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May 2003 • Vol 3, No. 5 •

ADC Must Disinvite
Rabbi Lerner and Colin Powell

The Free Palestine Alliance (FPA) condemns the invitation of Rabbi Michael Lerner, a racist advocate for a Jewish-only state, to the upcoming national convention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in Washington, D.C. The FPA is concerned that this invitation sets a precedent that leads to our community’s normalization with Zionism

In the same context, we regard the invitation of Secretary of State Colin Powell—twice the Butcher of Baghdad—as endemic of the ADC national’s capitulation to commands that emanate from the corridors of the State Department and Pentagon. Our community objected to and protested previous invitations to Powell, but to no avail. Instead of defending our community’s interest in advocating against war, racism, and Zionism, the current ADC national leadership is moving away from its civil rights mandates in a direction that stands in blatant contradiction to the wishes and demands of the grassroots membership. If this festival of servitude proceeds as planned, the ADC national leadership will present a ready-assembled national Arab-American audience to a panel of Zionists and neo-conservative hawks so that they could market their project of dominance.

Inviting Lerner to this convention is symptomatic of a greater problem: the current ADC national’s attempt to co-opt Arab-Americans to follow the vision of the U.S. administration. The U.S. government has historically sought and attained an “ethnic” cover for its exploits, as illustrated by successful co-optations of institutions belonging to other victimized communities and peoples. The leadership of these institutions was recruited to cheerlead for U.S. imperialist projects at the expense of veering away from the interests of the indigenous populations that they purport to serve and represent. To that very end, the current ADC national leadership is seeking to position itself as the deliverer and pacifier of Arab voices, while it gradually distances itself from its own grassroots membership.

Lerner’s presence at the upcoming ADC convention is a travesty. Although Lerner styles himself a “visionary for peace” he preaches an invidious brand of Zionism that is at odds with the most fundamental Palestinian aspirations. Lerner arrogantly offers crumbs and pity to the Palestinian people, while simultaneously denying them fundamental rights in favor of maintaining an exclusionary Israel at all cost.

Lerner directly supports the Israeli army. He fondly speaks of sending his American son to become an Israeli soldier. He campaigns steadily against the Palestinian right of return and, instead, advocates for “reparation” in order to maintain the Jewish character of the Israeli polity.

Lerner actually holds the Palestinian people responsible for their own lot in life. He explains:

“Palestinians need to acknowledge their own role in helping create the conflict by their armed resistance to Jewish immigration to Palestine in the years when Jews were being annihilated or when Jews were crawling out of the death camps and crematoria of Europe.”

Lerner has played a leading role in the vicious attempts to undermine and de-legitimize the antiwar movement. He has used all forms of mainstream media to dismiss various antiwar coalitions as “anti-Semitic,” particularly the ANSWER coalition, simply because Palestinians committed the crime of speaking on their own behalf at several highly publicized peace rallies. Indeed, Lerner has done much to perpetuate the ideologically-charged myth that anti-Zionism is synonymous with “anti-Semitism.”

His objective, of course, was to silence the Palestinian voice and shield Israel from rational and sustained criticism. Due to the principled position of core anchors within the antiwar movement, and as a result of difficult political work of the Arab-American community, the four major anti-war coalitions maintained a principled stance and refused to allow Lerner to bully himself to the platform to advance his Zionist rhetoric at recent peace rallies. It is the height of irony that the anti-war movement would take a principled stance against Lerner in solidarity with the Palestinian people, while the current national leadership of the largest grassroots Arab-American organization would betray the Arab-American community and undermine that decision by giving this proud Zionist a platform at such a marquee event.

Lerner is vigorously organizing against the Campaign to Divest from Israel’s Apartheid. In San Francisco, he is working keenly to defeat the movement to de-shelve Rainbow Groceries of Israeli products. He has addressed Rainbow workers publicly advocating an anti-divestment campaign, all the while claiming that Israel is “not an Apartheid state.” Lerner told the San Francisco Chronicle: “disinvestment delegitimizes Israel” and “threatens its existence.”

Lerner is a dangerous ideologue attempting to inflict the greatest damage of all to infiltrate the Arab and progressive contingent, and infect it with a Zionist-centered peace deal. Under the heading “Say No to the ‘Zionism is Racism’ Lynch Mob,” Lerner wrote:

“The establishment of a specifically Jewish state with special rights for Jews, including the [Jewish] right of return, is not anymore racist than other policies in other societies which seek to rectify historical oppression by giving special rights to the group that has been previously oppressed.”

Here, Lerner tries to legitimate the racist law of return as a program whose motivations and underpinnings are as noble and appropriate as affirmative action is for American minorities.

As Lerner “offers” the Palestinian people a “demilitarized state” in “almost all of the West Bank and Gaza,” he makes his demands of the Palestinians clear in Tikkun’s “Core Vision and Founding Principles.” He says:

“We call upon the Palestinian people to acknowledge the right of Jews to maintain their own homeland in the pre-1967 borders of the state of Israel, with Jewish control over the Jewish section of Jerusalem (including French Hill and Mt. Scopus and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City) and the Western Wall, and unimpeded access to the cemetery on the Mount of Olives. We call upon the Palestinian people to stop acts of terror against Israel and to listen and heed the growing number of Palestinian voices that are calling for a strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience. We call upon Palestinians to end all teachings in their schools and media, which demean or demonize the Jewish people or Israel and to replace those with teachings that emphasize the humanity and goodness of the Jewish people.”

We question the motives behind giving a platform to a racist Zionist at the convention of a civil rights organization who is charged with educating our youth, students, and political activists about self-empowerment and defense of rights.

We are further concerned that a partnership between the current ADC national leadership and Lerner may in fact be emerging. Between June 1 and 4, Lerner will be holding a “Teach-in to Congress” in Washington, D.C., to further obfuscate and trample core Palestinian national rights and help set the stage for the coming period. Appearing on the panel entitled: “Strategies for Peace and Security in the Middle East,” on Monday, June 2, is Ziad Asali himself, the current national president of the ADC. The relationship between Asali and Lerner (who will come to ADC 10 days later as an honored speaker) is reprehensible, certainly. More worthy of condemnation, however, is the program’s “advertisement” of the unique talent of the panelists at opining about Zionist colonization and racism without being brash or unreasonable enough to condemn it. Indeed, Asali and two other panelists are triumphantly peddled in the program as “speakers who don’t try to make one side wrong and the other side right.”

We call on the ADC membership and chapters, along with the Arab-American community at large, to hold the national leadership of ADC accountable for these damaging actions of historical significance.

We call on all invited Arab intellectuals—activists and speakers, including the renowned intellectual Edward Said—to refuse this coerced embrace of Powell and Lerner. We call on the invited constituency to demand that the ADC national leadership withdraw its invitation to both Colin Powell, the Butcher of Baghdad who has committed war crimes in Iraq for 12 successive years, and Michael Lerner, a friendlier representation of the Butcher of Beirut.

At a time when the world has spoken out in favor of peace and justice, the ADC national leadership’s willing crossing of the international and community-based picket line against war and racism is a consistent example of a defeatist and dangerous trend.

For more information, please write to: info@fpa-us.org

—Free Palestine Alliance US, April 2003





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