Rabbi Lerner's race-bating frame-up of antiwar movement

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Feb 16 09:34:35 MST 2003

The following column in the ultra-hawkish Wall Street Journal was the
culmination to date of the systematic frameup which Michael Lerner and
Tikkun engineered against the antiwar movement, with ANSWER and Workers
World in the customary role of Usual Suspects.

The Counterpunch chronology made it quite clear to me that a carefully
organized provocation against the movement was involved.

Tikkun's going along with the standard adopted by the four groups was part
of the setup, as they suggest.  And, of course, I fell into the trap as well
by assuming wrongly that Lerner really wanted to be part of rather than
disrupt and destroy the antiwar movement.

As for Lerner's claim that he is bringing thousands to the demonstration in
San Francisco today, he has nowhere near thousands to bring to either side
of the war conflict.  If he shows up at all, it will simply be to pursue his
provocatory prowar course.
Fred Feldman

February 12, 2003

The Antiwar Anti-Semites

SAN FRANCISCO -- Imagine my surprise when I found out that I
am banned from speaking at a peace rally here this Sunday.
As editor of Tikkun , the largest-circulation liberal Jewish
magazine in the world, I have been an outspoken critic of
the proposed war in Iraq. I have also unequivocally
condemned Saddam Hussein's brutality and called for the
world community to bring him to justice for crimes against
humanity. But we at Tikkun do not believe that this war --
in which thousands of Iraqi civilians are likely to die --
will bring democracy to the Middle East. Instead, it is
bound to increase the threat of terrorism to American
citizens and provoke more violence. It will also fuel
American fantasies of world economic and political

So why was I being blackballed over the peace rally?

My sin was publicly criticizing the way that A.N.S.W.E.R.,
one of the four groups sponsoring the San Francisco
demonstration, has used the anti-war demonstrations to put
forward anti-Israel propaganda. An A.N.S.W.E.R.
spokesperson, speaking on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC,
said that they didn't want a "pro-Israel" speaker at their

The other groups have said that while they disagree with
A.N.S.W.E.R., they will honor an agreement giving each group
an effective veto on speakers. Yet it is inconceivable that
these anti-war coalitions would let A.N.S.W.E.R. ban a
speaker if he accused that group of racism, sexism or
homophobia. Why should anti-Semitism be treated differently,
as the acceptable -ism?

It is outrageous that those of us who wish to protest
against what we see as a fundamentally unjust war must be
subjected to a barrage of slogans and speeches that are
one-sidedly hostile to Israel. That is just as outrageous as
some in the Jewish community claiming that our opposition to
war makes us champions of Palestinian groups which use
terror and violence against Israeli civilians.

There is a huge difference between criticism of Ariel
Sharon's repressive treatment of the Palestinian people and
a refusal to accept the fundamental legitimacy of Israel's
existence. For years, those of us who want democratic rights
for Palestinians have been dubbed "self-hating Jews" by
right-wingers in the Jewish world. Now, some on the left
insist that if we support human rights we must also
uncritically support the violence of some Palestinian
"freedom fighters" who make no secret of their desire to
overthrow the Zionist enterprise.

That's why we recently created a new national organization
supporting a "progressive middle path" that is both
pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. We call for an end to the
occupation, the creation of a Palestinian state and
reparations for Palestinian refugees. But we also call for
reparations for Jews who fled Arab states, and for Israel's
admission into NATO -- or some other equally powerful
military alliance -- to give the Jewish state genuine

The most painful thing has been watching other anti-war
groups make unprincipled compromises with A.N.S.W.E.R. As a
result, there is support on the left for self-determination
for every group in the world except the Jewish people.
Fellow progressive Jews, some anxious to speak at these
rallies, have urged me to keep quiet about anti-Semitism on
the left. After all, they say, stopping the war against Iraq
is so much more important.

Why should we have to choose? Tikkun will be bringing
thousands of our supporters to the demonstration Sunday. But
just as we fought against the sexism and homophobia that
once infected the left, we will challenge anti-Semitism and
Israel-bashing on the left, even as we say "no" to a war
with Iraq.

Rabbi Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine and www.tikkun.org,
is the author of "Healing Israel/Palestine," to be published
in July by North Atlantic Books. He is rabbi of the Beyt
Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco.

Updated February 12, 2003

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