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A PERSONAL REPORT-BACK FROM THE OAKLAND "ANTI-SEMITISM" CONFERENCE - by Joseph Anderson
But, those energetic younger anti-Zionist Jews with whom I conversed -- like me, my Palestinian friend, and my non-European Jewish acquaintance -- indeed fervently wanted Palestine-Israel to be a multicultural society where *EVERYONE* has ABSOLUTELY equal rights (with no tricks in the small print) without regard to ethnicity, race or religion.
REF.: Facing A Challenge Within:
A Progressive Scholars' and Activists' Conference on Anti-Semitism and The Left.
August 21 - 23, 2004, Oakland Marriott Downtown, Oakland, California
A PERSONAL REPORT-BACK FROM THE OAKLAND "ANTI-SEMITISM" CONFERENCE
Monday, August 23, 2004
I ended up, unanticipatedly, attending about a day-and-a-quarter of the 3-day conference and just a few of the many (and many overlapping) workshops, so my attendance was somewhat limited. A Palestinian friend asked me to go with him to see any indication of what the conference was like (for example, from the reception literature table, the people who were walking around, any media, etc.) and when we arrived, we were warmly invited to freely attend the workshops by a couple of the Jewish conference receptionists. My overall, albeit limited, personal experience of the conference and the numerous discussions I had, with Jews having a range of political positions on Zionism/Israel, was enjoyable, I am pleased to say.
The vast majority of the attendees directly or apparently identified as Jewish, when demographically asked how people ethnically identified by some workshop moderators. There was only one Palestinian in attendance that I know of (my friend who asked me to go with him there) and there were numerically only a literal handful of Blacks (and the majority of that handful seemed to be involved in, alternately, either co-moderating/facilitating or attending the workshops). Undoubtedly the hefty conference fee for an unsponsored/unsubsidized individual alone would dissuade other Palestinians or Blacks from attending, and most ordinary people.
And while there were good things and some things that I have serious reservations about, I was glad to see that the local/national/Jewish media *weren't* invited to swarm about the conference as a hypothetical PR event. (I will withhold final judgement about the conference as a possible pro-Israel/-Zionist PR media event until after I've had the opportunity see what kind of coverage/interviews it gets in the local/national press.) But then many conferences of all sorts have both "good things or aspects" and "bad things or aspects". However, I think that my Palestinian friend's and my contribution to the workshops we attended *definitely* contributed to increasing the incisiveness of the topics under discussion.
There was a spectrum of Jewish political opinion represented in the attendees -- and I had numerous wonderful, or just good, hallway/lobby critical discussions with several Jewish attendees whose political opinions ran from anti-Zionist to 'liberal Zionist' to staunch Zionists.
And, I guess inevitably, I had (only!) one or two rather frictional discussions with diehard Zionists who couldn't seem to accept that I was going to disagree *civilly* with them -- "We just have a fundamental disagreement: you believe in a religioethnically-defined state and I just fundamentally don't" -- and with one diehard Zionist that even some other Jews called "an asshole" (you know who you are), and one that was kind of a jerk to even a senior citizen Jew.
Having said that I was warmly received and had good discussions, the names of many of the workshops, as I review the conference scedule even as I type, still continue to disturb me. And, in fact, there was often the otherwise usual verbal sleight-of-hand propaganda conflating of the terms "anti-Zionism" with "anti-Israel" with "anti-Semitism" with "anti-Jewish oppression" -- all interchangeably or in different combinations -- by workshop moderators that I observed.
However, one workshop on "Jewish & African American Alliance Building" -- where we were moderator-conducted to do everything but discuss the *topic* -- was *so* namby-pamby and *so* 'touchy-feely' and *so* forced encounter groupish, that it even made one Jewish woman feel *very* uncomfortable with these typical conference professionally trained-&-led moderator exercises that are *FORCED* upon -- BUT JUST DON'T FIT(!!) -- everyone's personality. A determinedly moderator-*FORCED* immediate social intimacy. I just ended up making a polite excuse and leaving, when I couldn't take any more 'new age' moderating.
Even some other Jews, who felt that the moderator was being, as two attendees put it, "too namby-pamby" or "too touchy-feely", left another workshop I attended, and a third older Jew said that, "The moderating style of this workshop would be more appropriate for children than for adults."
(Actually, professional workshop moderators actually *are*, indeed, specifically trained to discuss everything but the central issue -- except superficially, at best. I.e., they are trained to avoid the very topic! They are trained this way for two reasons, one of lesser importance and one of greater importance: (1) They are trained to conduct/moderate in namby-pamby style to as a a way to try to avoid doing any real intellectual/critical work. But, let me say that this is not necessarily true of all the professionally-trained moderators at the conference. (2) They are trained to conduct/moderate in namby-pamby style to avoid legal liabilities for the institutions that employ/hire/commission their services: they don't want anybody to say anything of substance that might "drag" the institution into some lawsuit, but will still meet the institution's "obligation" to 'deal with' some employment/discrimination/harassment issue.)
[Long ago, I attended one UC Berkeley moderated session, regarding an erratic female student who made a clearly dubious, attention-seeking charge of sexual harassment, at an Asian American student magazine that I was once invited to write several articles for. This, because one guy (actually a commonly agreed very nice guy) -- once! -- flirtatiously "touched [her] on the *shoulder* without [her] permission" -- her *charge*! -- at an Asian American social occasion where there was a lot of drinking and flirting by some. The "counselors" that the university required the student magazine to bring in told us that we could talk about anything except the incident!!: that we could talk about "our feeelings"! -- but absolutely *nothing* about the issue!! And the female student who made the accusation didn't even show up at a date painstakingly arranged so she could be there!]
So, you see, professionally-trained moderators are, indeed, trained to avoid the substance of any issue. That's why they often have you playing little 'new age', 'touchy-feely' exercises.
And the "Jews of Arab Countries" workshop, attended by my Palestinian friend, greatly disturbed my Palestinian friend in its sheer historical Zionist propaganda mythology disseminated by its Jewish presenters. (I received a call from my very intellectually and personally thoughtful Palestinian friend, saying that he was effectively censored at a particular workshop, earlier, this Monday morning. He said that the Jewish attitudes at that workshop was, 'We Jews talk, you lone Palestinian just listen!')
But, there was *NO* workshop on "Euro-Jewish Racism Against non-European Jews"! One non-European Jew said that non-European Jews experience much racism from and are treated as though they are "invisible" BY European Jews in America and Israel! This one non-European Jew said (what I have also heard before from some non-European Jews) that they actually socially get along better with *Palestinians/Arabs* than with European/Ashkenazi Jews!!
(Non-European Jews were historically often used in Israel to form communities or buffer zones of 'human shields' in the Israeli frontier between Arab countries/territories and European Jews in steadily expanding Israel itself. Non-European Jews were often also relegated to menial jobs in Israel. And for a while, Black Jews in Israel had their clinic blood donations taken, lying there all plugged in with the needle in their arms, "patriotically" giving out blood, but then later it was secretly and summarily poured into the *sewers*[!!!] by Euro-Jewish health personnel -- until that practice was discovered in an international scandal.)
Also, I noted the word anti-Jewish "oppression" appeared so many times in the workshop titles that you would think that *Jews* were barely surviving and getting profiled, harassed, framed, beaten or killed by cops in American city and town ghettos, instead of Blacks, Latinos, and poor SE Asians.
In fact, it was *I* who was stopped by a cop and held up for about 40 minutes(!) -- as he *checked* me out(!) -- on a pretext for '*parking* while Black' on a quiet residential side street later that night, when I was giving three *white* attendees a ride, later after the conference! (Don't that count for *somethin'*!!???) I guess the cop might have thought the three whites in my car might have been in *trouble*!: being held hostage or something for money! No good deed by Black men (even for whites or white senior citizens) goes unpunished by the cops!
Smarmily, the cop even said as he finally let me go, though both I and the remaining white senior citizen passenger were *obviously* wearing our seatbelts and shoulder straps, "You both be *sure* and buckle up now!" I just rollled my eyes. Even the Jewish senior citizen woman in the car immediately said, "You were *definitely* just racially profiled!" I'm lucky some white people I knew were there; otherwise, God only knows *what* could have happened to me -- all by myself in the middle of the night! But, especially with my lawyer friends, those cops don't intimidate/scare me: I just want them to do what they gotta do -- write a ticket (that I can get dismissed anyway) or whatever -- and get the fuck outta my face.
But, the assumption at the workshops seemed to be that the presence of any anti-Semitism automatically equals anti-Jewish *OPPRESSION* -- in America!! One young Jewish woman said that she was made fun of in high school, and I think that it was my further question that readily revealed that she was made fun of in high school, "because I was *smart*!" The moderator 'assured' her -- and *insisted* -- that it was really because she was smart and *Jewish*!![???] As if only *Jewish* kids are made fun of because they are "smart"/studious.
And by the query criteria of one workshop conductor (a Jewish woman that I typically have high respect for), even one of my white, Anglo, Gentile housemates is "oppressed", just for being white, Anglo, and Gentile! In fact, the criteria was so broad, that we're *ALL* oppressed in America!: Native American, Black, Latino, Asian, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, female, differentially abled, poor, rich, *WHITE*, dum, smart, dark, light, skinny, fat, agile, clumsy, freckled, pimpled, graying, male, Protestant, Catholic, Italian, Irish, German -- you name it!!
Now, when it was my turn to speak, I said that traditional American minorities of color face *EVERYTHING* -- *ALL THAT* casual prejudice -- which was queried by the presenter-moderator [in all that very broad, casual criteria that *anyone* might experience for *any* reason -- external and internalized], **PLUS** *MUCH*, *MUCH* **MORE**-- at the hands of society's *INSTITUTIONS* or the **STATE**!
I then said that *these* would be my questions:
"If the police have stopped you for 'driving while Jewish', then raise your hand."
"If you have been in prison or have relatives in prison because you're Jewish, then raise your hand."
"If you have been manhandled, roughed up, or beaten by a cop, because you are Jewish, then raise your hand."
"If you fired from a job because you are Jewish, then raise your hand."
"If your house was busted into by the cops because you are Jewish, then raise your hand."
"If you had a non-Jewish white guy pull a gun on you in your own residential, predominantly white [university] neighborhood, demanding to know what you were doing there, and trying to mockingly talk to you in Yiddish slang -- and when you reported it to the cops they did nothing about it -- because you are Jewish, then raise your hand."
"If you were denied a business or investment loan or insurance because you are Jewish, then raise your hand."
I would have added, "If you were denied a house/apartment because you are Jewish, then raise your hand," but I didn't want someone trying to evade my point by talking about the 1920's or something.
I did mention it, but could have posed it as a question, "If you were pretextually stopped by a cop and detained for about 40 minutes, while he checked you out, for '*parking* while Jewish' on a quiet residential street last night while you were dropping off passengers from this conference, then raise *both* your hands."
But, I want to end on a positive note (not because I believe in namby-pamby, superficial "happy endings"), but because there were at least some very *POSITIVE* things about the conference:
I especially enjoyed my conversations there with, generally but not only, younger, enthusiastic, morally-conscious, energetic, anti-Zionist Jews (*unlike* UC Berkeley IAC/AIPAC/Hillel Jewish students) that -- raised in, in principle, egalitarian democracies, *NOT* religioethnically-defined states -- weren't up for all that political/nationalist, ethno-chauvinistic Zionism shit!
And those younger anti-Zionist Jews catch hell and political pressure from older, reactionary Zionist Jews too, at least behind the scenes. I told them that they should be like The White Rose Society during the Nazi era: morally-driven, energetic younger non-Jewish Germans who opposed the state-institutionalized persecution and attacks against Jews. I told a couple of them, "You remind me of the spirit of The White Rose Society!" -- who put their lives on the line for German Jews -- and, sadly, sometimes *paid* for that with their lives.
Those energetic younger anti-Zionist Jews with whom I conversed -- like me, my Palestinian friend, and my non-European Jewish acquaintance -- indeed fervently wanted a Palestine (which Israel is *IN*[!!]; not, by the new Zionist geographical propaganda, apart from) as a multicultural society, where *EVERYONE* has ABSOLUTELY equal rights (with no tricks in the small print) without regard to ethnicity, race or religion.
Only then would Palestine-Israel be "a light unto the world".
OPEN LETTERS TO OAKLAND "ANTI-SEMITISM" CONFERENCE!
- by Jeffrey Blankfort; & Jim Harris
(Posted by Joseph Anderson)
OPEN EMAIL TO OAKLAND "ANTI-SEMITISM" CONFERENCE!
- by Joseph Anderson
ZIONIST MENU: RED HERRING OF "LEFT ANTI-SEMITISM" -- ONLY $125!
- by Aaron S.