Forwarded from John Lacny

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Apr 9 14:10:20 MDT 2002

A Special Announcment from It's No Accident, April 9, 2002

Dear friends and comrades,

Since January of this year my political column, "It's No Accident," had been
making regular appearances in the pages of The Pitt News, the student
newspaper at the University of Pittsburgh. Well, no longer. Here's the story

On April 5 I submitted a column which argued that Israel's current assault
on the Palestinians has passed beyond the realm of even an ordinary colonial
war and has come perilously close to what in any other context would be
described as "ethnic cleansing."  The talk within Israel of a "security
separation" and even of "population transfer" were signals that all people
of conscience -- no matter how "apolitical" they fancied themselves -- had
to speak up now, or risk making themselves accomplices to crimes against
humanity because of their silence. I quoted the veteran anti-apartheid
fighter Ronnie Kasrils, who said in Al-Ahram Weekly that Israel's repression
had surpassed even that of the apartheid state; I celebrated the heroism of
the Israeli reservists who were refusing to serve in the Occupied
Territories; and I called on people to support the Palestinians in their
fight to claim their human rights, a struggle that is every day becoming a
struggle for their very survival as a people. Despite the ferocity of the
repression, the intifada ("uprising") continues.

On April 7 I received a communication from my editor informing me that the
paper was not going to print my column on the grounds that it was "too
rhetorical" and constituted "an endorsement of terrorism."  In response, I
made clear that I had no intention of toning down the moral urgency of my
column, and that if they were choosing not to print it, it was time for me
to quit.

There were other issues in the dispute that I should mention for the sake of
context. The (needless to say, groundless) accusation that I had endorsed
terrorism was offensive, and I said so. Beyond that, though, my editor was
unclear on what I meant by the term "Occupation"!  This is a disturbing
indication of the ignorance of basic information on this issue in the United
States, where the simple fact of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank,
Gaza, and East Jerusalem is somehow subject to debate. Further, the editor
accused me of using my column to further the views of a student group of
which I am a member. I wrote that this accusation was ridiculous, because an
earlier column of mine (about Martin Luther King, Jr., on the occasion of
the April 4 anniversary of his assassination) -- which they had printed
without incident -- was much more directly related to an event my student
group was organizing, while the column on the Palestinians was an expression
of my own deep moral outrage at what was going on.  Clearly something else
was at work in the paper's decision not to print my column on the

This is not the first time The Pitt News has done its readers a disservice
in the matter of Israel/Palestine.  Keep in mind that, as a student
newspaper, The Pitt News prints all manner of self-indulgent and irrelevant
fluff (about dating or oral sex, for example), but when anyone writes a
substantive political column that challenges the status quo, all of a sudden
the editors start flashing warning signals and intoning pieties about
bourgeois-journalistic "respectability."  Earlier in the year I wrote a
column about Israel/Palestine in which I called for a cessation of the $5
billion in US aid to Israel.  The Pitt News printed a letter from a
pro-Zionist student group in response.  Not only did this letter trot out
the tired (and totally spurious and disgusting) accusation of anti-Semitism,
but it displayed a supreme contempt for facts.  For example, it alleged that
US aid to Israel was only about $2 billion a year. A routine resort to a
fact-checker would have turned up the tidbit that Israel receives $2 billion
in military aid, nearly $1 billion in direct economic assistance, and
another $2 billion or so in other forms of aid like loan guarantees. In
other words, then, my original figure of $5 billion was the correct one.
However, I had no forum in which to respond to this underhanded and
dishonest attempt to discredit the rest of my column, because one standard
of truth (roughly, no standard at all) applies to people who support the
conventional wisdom, while those of us who challenge it are expected to
provide copious footnotes in support of rudimentary facts.

If this kind of moral cowardice is the norm even at student newspapers, what
does that say about the climate that prevails in mainstream dailies?  For my
part, I hold to the journalistic principles espoused by the great
abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who promised never to temper his
staunch advocacy of the truth in the face of evil.

I'm appending the original, rejected column -- "Victory to the Intifada" --
to this message, and encourage people to circulate this story.  You can sign
up to receive my column, "It's No Accident," for free by sending an e-mail
to lacny-subscribe at or by going to the website at

In solidarity,

John Lacny

It's No Accident, April 5, 2002

Victory to the Intifada
by John Lacny

There are moments in history when people of conscience are called to raise
their voices in unison against cant, hypocrisy, and those libels on a whole
people that facilitate a program of wholesale race-murder. This is one of
those moments.

Anyone -- even among those who fancy themselves "apolitical" or unconcerned
-- who cannot spare a word of solidarity with the Palestinian people in
their hour of need (or who -- even worse -- side with the aggressors) will
stand condemned before the bar of history as an accomplice to crimes against

It is easy to feel helpless at this moment, as the Israeli tanks crash
through Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus. Perhaps Hebron or Jericho will have
fallen by the time you read this, their men rounded up and blindfolded, with
even more homes destroyed, random people -- including children -- gunned
down in the streets, curfews imposed and entire cities placed under house
arrest without access to basic utilities like electricity or water.

And all of this -- the latest round of humiliation imposed on a people who
have suffered under military occupation for thirty-five years -- facilitated
by the settler-state's degraded paymaster, the United States of America.

When the Bosnian Serbs talked about "ethnic cleansing," the whole world
recognized it as the bloody-minded euphemism for mass murder that it was.
Now as the Israelis talk openly of "creating a separation" (by which they
mean the confinement of Palestinians into even smaller and more
meticulously-policed ghettoes) and even "population transfer" (by which they
mean the wholesale expulsion of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories),
we indeed see outrage around the world, but not where it counts: in the
United States, from which Israel draws its sustenance.

Let us not kid ourselves: without the resolute action of decent people, the
future looks very grim. Ronnie Kasrils, the South African Minister of Water
Affairs who was a militant activist in the anti-apartheid movement for
decades, granted a fascinating interview to the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Weekly.
Kasrils points out that "The South African apartheid regime never engaged in
the sort of repression Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians. For all the
evils and atrocities of apartheid, the government never sent tanks into
black towns."

For statements like these, Kasrils -- who is Jewish -- has been attacked by
the leadership of major South African Jewish organizations, but he brushes
off such criticism: after all, these same organizations used to denounce
other Jews who struggled against apartheid.

Yet those of us who cherish human rights must embrace what the Palestinian
poet Mahmoud Darwish has called "an incurable malady": hope. And there is
cause to do so.

As of this writing 398 Israeli reservists have signed a statement (available
online at saying that they will not serve in the Occupied
Territories, and there are even more "refuseniks" out there, even if they
have not signed.

The bulk of world opinion outside of the United States and the top levels of
a few other governments is resolutely on the side of the Palestinians. Many
a Zionist has used this as "proof" of the world's enduring anti-Semitism,
but as Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery says bluntly: "World public opinion
is always on the side of the underdog. In this fight, we are Goliath and
they are David."

You will note that all of the inspiring examples I have cited so far are
Jews. This is no accident, because these courageous individuals represent a
break from the grotesque tribalism that has led to so much oppression and
bloodshed. These individuals recognize that the prerequisite for any
solution in the Middle East must be an unconditional end to the Occupation.

But above all, let us in these dark times honor the courage of the
Palestinians themselves who are fighting for their survival as a people. For
my part I will say it unequivocally:

Victory to the Intifada.

- - - - - - - - - -
"I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there
not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising
as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with
moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate
alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the
ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into
which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the
present. I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I
will not retreat a single inch -- and I will be heard."

-- William Lloyd Garrison, 1831

"It's No Accident" is a political column by John Lacny, a student activist
at the University of Pittsburgh. If you forward it, please include this
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Louis Proyect
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