchestrated campaign of collective punishment — with complicity of the corrupt Palestinian Authority — to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government.

Long before its latest massacres, Israel had turned Gaza into the world’s “largest open air prison,” assassinating activists, and cutting-off essential goods and services to 1.5 million people. Only as a result did Hamas abandon a unilateral two-year truce.

Even now, Israel seeks to derail Hamas truce offers by escalating arrests, home demolitions, settlements and murder in the West Bank — from which no rockets have been fired.

Despite media portrayals, this violence is overwhelmingly one-sided against Palestinians, who have no aircraft, artillery or tanks.

Thus, while only one Israeli has been killed by rockets launched from Gaza since May 2007, Israel’s modern arsenal killed 60 Palestinians on March 1 alone.

On February 29, Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Valnai, threatened a bigger “Shoah” — a reference to the Nazi Holocaust.

As UN official John Dugard has pointed out, Palestinian rockets are not the cause, but the “inevitable consequence,” of Israeli state terror in Gaza, the slow-motion genocide which human rights organizations describe as “worse than at any time since the beginning of the Israeli military occupation in 1967.”

Following the latest attacks, a Council on Foreign Relations expert explained, “You have Palestinians who wouldn’t necessarily support the violence but they are saying, ‘Well, what choice do we have?'”

SIXTY YEARS OF ETHNIC CLEANSING AND GENOCIDE

Israel’s war on Gaza can only be understood as an attempt to stamp out all resistance — including nonviolent protest — to Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Indeed, most of Gaza’s population are survivors of Zionist expulsions since the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948, when 13,000 Palestinians were massacred, 531 towns and villages erased, 11 urban neighborhoods emptied, and more than 750,000 (85 percent) driven from 78 percent of their country.

In 1967, Israel seized the remaining 22 percent of Palestine — including East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — which, in violation of UN resolutions, remains under Israeli military rule.

Today, as a result of these policies, at least 70 percent of the 10 million Palestinians are refugees — the largest such population in the world. Despite other UN resolutions, Israel vows that it will never allow them to return.

Palestinians who managed to remain within the 1948 areas — today, 1.4 million (or 20 percent of the population in Israel) — are permanently separated from their families in exile, subject to more than 20 discriminatory laws, treated as a “demographic threat,” and threatened with mass expulsion.

In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 140 illegal, ever-expanding Jewish-only settlements and road systems dominate the water resources and control 40 percent of the land. Palestinians are confined, separated, denied medical treatment, and degraded by an 8-meter-high separation wall, pass laws, curfews and 600 military checkpoints.

From 2000-2007, 4,274 Palestinians in these 1967 territories were killed, compared with 1,024 Israelis. The military has seized 60,000 political prisoners; it still holds and tortures 11,000.

All of these conditions have dramatically worsened since the Annapolis “peace conference” in November.

U.S. SPONSORSHIP

Israel’s war on Palestine depends completely on U.S. money, weapons and approval.

Since 1948, Israel — the top foreign aid recipient — has received at least $108 billion from the U.S. government. In the past ten years alone, U.S. military aid was $17 billion; over the next decade, it will be $30 billion.

Israel’s recent assault on Gaza was endorsed by a Congressional vote of 404-1. Democratic and Republican presidential candidates fall over themselves to offer more of the same.

On March 22, Dick Cheney reassured Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of “America’s. . . . commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats,” and that the U.S. and Israel are “friends — special friends.”

This “special friendship” means that, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is U.S. aircraft, cluster bombs and bullets that kill and maim on behalf of the occupiers. Just one of many targets was the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions headquarters in Gaza City, destroyed by F-16s on February 28.

Such support bolsters Israel’s longstanding role as watchdog and junior partner for U.S. domination over the oil-rich Middle East — and beyond. In that capacity, Israel was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally.

After 9/11, it helped intensify the demonization of Arabs and Muslims. It has 200 nuclear weapons, but helped manufacture “evidence” of Iraqi WMD. With U.S. weapons and support, it invaded Lebanon in 2006.

Together, these wars and occupations have killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, thereby creating the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Now, Israel is the cutting edge of threats against Syria and Iran.

In other words, oppression and resistance in Palestine is the epicenter of U.S.-Israeli war throughout the Middle East. These stakes are reflected in the ferocity of Israel’s attacks against Gaza.

LABOR’S ROLE

In Palestine, South Africa, Britain, Canada and other countries, labor has condemned Israeli Apartheid.

Workers in the United States pay a staggering human and financial price, including deepening economic crisis, for U.S.-Israeli war and occupation.

But through a combination of intent, ignorance and/or expediency, much of labor officialdom in this country — often without the knowledge or consent of union members — is an accomplice of Israeli Apartheid.

Some 1,500 labor bodies have plowed at least $5 billion of union pension funds and retirement plans into State of Israel Bonds.

In April 2002, while Israel butchered Palestinian refugees at Jenin in the West Bank, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney was a featured speaker at a belligerent “National Solidarity Rally for Israel.” In 2006, leadership of the American Federation of Teachers embraced Israel’s war on Lebanon.

These same leaders collaborate with attempts by the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) to silence Apartheid Israel’s opponents — many of whom are Jewish.

In July 2007, top officials of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win signed a JLC statement that condemned British unions for even considering the nonviolent campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Just days ago, the JLC and the leadership of UNITE-HERE bullied a community organization in Boston into revoking space for a conference on “Zionism and the Repression of Anti-Colonial Movements.”

Even the leadership of U.S. Labor Against the War, which receives funding from several major unions, remains adamantly silent about U.S. government, corporate and labor support for Israeli Apartheid.

Labor leaders’ complicity parallels infamous “AFL-CIA” support for U.S. war and dictatorship in Vietnam, Latin America, Gulf War I, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It strengthens the U.S.-Israel war machine and labor’s corporate enemies, reinforces racism and Islamophobia, and makes a mockery of international solidarity.

A NECESSARY STAND

More than forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came under intense public attack for opposing the Vietnam war. Even within the Civil Rights Movement, some dismissed his position too “divisive” and “unpopular.”

In his famous speech at the Riverside Church in April 1967, Dr. King answered these critics by pointing out that “silence is betrayal,” and that “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today . . . [is] my own government.”

At the National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace in November 1967, he reiterated the most basic principles of labor solidarity: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. . . . Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

These principles are no less relevant today.

Yes, the Israel lobby seeks to silence opponents of Israeli Apartheid. All the more need for trade unionists to break that silence by speaking out against Israeli military occupation, for the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and for the elimination of apartheid throughout historic Palestine.

Therefore, we reaffirm our support for an immediate and total:

1. End to U.S. military and economic support for Israel.

2. Divestment of business and labor investments in Israel.

3. Withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces from the Middle East.

————-
Issued by NYCLAW Co-Conveners
(Other affiliations listed for identification only):

Larry Adams
Former President, NPMHU Local 300

Michael Letwin
Former President, UAW Local 2325/Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys

Brenda Stokely
Former President, AFSCME DC 1707; Co-Chair, Million Worker March

————-
NYCLAW, with Al-Awda-NY The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, is a cofounder of Labor for Palestine .

Previous NYCLAW materials on Palestine include:

Response to Anti-Boycott Attacks (October 19, 2007)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/2683

Open Letter to UTLA President A.J. Duffy (October 9, 2006)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/2466

U.S. Government and Labor Aid to Israel (September 1, 2006)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/2442

Labor and the Middle East War (August 11, 2006)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/2429

Conference: Palestine, Labor and the AFL-CIO (July 23, 2005)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/2245

From Palestine to the US – Labor Fights Back! (October 7, 2004)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/2111

Report on the New York Visit by Representatives from the PGFTU (December 22, 2002)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/1359

An Evening With Palestinian Trade Unionists (December 13, 2002)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/1328

Protest Israeli Consul’s Speech to AFL-CIO (May 21, 2002)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/1001

No Labor Money for Israeli War Crimes! (May 21, 2002)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/999

Monday Israeli Consul Protest Postponed April 26, 2002)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/message/926

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Subscribe to the NYCLAW low-volume listserv:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaborAgainstWar/

New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
nyclaw01@gmail.com
PO Box 620166, PACC, New York, NY 10129

Sincerely,