Anti-Israel Rhetoric Divides Anti-War Coalitions

By Daniel Treiman

Published January 31, 2003, issue of January 31, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Anti-Israel rhetoric within the anti-war movement is raising concerns among Jews who oppose an American attack on Iraq.

Much of their anxiety surrounds a controversial group, International Answer, formed after the September 11 attacks, that has played a key role in anti-war organizing. It sponsored the massive anti-war demonstrations in Washington, D.C, and San Francisco January 18, as well as previous mass demonstrations.

The Anti-Defamation League has said that the massive Answer-organized April 20, 2002 pro-Palestinian demonstration in Washington, “served as a forum for supporting violence and terror organizations, and a proliferation of antisemitic expression.” The ADL has stated its support for the use of military force against Iraq if necessary.

“The feeling I have from Answer is that they want to see Israel wiped out as a state,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, a voice of the Jewish left. Lerner said his Tikkun Community is working to combat one-sided criticism of Israel and anti-Israel rhetoric in the anti-war movement.

Answer, which stands for “Act Now to Stop War & End Racism,” has also come under fire from critics on the left who allege that it is a front for an extremist-fringe Marxist group called the Workers World Party. They complain that Answer fails to condemn Saddam Hussein and that those affiliated with the group have cozied up to tyrants such as former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic.

Even many of Answer’s critics, however, concede that it has formidable organizing capability and participate in Answer-organized rallies, their ideological concerns notwithstanding. Lerner said that members of the Tikkun Community participated in the January 18 anti-war demonstrations.

Some left-wing Jewish groups, such as Lerner’s Tikkun Community and Philadelphia’s Shalom Center, have hooked up with a broader, more moderate coalition that was recently formed called United for Peace and Justice.

However, some were alarmed to discover on the group’s Web site materials attacking Israel and arguing that Zionism is racism.

But Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center, said that United for Peace’s co-chair had told him that the Web site was inherited from another organization and that the materials do not represent the group’s positions. He said he was told that the materials would be removed.

One anti-war group, Not in Our Name, published a statement Monday as a two-page advertisement in The New York Times calling on Americans to “resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since September 11, 2001, and which pose grave dangers to the people of the world.” The statement’s published list of signatories included a bevy of prominent left-wingers and celebrities ranging from Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton to Gloria Steinem and Edward Said to Susan Sarandon and Kurt Vonnegut — as well as Lerner and Jewish feminist scholar Susannah Heschel.

The Not in Our Name statement’s sole reference to terrorism is its complaint that “Groups are declared ‘terrorist’ at the stroke of a presidential pen” and it refers to the September 11 attacks simply as “horrific events,” which it states recall “similar scenes in Baghdad, Panama City, and, a generation ago, Vietnam” — all sites of past American military actions.

The statement also assails the American government for having “not only attacked Afghanistan but arrogated to itself and its allies the right to rain down military force anywhere and anytime. The brutal repercussions have been felt from the Philippines to Palestine, where Israeli tanks have left a terrible trail of death and destruction.”

Lerner said that he signed onto the statement in August because “I felt it was very important to make a statement against the war” and called the reference to Israel “an aside that I don’t agree with.”

“It doesn’t represent the nuances of my position,” Lerner said of the statement, “but when you’re working in coalition with people, without the support of other elements of the Jewish community, you may not get a statement that is fully representative of your perspective.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.