marxism-digest V1 #5473

Armand Diego causebellum at
Mon Feb 17 00:29:50 MST 2003

More on the saga of the Lener "affair." This is from
the Jewish Bulletin. Just in case anyone has any doubt
I don't endorse any, not one, of the words expressed
in this article.  I only post them here so people are
aware of these views.  DA

Pearce to talk at Sunday's anti-war rally, but Lerner

Bulletin Staff

Rabbi Michael Lerner is off the podium at Sunday's
anti-war rally, but Rabbi Stephen Pearce is on.

The senior rabbi of the largest congregation in
Northern California is among the Jewish voices who
will speak out against a U.S. invasion of Iraq at the
San Francisco rally, which is expected to draw well
over 100,000 people.

"I think it's important that someone from the
mainstream Jewish community be represented [at the
rally] even if I don't agree with all the
organizations sponsoring it," said the spiritual
leader of San Francisco's Reform Congregation

"If the Jewish community doesn't make itself heard on
this, it will subject itself to anti-Semitism. We need
to show we have a voice in this community by not being

The anti-war rally here is one of many taking place
throughout the country, with another major event
scheduled in New York.

Other Jewish leaders speaking here will include David
Cooper, spiritual leader of Berkeley's Kehilla
Community Synagogue, and Rabbi Pam Frydman Baugh of
San Francisco's Or Shalom Jewish Community, both of
whom will speak at a prayer service at the Civic

Pearce will address the main rally, as will
representatives from A Jewish Voice for Peace and
Courage to Refuse, the group of Israeli reservists who
have refused to serve in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

The "blackballing" of Lerner, the outspoken editor of
Tikkun magazine who lives in Berkeley, has received
national attention, with his widely-circulated e-mail
appearing in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, and a
petition in support of him being circulated by The

While highly critical of Lerner, Ernest H. Weiner,
executive director of the local chapter of American
Jewish Committee, declined to comment on Pearce's
appearance at the rally. But he did say that Jews
choosing to march should be aware of with whom they
are associating.

Weiner's gripe is with International ANSWER, (Act Now
to Stop War & End Racism), a socialist group aligned
with the Workers World Party, which is one of the
rally's primary sponsors.

Calling it a Marxist, anti-American and often
anti-Semitic group, Weiner said attending an
ANSWER-sponsored rally only advances its agenda.

"This is not simply a protest against war in the eyes
of the organizers," Weiner warned. "If you look at the
speakers, it's a cross-section of the most militant,
most determined anti-American people in the Marxist

Jason Mark, spokesperson for Global Exchange, which is
part of rally co-sponser United Peace and Justice
Coalition, emphasized that Lerner was rejected as a
speaker because of his criticism of ANSWER, not
because of his pro-Israel views.

"If a speaker wants to get on stage and say that an
attack on Iraq will undermine the security of Israel,
that's a valid point to make," said Mark.

Pearce said the Jewish state would only figure into
his remarks if he followed a speaker critical of
Israel, adding that in his view, the
Israeli-Palestinian issue had no place in the dialogue
about a war in Iraq.

But Cooper said he will definitely talk about Israel,
and he was up-front with organizers, telling them he
will do so from the perspective of a pro-Israel Jew.
"I will be speaking as a person who loves Israel and
fears for Israel's security," he said. "I feel so
strongly that this war is something that will be
hurting this country, Israel and the whole world."

Lerner was initially suggested as a speaker by United
for Peace and Justice, a coalition of which Lerner's
Tikkun Community is a part. But as veto power was
given to each co-sponsor, Lerner was voted down by
ANSWER on the grounds that he had criticized the group
in the past.

ANSWER's San Francisco office declined to comment, but
The Nation reported that ANSWER's media coordinator
said on a WNYC radio show in January, "I know that the
ANSWER coalition would not have a pro-Israel speaker
on its platform."

In a widely circulated e-mail, part of which was
printed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Lerner
wrote: "It is offensive and 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, as though our opposition to war had
suddenly made us champions of Palestinian groups which
use terror and violence against Israeli civilians.

"There is a huge difference between [being] critical
of Ariel Sharon's repressive treatment of the
Palestinian people and not accepting the fundamental
legitimacy of Israel's existence."

However, in a statement from the International Action
Center, organizers of Sunday's rally said Lerner's
"charges are untrue," and he had not been "banned"
from the rally but simply not invited to speak. The
statement also said that other Jewish spiritual
leaders with viewpoints similar to Lerner's would be
on the podium, including Cooper and Baugh.

Lerner has not attended recent anti-war rallies, but
only because they have fallen on a Saturday, and he is
Sabbath-observant. And though he will not be at
Sunday's march, he is encouraging members of the
Tikkun Community, as well as congregants of Beyt
Tikkun, his San Francisco synagogue, to participate.
They will be handing out leaflets condemning the
anti-Semitism in the anti-war movement, and urging
people to sign the petition in support of Lerner.

The petition, which is mentioned in The Nation's
online edition, was signed by thousands in a few days'
time. "I'm surprised and pleased that people are
taking anti-Semitism in the left seriously and are
challenging it," Lerner said.

The organized Jewish community has more or less stayed
out of the fray -- although Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive
director of the Jewish Community Relations Council,
said the whole episode proves the "intolerance and
radicalism" among the organizers, which makes many
Jews uncomfortable.

Of Lerner, though, Kahn said, "As much as I have
disagreed with many of his views on Israel, I think he
is an important voice in taking on the virulently
anti-Israel stance among the prime organizers of the
anti-war movement."

Pearce made the case that voicing opposition against
the war was his first priority. "Should I exempt the
Jewish community from this because of political
infighting or because it's perceived that we're
supporting the agenda of these organizations?" he
asked. "The people flipping on the news won't know
anything about these organizations."

Meanwhile, although it is not endorsing Sunday's
demonstration, the JCRC has become a "matchmaker" for
those Jews who want to assert a voice at the rally
that is both anti-war and pro-Israel. They will be
meeting at 10:30 a.m. by the fountain in Justin Herman
Plaza at Market Street and the Embarcadero.

"We have spoken to a number of people in our community
who have attended anti-war rallies and have felt
alienated," said Kahn. "I think members of our
community who attend this Sunday's rally will feel
well-represented by the presence of Rabbi Pearce."

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