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OPEN LETTERS TO OAKLAND "ANTI-SEMITISM" CONFERENCE! - by Jeffrey Blankfort; & Jim Harris
by Posted by Joseph Anderson
Friday Aug 20th, 2004 7:01 PM
I met with anti-Zionist Israeli activists in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, all of whom I informed, as an example of the sorry state of affairs on this side of the water, about the subject of your upcoming [Oakland "Anti-Semitism"] Conference on what is alleged to be anti-semitism on the part of what passes for the left in the United States.
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

http://www.facingachallenge.com/schedual.htm


Re: "Anti-Semitism and the Left" - Oakland "Anti-Semitism" Conference

Friday, August 20, 2004

Dear Judy Andreas, Conference Co-ordinator:

I have just returned from three weeks in the Occupied Palestinian lands of the West Bank and Gaza, where I saw the effect that Israel's apartheid wall, it's continued theft of Palestinian land, and its Jewish-only roads in the West Bank have had on the lives of Palestinians. In Gaza, I saw the wreckage of what had been scores of homes and farms that had been destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, and spoke with and recorded the voices of those now forced to live in tents as they try to salvage the broken pieces of their lives.

Later, I met with anti-Zionist Israeli activists in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, all of whom I informed, as an example of the sorry state of affairs on this [US] side of the water, about the subject of your upcoming conference on what is alleged to be anti-semitism on the part of what passes for the left in the United States. (If there actually was a "left" of any substance in the US, such a conference would be laughed out of existence, since the notion that Jews are an oppressed group in the US, which seems to be your basis for organizing the conference, is palpably false by any reasonable standard.)

Judging from the agenda of the conference, the Israelis with whom I met, as well as I, would, no doubt, be considered self-hating Jews by your conference attendees, particularly since bringing justice to the Palestinian cause has a higher priority with the former than does maintaining what has been described as "the Jewish character" of the State of Israel. In fact, not only does that not seem to concern them at all, they would think, as I do, that the latter is the root of the problem.

Given that they are a tiny minority, it is nevertheless significant at this point in time, that in one instance, over 200 Israeli Jews, academics, journalists, etc., have signed a statement, drawn up on August 12, 2004, and known as the Olga Statement (named for Givat Olga, the location in which it was written), which recognizes the legitimate rights to live, in the land now called Israel, of those Palestinians who were expelled or fled from their homes in what was then called Palestine in 1948, as well as their right to participate as equals in determining the future of the whatever state will exist on that soil.

Another group, known as Zochrot (ref. Ha'aretz Magazine, 8/13/04), which has been in existence for more than two years, has been going throughout Israel, placing markers on the spots where more than 400 Palestinian villages once stood, explaining how the inhabitants of each village were driven from their homes in 1948 and their villages were destroyed. This, of course, has not stood well with most of their fellow Israelis, who would rather forget the crimes that were committed in creating the state of Israel and that continue to be committed in maintaining it. Zochrot ("Remembering" in Hebrew), formed originally by an Israeli reservist who had refused to serve in Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, also supports the Palestinian right of return, a position that, judging from your conference agenda, would be considered "anti-semitic," or, at the very least, offensive to "Jewish sensibilities."

All Jewish sensibilities, of course, are not the same. My own, for example, accumulated over 70 years and admittedly in the minority, were offended by a statement attributed to you in the August 6, 2004, issue of J, the Jewish Bulletin, in which you "emphasized that while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will certainly play a major role in the conference, no solutions or statements will be made regarding it."

And, as if that were not enough, in a follow-up letter to J (Aug. 13, 2004) you were anxious to make sure of that point, noting that the magazine's headline ("Unlearning anti-Israelism") "may have left the impression that the conference holds a position relating to Israel, Palestine or the conflict. It is important to know that the conference itself has taken no position on these issues."

Excuse me, but I find that "position" morally repugnant. But rest assured, I will not be attending such a conference.

Jeffrey Blankfort,

San Francisco, CA


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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Re: "Facing the challenge?" - Oakland "Anti-Semitism" Conference

Judy [Andreas, Conference Co-ordinator],

I appreciate that there may be noble intentions behind this conference. We do need to unite against any forms of racism, including any form of hostility towards Jewish people. I do not pretend to know fully what will take place at the conference, or what perspective speakers and workshop leaders will be sharing with the participants. Yet, from my reading of the Workshop titles, and what has been written in the media about this conference so far, I have reason to be concerned.

I have seen a number of attacks against Jewish people here in the Bay Area, yet it has all stemmed from the work on behalf of justice in the Middle East. A Berkeley city official, a Jewish father of a young child, pleads for an investigation into the death of human rights advocate Rachel Corrie, and receives a phone threat. A man writes to the Berkeley Daily Planet and accuses Jewish individuals he names, because of their work for Palestinian rights, as “Jews who hate Judaism”. Speakers with the most extreme anti-Arab-Muslim stances and pro-militaristic, pro-torture solutions are invited on Berkeley campus by Hillel, and Tzedek, a Jewish group that was actually affiliated with Hillel, is forced to leave the organization when it questions the choice of speakers. And a few years ago on Berkeley campus I saw dozens of copies of a leaflet that advocated “retaliation” against those Jews who criticized Israel. (I gave a copy of this leaflet to the police for them to investigate, but it was of no concern to the pro-Israel group I approached).

These are real incidents of hostility against Jewish people, and yet this is not what the conference will address, it appears to me. Neither does it seem to address the attacks that non-Jewish dissenters are subject to, especially Arab-Americans, and the way anti-Semitism is used to fight any questioning of U.S.\Israeli policy. It does not address, for example, the fact that large, established organizations such as the ADL are quite openly advocating policies that are viciously anti-Arab, and yet calls itself a fighter against anti-Semitism.

It is in this context that you say that there is “a prevalence of unchallenged anti-Semitism on the Left"? I just confess to being mystified by your apparent position. Despite claims that this conference is opposed to all forms of racism, there is a workshop that says that all must embrace Zionism, a political movement that has dispossessed millions of their land, homes, and their dignity. But then it promises silence on international issues. No dissent will be expressed here to oppose U.S./Israeli policy.

This conference, from what I can see, is as helpful to the cause of justice as those who warned obsessively about “communists” in the civil rights movement. I am concerned it will be used to stamp out dissent. Despite the participation of some good speakers, it just seems unlikely to be helpful.

Jim Harris,

http://www.tomjoad.org/
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Zionist QuotesAZSunday Aug 29th, 2004 7:54 PM
No insult intendedJATuesday Aug 24th, 2004 10:04 PM
thanks for the meaningless insultshakesTuesday Aug 24th, 2004 9:47 PM
*NO* WE'RE *NOT* "ALL NAZIS"!! -- That's an intellectually meaningless statement.JATuesday Aug 24th, 2004 7:05 PM
to einsteinshakesTuesday Aug 24th, 2004 2:48 PM
Albert Einstein -- comparing Zionism and Nazism; Zionists and Nazis:JATuesday Aug 24th, 2004 8:28 AM
OutstandingRobert SpryeMonday Aug 23rd, 2004 11:29 PM
a difficult piece, a responseshakes, the amalgamMonday Aug 23rd, 2004 6:45 PM
A PERSONAL REPORT-BACK FROM THE OAKLAND "ANTI-SEMITISM" CONFERENCE - by Joseph AndersonJAMonday Aug 23rd, 2004 6:35 PM
To JAHonest GuyMonday Aug 23rd, 2004 12:04 PM

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