Below is a statement produced by Alison Weir, the American journalist and writer, and founder of the campaigning organisation If Americans Knew, which campaigns in defence of the Palestinian people against both Israeli oppression and ethnic cleansing, and against the very powerful Jewish/Zionist bourgeois layer that wields great power in US politics against anyone who criticises Zionism’s crimes.
Alison Weir is not a Marxist, indeed she appears to be driven by consistent liberal and civil libertarian principles in her defence of Palestinian rights. She is fearless in that she touches on questions that many proclaimed Marxists, even those who regard themselves as fervent opponents of Israel and the Zionist project, fear to address. Ms Weir’s work, meticulously researched and footnoted, particularly her important work ‘Against Our Better Judgement’ whose argument is summarised by her in the fascinating video also embedded in his article, documents important historical facts.
These are about the growth in power of a Zionist-Jewish bourgeois caste in the US, and its major role in world politics going back to WWI and even earlier. Ms Weir does not use these terms, indeed in classical mainstream historical terms she speaks at length about the role of individuals in these events. But behind the individuals, stand social and economic forces, without which the individuals concerned would not have such power to shape events. I elaborated some important aspects of this in Marxist terms in my September 2014 draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism.
This material causes deep discomfort to many on the left because it touches on this phenomenon; Zionism is not just a settler movement in the Levant, but a Jewish bourgeois quasi-nationalist movement of real international scope. There are many on the left who are terrified of acknowledging this fact, knowing that some of the phenomena whereby Jewish politics appeared to transcend conventional nationalist boundaries were exploited by anti-Jewish racists in the earlier period of imperialism, with terrible results as seen with the Nazi genocide. That is the charitable side. There are also others on the left who are, at various levels, Jewish chauvinists, actual or vicarious, who quite simply and for thoroughly anti-democratic reasons are opposed to this material being debated at all.
Closing our eyes to this phenomenon does not help the Palestinians. In the interests of the victims of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine, protecting free discussion and historical enquiry on these matters is a must. The left must defend Alison Weir and her work from this vilification and thought-police type behaviour.
On June 16, JVP published on its website “Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Our Relationship with Alison Weir,” which contained still another false claim about us. We published the following rebuttal on Facebook.
If Americans Knew Response to Latest Attack by JVP Leaders
I’m saddened to see that JVP leaders have continued their attack (iakn.us/1fffoEL) on If Americans Knew and me personally. I would like to leave this issue alone and focus exclusively on the work we’re all engaging in to push for justice and peace, particularly since I’ve rebutted most of their accusations previously (iakn.us/1MXzrCU).
However, JVP’s latest attack includes a new accusation that I feel compelled to respond to.
This new claim is that: “according to Weir and If Americans Knew, only non-Arab, non-Muslim, non-Palestinian, and non-Jewish voices can be trusted to speak the truth, based solely on their ethnic or religious identity.” This is because our website’s “about us” page describes that I founded If Americans Knew “directed by Americans without personal or family ties to the region who would research and actively disseminate accurate information to the American public.”
The JVP accusers omit the fact that this statement comes right after this one (iakn.us/1CbBqx3): “We believe all people are endowed with inalienable human rights regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality. We believe in justice, fairness, and compassion and in treating all human beings with respect, empathy, and in the manner in which we would wish to be treated.”
In reality, as anyone who looks at our website www.IfAmericansKnew.orgcan see, we post articles from people of all ethnicities and religions and feature a wide variety of individuals and organizations on our website – including Jewish Voice for Peace, which has long been in our list (iakn.us/1TqU3aY) of groups working for peace and whose articles we’ve often posted – see for example, this (http://iakn.us/1MZPUpY) and this (iakn.us/1Gc14lT).
Our much-used statistical charts at www.IfAmericansKnew.org draw on regional Palestinian and Israeli sources. My book, Against Our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how the U.S. was used to create Israel (www.AgainstOurBetterJudgment.org), cites numerous sources from Palestine-Israel and numerous Arab, Muslim, and Jewish authors, among many others.
The main source we use for our news from the region is the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) (iakn.us/1ILoW3S), an excellent Palestinian news organization based in Beit Sahour. We have frequently worked with a wide variety of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian organizations, and I have been honored to be a keynote speaker at many excellent events sponsored by such groups. We’re proud to have been given awards from such organizations on several occasions. I was pleased to be asked to assist on and narrate Abdallah and Sufyan Omeish’s superb film Occupation 101 (www.Occupation101.com), in which a wide variety of voices were heard.
How absurd to say that my organization and I don’t believe these sources can be trusted to convey accurate information, when we so frequently rely on and disseminate them, alongside other works by authors of other backgrounds. The claim that we assert that only non-Arab and non-Jewish voices “can be trusted” is as obviously untrue as it is offensive.
Groups working on this issue from specific ethnic and religious perspectives – such as Jewish Voice for Peace and others – serve a valuable purpose in the quest for justice and peace.
In the same vein, I believe that activists coming from an unconnected perspective also serve a valuable purpose. Each of these groups can reach particular segments of the population. All should be judged solely on our positions, accuracy and efforts, certainly not on our ethnicity or religious affiliations.
**I would not assert that JVP discounts Muslim or other voices when its website states that “Jews have a special role to play” and “because we are Jews, we have a particular legitimacy.” It is equally wrong to claim our statement that we began as an organization directed by individuals “without personal or family ties to the region” means we discount other voices.**
We’ve already addressed JVP’s other accusations in our previous responses to their secretive attacks against us and won’t take the time to repeat them here. While JVP suggests that we initiated this unpleasant dispute, the chronology is the reverse, and I tried to handle this privately before the escalating attacks and JVP’s letter to people all over the country drove me to defend myself and my organization (iakn.us/1MXzrCU).
While the public accusation leveled against us by JVP does not represent a real point of dissent – we are happy to agree that many Arab and Jewish voices are incredibly powerful on this issue, as are all kinds of other voices – there are some points on which If Americans Knew does diverge significantly with JVP leadership. Nevertheless, we are very willing to agree to disagree on these points and to continue our work in parallel.
SOME POINTS OF DISAGREEMENT between JVP leaders and If Americans Knew
(We would like to emphasize again, as we did in our previous statements, that JVP leaders do NOT represent all the JVP members. On the contrary, we suspect that the large majority of JVP members and supporters share If Americans Knew principles.)
1) JVP leaders deny the power of the Israel lobby; If Americans Knew details the facts about this significant lobby (iakn.us/1MID3rF).
2) JVP leaders only belatedly and somewhat half-heartedly support Palestinians’ right of return. If Americans Knew from the very beginning has upheld this internationally recognized human right, a right that belongs to all human beings regardless of race, religion, nationality, or ethnicity.
3) JVP leaders apparently wish to prevent activists from informing certain people. If Americans Knew tries to reach everyone.
JVP attacks me for providing facts on Palestine to conservative Americans, but, happily, does not complain of my appearance on a right-wing Israeli show. JVP has long admitted that it includes Zionists among its members, and says, “JVP embraces progressive Jews of… a wide range of views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. We pitch the widest possible tent.” (iakn.us/1Ij3IaS) We are in agreement with pitching a wide tent in an effort to inform and grow our movement and believe that everyone should potentially be welcome, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or political background – and that everyone, bar none, should be approached with accurate information about the “conflict” and the US connection.
We believe it is essential that we find ways to get the facts about Palestine and the region to everyone, including those who may be most vulnerable to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda so often being disseminated on behalf of Israel. This can be incredibly difficult, given documented media bias and even frequent media blackout of information on this topic, but there are ways – from billboards to ads to tabling to internet radio. We must pursue them all relentlessly if we are all as horrified and outraged at the ongoing tragedy as I am.
Why do central JVP leaders continue these vitriolic, unfounded accusations, in which they seem to be reaching for straws in an effort to denounce me and my work? I don’t know and won’t speculate on individuals’ personal motives. The result of this campaign, however, seems to have more to do with attempting to silence If Americans Knew and prevent people from reading my book (iakn.us/AOBJ-book) on the history of Zionism in the U.S. than with actual concern about Palestinian human rights and ending Israeli oppression. Some activists seem concerned, intentionally or unconsciously, with controlling the narrative on Palestine-Israel within the justice movement.
If Americans Knew believes that a wide variety of approaches are welcome and necessary in our diverse movement for justice and that none among us is perfect. We do not attempt to prevent speeches by people on this issue with whom we may have disagreements, including those who deny the lobby. We believe that one of the most important and wonderful strengths of this movement is the joining together of people of all backgrounds committed to working for justice and peace, like the anti-apartheid or US civil rights movements, and we believe that most JVP members agree.
We will continue to support JVP members and chapters who are working for justice and peace and to applaud JVP actions that promote those causes. I hope to leave this dispute behind and move on without addressing it further, unless further spurious accusations are again leveled against me and If Americans Knew.
AS I WROTE in my first article (iakn.us/1Q9TrHM) about this campaign against me:
–As we see the carnage in Palestine continue, children maimed and killed, the entire population of Gaza imprisoned, people continually rounded up by Israeli forces, individuals routinely detained, humiliated and oppressed, we feel an urgent need to disseminate the compelling facts about Palestine even more widely to the American public, whose tax dollars and government are enabling these intolerable actions.–
–Our small, hardworking staff of committed, principled individuals is doing everything possible to bring about the change that is so desperately needed, often at personal inconvenience and even personal pain. That is why it is so deeply troubling to continue to learn of false accusations used to impede our work and block our information – attacks that surely would spur many people to simply give up and stay silent.–
I will not give up and I will not be silenced, and I hope others will not be either. Please do not join this kind of divisive infighting that impedes the quest for justice as surely as the best AIPAC lobbyist, nor be cowed by it. Let’s work together, or at least peacefully alongside one another, for justice and for peace and for the future.