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U.S. | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism

Zionism Still Welcome at the US Social Forum
by RWF
Saturday Jun 19th, 2010 10:09 AM
Will the US Social Forum permit militant Zionists to participate and speak for Arab and Muslim LGBTQI people? It appear so.
As described here on Thursday, the US Social Forum, a diverse domestic political and cultural gathering in emulation of the World Social Forum with the objective of developing alternatives to neoliberalism, scheduled a June 24th workshop on LGTBQI Liberation in the Middle East. But there was a problem. The workshop will be conducted by Stand With Us, an American Zionist organization known for its support of an attack upon Iran, the siege of Gaza and the harassment of anti-Zionist academics and activists. More practically, Stand With Us purports to speak for Arab and Muslim LGTBQI people for which it otherwise directs hatred and contempt.

On Wednesday, someone from the Forum posted a brief comment to the Forum's Facebook page to the effect that a statement would soon be issued, after the posting of the statement. It is now Saturday, three days before the start of the Forum, and no statement has yet been publicly released. Instead, the Forum has engaged in hedging by process, inquiring of people who have raised objections as to whether they have been in direct contact with ussf organizers or the co-signers of the original letter of concern from Helem, ASWAT, Palestinian Queers for BDS, and Al-Qaws. There has, however, been a lively discussion about the participation of Stand With Us, with numerous comments in opposition posted in the last few days.

Yesterday, Nada Elia, a person who has been quite persistent in expressing the opposition of Arab queers to the presence of Stand With Us, may have provided some insight into the opaque decisionmaking processes of the Forum in regard to this issue in following comment on the Arab Queers say NO to Pinkwashing at the US Social Forum Facebook page:

The USSF organizers explained that the SWU workshop was accepted by unfortunate mistake. It was worded fraudulently, and the proposal reviewers were clueless. So we educated them about the true nature of SWU, and now they know. What are they gonna do? Looks like they would rather offend us, than risk being accused of anti-Semitism.

In other words, more hedging, an attempt to protect the right of Stand with Us to speak for Arab and Muslim LGTBQI people at the Forum by means of a strategic apology. Yet again, in what I would have considered the most unlikely of places, we come face to face with the problematic relationship of the American left with Zionism. Consider, for example, my brief dialogue with Sam Molnar on the Forum's Facebook page:

Sam Molnar Dont you people see that zionism is a distraction? The true imperialists in the middle east are the Americans. The Israeli state was founded by the west so that the west could continue to scapegoat Jews for their own wrong doing in the world. The more we focus on zionism the less attention we pay to the true imperialist forces in the world. Focusing on Zionism as the cause of problems in the middle east is exactly what the imperialists want us to do. It is the United States that has invaded two sovreign nations.

Richard Estes With all due respect, Sam, this is a red herring. The question is whether a Zionist organization, "Stand with Us", should be allowed to conduct a workshop at the Forum and speak for those for which they direct hatred and contempt, Arab and Muslim LGBTQI people. "Stand with Us" is also an organization that supports the siege of Gaza and actively promotes an attack upon Iran. If it does, let me be among the first to say that the Forum will have done irreparable harm to itself.

But, as to your remarks, no, Zionism is not a "distraction", it is a central component of US domination of the Middle East. They are not mutually exclusive, they are complimentary. And, no, "the West" did not create Israel, Zionists did, in the face of quite a lot of opposition from "the West". Zionists are actively abusing and killing Palestinians every day, while dispossesing them, as they have done for decades, with US support. Perhaps, you have forgotten that Zionists have also launched extremely violent military operations in the West Bank, Lebanon and Gaza in the last 10 years, targeting civilians in large numbers. The US did not make them do that, even if it supported these actions after the fact, they did it independently. Focusing on Zionism is precisely what imperialists DON'T want us to do. If we prevail over Zionism, we also achieve a great victory over US imperialism as well.

If a significant number of US leftists and progressives think like Sam Molnar, it is no wonder that the American political scene lacks any vitality on the left:

Brandy Baker "It should have been excised as soon as people pointed it out to the organizers."

The United States Left is very, very squeamish in general, especially on matters like this (and in other ways, electorally, not breaking from the Democratic Party, but that is a whole other topic for another time). I have seen all kinds of nonsense take place in conferences and meetings because the organizers do not want to take a stand and tell anyone what to do, and they do not have the guts to call people out and throw those people out.

But the idea that a group like this would be allowed into the forum does strike me as outrageous, considering that the USSF is unapologetically Left-wing and does have at least one pro-Palestine group on its national planning committee.

The American anti-war Left (some) are quite squeamish about Palestine and on the idea of unapologetically defending Palestine and it is one of the factors that has hurt the movement and put it into such a torpid state. I hope that the USSF will not make the same mistakes and wind up alienating very good people and lose energy and focus as a result of not getting this group the hell off of the USSF agenda.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Forum is going to do precisely what Baker fears, and evolve into yet another aggregation of leftists and progressives that serves therapeutic purposes instead of political and social ones. With my family obligations, I have not been able to attend the Forum, but I did hope that it would play a significant role in organizing a left opposition in the US. But any organization that allows militant Zionists like Stand with Us to participate has no future other than as an organizer of activist vacations. Perhaps, the Forum can invite the Minutemen to conduct a workshop on the dangers faced by undocumented people in Arizona at its next event.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Mario
Saturday Jun 19th, 2010 4:53 PM
I agree that such a group shouldn't have been allowed to have a event under the auspices of the US Social Forum . BUT since one is now scheduled i would suggest that trying to shut down the forum would be very counter productive .
Instead why not challenge every one of their lies and distortions ?
When they bring up Hamas please don't try to prettify that reactionary organizaton. Point out that the Israeli Govt. tacitly backed Hamas in the 80's as a way to undermine the secular Nationalists of the PLO and the Palestine Communist party . (Sounds similar to the US backing Islamic terrorists (if you will ) in the war against the Soviets and the left nationalists of the PDPA in Afghanistan) .Challenge them what if anything they're doing to defend Gays and lesbians from rabidly homophobic Jewish fundamentalists especially in Jersuleum .
And of course What the hell does the economic strangling of the Gaza Strip , hurting , undoubtly , Arab Gays among others , have to do with Gay Liberation ?
Destroying them politically is far more effective than breaking up their event , which aside from possibly endangering the US forum as a whole would falsely allow them to posture as persecuted victims .
My two cents.
by FrankLittle
Sunday Jun 20th, 2010 8:53 AM
"Perhaps, the Forum can invite the Minutemen to conduct a workshop on the dangers faced by undocumented people in Arizona at its next event."

While I share the concern/anger over the mistaken inclusion of this workshop, this seems unfair. Given the large number of workshops devoted to Palestinian self-determination and justice, and the involvement of USPCN and IJAN with the National Planning Committee of the Forum, is it really fair to suggest that the Social Forum is somehow down with the work of this group?

The inclusion of this workshop, from what I understand, was an honest mistake, and one that the Forum folks regret very much. The workshop in question (I don't even want to write the name of the organization) was submitted dishonestly, and the organization submitting it misrepresented themselves to the Forum. It demonstrates that future Social Forums need to devote more resources to reviewing workshop proposals, but it certainly doesn't suggest that Forum organizers regard the group and its work as legitimate, or suitable for the Forum.

So what about the apparent decision to not cancel the workshop? I think everyone who cares about justice for Palestine recognizes there are many ways to move forward with this. Those of us participating in the Forum - and especially its organizers - have a responsibility to the over 1000 workshops that were submitted honestly, especially those addressing the struggles of the Palestinian people. What is the best way forward for those workshops representing authentic movements for justice? Is it to cancel this one workshop and bring down the full weight of media outlets who view criticism of the Israeli government as anti-semitism (which is basically 99% of the U.S. media) and anti-Palestinian organizations? Or to find a better, more productive way forward that strengthens the movement?

I don't think cancelling the workshop is the right move, and I'm glad they haven't. This is an opportunity to find new ways of dealing with the tactics this group is using, and I hope we seize it.

by Wish i could go to Detroit
Sunday Jun 20th, 2010 1:04 PM
To answer franklittle the best way to counter that bullshit by the ''Lavender Zionist'' group is to do what the previous post suggested , fight them politically .
Point out their flimsy arguments and expose their backers.
Sunday Jun 20th, 2010 10:44 PM
(While you're stamping out the genocidal politics of Israel.)
by RWF
Sunday Jun 20th, 2010 10:46 PM
it is hard to have much confidence in the Forum if it can't even cancel a workshop after admitting that "Stand With Us" is an organization with goals and objectives contrary to the values of the Forum, and mispresented itself to gain approval to conduct the workshop

and, yet, even though the Forum can't do that, we are supposed to believe that it will push forward and generate more unity in support of Palestine

good luck with that

of course, if this was a situation in which an organization affiliated with the Minutemen had someone managed to gain approval to conduct a workshop about undocumented people by misrepresenting itself, I doubt that the Forum would have had any problem with pulling the plug

personally, I don't believe that it was an accident that "Stand with Us" was allowed to conduct the workshop, but given the opaque quality of how the Forum is administered, we will never know