Alison Weir under Attack by Jewish Voices for Peace
We’ve learned that the national leaders of Jewish Voice for Peace sent a secret letter to 40 chapters around the country that contained McCarthyist accusations against Alison Weir and told chapters not to sponsor events with Alison.
This seems to have been part of an ongoing campaign against Alison that has been going on for many years and then escalated with the publication of her book, Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the US Was Used to Create Israel.
Alison has written a rebuttal to these accusations which was posted on her Facebook page. This has resulted in an outpouring of support for Alison and for If Americans Knew in general. Many groups are redoubling their efforts to distribute our materials, get out Alison’s book, and put on new events.
It also resulted in people telling us about additional accusations that have been made against Alison through the years in attempts to prevent her information from getting to Americans. Alison also posted a rebuttal to these. Below is information about these two sets of accusations.
1. JVP’s Secret Campaign to block Alison’s talks:
Below is the cover letter that tells JVP chapters to keep this campaign secret, and below that is Alison’s rebuttal, which includes the full text of the JVP accusations. (Following that is Alison’s rebuttal to the additional accusations that came to light.)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
On Behalf Of Rebecca Vilkomerson
Sent: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 5:57 PM
Subject: [JVP Chapters] information regarding alison weir
Dear Chapter Leaders,
We wanted to share with you a recent letter that we sent to Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, which I have attached.
As you all know so well, because accusations of anti-semitism are so often used to squelch debate on Israel/Palestine, we would never lightly accuse anyone of it. But we also take seriously as part of our mission the need to call out racism and bigotry in all its forms when we see it.
After much deliberation, we have decided not to work with Alison Weir because of her troubling willingness to work with people who profess anti-semitic, anti-gay, and white supremacist viewpoints, as described in the attached letter.
We are therefore asking that chapters not sponsor events with Alison Weir.
We are not currently planning to release this letter more widely and ask that you not publish it on FB, twitter, blogs, or other public forums. However, if you need to share it with folks who have questions about this decision, please feel free to.
We understand that many of the people and organizations you work with may have relationships with Alison Weir and this may cause some discomfort. We are in the same situation! You should feel free to share this letter with allies and coalition partners as needed, but please also ask them not to publish the letter in public forums.
If folks have questions about this, please feel free to write to me directly, or to any staff person who is your main contact. If needed, we can arrange a webinar to talk more about it–please let us know if that would be helpful.
We hope that this can be a moment for all of us to practice living out our values, even when it is not the easiest!
Executive Director | Jewish Voice for Peace
www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org | 718.514.2071 (office) 718.310.8655 (cell)
NY Office: 147 Prince St | Suite 17 | Brooklyn, NY 11201
California Office: 1611 Telegraph Ave | Suite 1020 | Oakland, CA 94612
Alison Weir’s rebuttal to JVP Leaders’ Accusations: “My Reply to JVP Leaders’ McCarthy-like Attacks Against Me”
I have long been hearing that some JVP leaders have initiated whispering campaigns against me. This began many years ago (and long before the latest accusations, which are in a letter from JVP, below). In fact, I first heard of the director of JVP accusing me of anti-Semitism, behind my back, during the first year of my public statements about Palestine. Such actions seemed related to my political positions on Palestine, which were different from JVP’s:
I endorsed Palestinian refugees’ right of return, favored ending US aid to Israel, was aware of pro-Israel neocons’ role in pushing the US into the Iraq war, and did not deny the significance of the Israel lobby.
The whispered attacks against me were troubling, but I tried to ignore them and continue my work.
Then, with the publication of my book last year, “Against our Better Judgment: The hidden history of how the US was used to create Israel” (iakn.us/AOBJ-book), the attacks seemed to escalate. It appeared that some JVP leaders were attempting to thwart my talks and prevent people from learning the facts that my book and my talks contain.
(It is very important to note this is not representative of all JVP members – many of whom are colleagues and supporters. Some have put on excellent speaking events for me.)
I finally decided to write an article about this situation – “Please help us overcome the accusations against If Americans Knew,” (iakn.us/1FNsX80) but did not name JVP, in the hope of preventing damaging division and distraction in the movement for justice in Palestine.
Before publishing this piece, I tried to clarify the situation with JVP, and emailed the national leaders asking about their statements about me. I hoped that by communicating with JVP directly the situation could be resolved. In reply I received a letter from a law firm on JVP’s behalf (a partner in the firm is the JVP board chair and was the signatory on the letter).
I was surprised at the McCarthyist, guilt-through-association attacks this letter contained, and I was amazed at the great effort someone had made to monitor my every move over the past 14 years of hundreds of speeches, articles, and interviews.
JVP sent their accusatory dossier on me to about 50 chapters around the country, and has been disseminating this and other accusations widely. I’ve just finished an extremely busy three-week speaking tour. In several locations I learned that JVP had tried to block my talks. Fortunately, they failed in almost all locations and my presentations were received extremely well; one audience even gave me a standing ovation.
By the way, although JVP is a membership organization, there is no indication that the general JVP membership was informed or involved in these actions.
Below is JVP leaders’ dossier on me, with my rebuttals below each section.
It is interesting to note that despite what seems to be a long and surprisingly intent focus on ferreting out supposedly negative information about me or potential mistakes I may have made, none of their accusations include anything about my own articles or speeches.
Instead, all their charges are based on alleged “guilt by association.” Even this McCarthyist tactic, however, is based on falsehoods, as I am not even associated with those they try to claim. Please see below:
–> JVP: “Jewish Voice for Peace has chosen not to work with you because our central tenet is opposition to racism in all its forms,”
This is not true. Among other things, JVP works with Zionists, an ideology that people throughout the world feel is profoundly racist. Many people find JVP’s action objectionable and will not work with JVP for that reason. At If Americans Knew, however, we believe in a broad tent, and have published JVP articles on our website, posted a link to the organization from the very beginning, and have occasionally worked with JVP members and several JVP chapters.
–> JVP: “and you have chosen repeatedly to associate yourself with people who advocate for racism.”
We have not done so.
–> JVP: “You have been a repeat guest of white supremacist Clay Douglas on his hate radio show, the Free American. Clay Douglas is concerned primarily with the survival of the White race and sees malign Jewish influence everywhere. His racist, anti-Jewish, and anti-gay rhetoric can be found across the front pages of his multiple websites. In the course of your appearance with Clay Douglas on August 25, 2010, for example, you were silent when Douglas invoked the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and engaged in a racist diatribe against Jews. Your repeated appearance on this show (April 23 and August 25, 2010; February 9 and May 18, 2011) show that you knew his extremist views and chose to continue the association.”
Over the past 14 years I have given probably hundreds of interviews to diverse people of all ages and backgrounds from across the political spectrum, as do most writers and analysts. I try to focus on the information I feel audiences need to hear, speak as intentionally as possible, and stay on target – surprisingly difficult during interviews, as others have no doubt also experienced.
I do not vet who may or may not listen to my information and have even gone on Israeli right-wing radio. We wish our important facts to reach every possible person, and I endeavor to be polite to all my hosts, even when they are hard-core Zionists.
I always use this airtime to the best of my ability to give important facts about Palestine to listeners of all backgrounds and beliefs in an effort to counter the media misinformation about the region and about Muslims.
Some sectors of US society are specifically being targeted by misinformation that is causing an alarming growth of Islamophobia in this country, some of it taking violent turns.
I feel it is critical that our facts, which counter this Islamophobia campaign, reach every portion of our diverse population, particularly those that are most vulnerable to this anti-Muslim propaganda.
As best I recall about this particular radio show from five years ago, Douglas was from Oklahoma or somewhere similar, seemed to have had a hard life and was, I suspected, a bit down and out.
In his somewhat wandering, occasionally conspiracy-tinged questions, Douglas touched on a lot of out-there thoughts, but I recall that he differentiated between Jews and Zionists, spoke strongly against violence, decried Israeli oppression, and seemed to be striving to be a fair person. When one time he failed to distinguish between Zionists and Jewish people in general, I corrected him.
(I’m told that some of those who seem to wish to “get me” are saying that he used an offensive term at one point, but I don’t recall anything of the sort. They may be referring to the term “Morlock” that he once used that I wasn’t familiar with, apparently from an HG Wells book, which Douglas used to refer to the global elite who exploit everyone, he said, including people who are Jewish.)
While someone has posted a transcript of one show (which may or may not be accurate), I actually went on his program several times, when I could squeeze it in (he asked me many times but I usually didn’t have time to do it). My purpose was to use this opportunity to convey to his audience as much important information as possible in the limited airtime available to me – the plight of Palestinians, my trips to the region, the media distortion on Palestine, how much money we give Israel, our responsibility to bring justice and peace, the real facts about Islam, the importance of opposing all racism, the fact that there are many Jewish-Americans who oppose Israeli oppression, etc.
This is what I try to convey to audiences whenever and wherever I can, as I believe that ending the long-standing injustice and horror in Palestine is the best way to protect human rights, security and peace for all parties and, indeed, the world. I believe the issue is too urgent to become distracted.
My goal is to try to reach everyone with the fundamental principle that all racism is wrong and to provide facts that will counter the falsehoods being given to them about Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, and others.
I don’t pretend that I am perfect and that all my responses will be flawless; all I can do is try my hardest. I apologize if there were cases where I should have done better.
It should go without saying (but apparently doesn’t) that appearing on anyone’s show or consenting to be interviewed by someone never denotes association with or endorsement of that person’s views, as surely everyone knows. Authors, politicians, and others go on a great many shows of diverse people, from the left to the right, and such appearances do not indicate agreement or disagreement with the host.
Jon Stewart invited John McCain, an advocate of war against many people in the Middle East, onto Stewart’s very powerful TV program and conducted a friendly, softball interview with him. Stewart gave McCain considerable airtime and even appeared to agree with McCain’s statement that the US should follow Israel’s example regarding torture, because “Israel doesn’t torture.”
This does not mean that Stewart is “associated” with John McCain. Yet, according to JVP’s illogical reasoning regarding my “guilt,” JVP should also be attacking Stewart. Why does JVP find Jon’s Stewart’s showcasing of McCain, a powerful individual with a track record of pushing wars and violence, acceptable, yet see my appearance on a tiny Internet radio show, with a host who apparently opposes both, as reason for attack.
–> JVP: “Your troubling associations and choices further include giving interviews to a range of far-right outlets including The American Free Press, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group”
See my answer above discussing the critical importance of giving facts on Palestine to all sectors of U.S. society.
Once again JVP is searching through my multitude of interviews for something negative to use against me and again must resort to alleged guilt through alleged (but false) association. JVP fails to mention that many diverse people have been interviewed by the American Free Press, including Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s parents.
Incidentally, it is important for people to be aware that the SPLC, like the ADL, is an unreliable source, and has changed considerably from its early valuable work: please see “King of the Hate Business,” (iakn.us/1LDYjOG) “An Open Letter to the Southern Poverty Law Clinic: Do You Equate Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism?” (iakn.us/1BnFnhO) and “Will the SPLC Rise to the Challenge? New Frontiers in Hate Crimes.” (iakn.us/1LDYsBO)
–> JVP: “and the anti-gay, anti-Jewish pastor Mark Dankof. One of your articles appeared in an anthology that was promoted by the infamous Holocaust-denial organization, the Institute for Historical Review. We see no evidence that you have disavowed any of these outlets or institutions.”
JVP’s attempt to tar me by claiming that a group once promoted an anthology that contains a piece by me is a truly bizarre way to attack me! My articles have been included in at least four, perhaps more, anthologies, and every anthology has included highly respected authors, including Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and many others.
It is revealing that JVP’s accusation against me fails to mention that Rev. Dankof has also interviewed peace activists Ray McGovern and Jennifer Lowenstein, Israeli professor and author Ilan Pappe, and journalist and commentator Dilip Hiro, among many others.
For some reason JVP ignores our outreach policy against discrimination (iakn.us/1JV1KST):
“We are happy to provide information and speakers on Israel-Palestine to individuals and groups of all religious, ethnic, racial, and political backgrounds. If Americans Knew supports justice, truth, equal rights and respect for all human beings; and we oppose racism, supremacism, and discrimination of any and all forms.”
–> JVP: “Our movement must be built on a foundation of love, justice and equality for all people.”
That sounds excellent. I hope JVP will live up to these principles and will stop attacking people like me.
Our own statement of principles, posted on the If Americans Knew website (iakn.us/1KloRUo), affirms:
“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.”
–> JVP: “It should not and cannot win by fueling or endorsing any form of hate, whether against People of Color, gays, Jews, Muslims or anyone else.”
I certainly agree. It also should not include hatred of Christians, conservatives, or people whose views or facts we, or one, may dislike. I truly hope JVP believes in this important principle, and that it is not like the ADL, whose definition of “hate” is often based on political stances it dislikes on Israel. I have a life history (iakn.us/1JV1KST) of opposing all bigotry.
–> JVP: “At Jewish Voice for Peace, we are particularly sensitive to the long history of anti-Jewish oppression”
We are acutely sensitive to historic suffering and oppression, which is why we are working on the horrific and long-lasting occupation and oppression in Palestine, which is going on right now and which we have the opportunity and obligation to stop. We deeply believe in ‘never again,” and apply it to all people without exception. I have always opposed all forms of bigotry, and one of my very first essays was “Choosing to Act: Anti-Semitism Is Wrong.” (iakn.us/1HJsovt)
–> JVP: “as well as the ways that Palestinian liberation work is frequently tarred with false charges of anti-Semitism.”
Exactly like JVP’s false charges against me.
–> JVP: “Just as we call out the hateful associations of those who seek to perpetuate injustice against Palestinians, as a movement we must also hold the line against those who promote the false notion that Palestinian liberation can be won at the expense of others.”
Rather than spending our time “calling out” fellow activists in McCarthy-like witch hunts based on guilt through alleged association, we should work to provide the compelling facts that will end the tragedy.
I’ve just completed a three-week speaking tour, and was deeply pleased to see the following message from an organizer at one of my talks who received this from an audience member:
“I thought the presentation last night was awesome. She brought sunshine, hope, love, and so much courage to all of us. She is very brave to write and speak such truth in these times. So many have come before her and failed. It was wonderful to know there is still such a powerful voice for the actual history in the Middle East. She was an inspiration.”
–> JVP: “JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE”
I hope that at some point JVP will change its name to Jewish Voice for Peace and Justice, since peace cannot come without justice. Israel frequently claims that it desires “peace” – i.e. Palestinian submission. It is our responsibility to advocate for justice, freedom, equality, and human rights for all.
I hope JVP will desist from its attacks on those it dislikes, and will instead focus on the often excellent work it is doing and that its members want.
I feel strongly that we all contribute important things to the movement for justice and peace in Palestine. It is time to stop fighting among ourselves, for JVP and others to stop their witch hunts against deeply committed writers and activists, for JVP to stop its attempted censorship and domination of the Palestine movement, and for all of us to get on with our desperately important work.
That’s what I intend to do.
2. “SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT on some additional accusations that people have told me about.”
I’m so pleased to report that my two articles (iakn.us/1Q9TrHM and iakn.us/1IlmDak) exposing the McCarthyist whispering campaigns against me have brought an outpouring of supportive emails and Facebook comments. Thank you to all of you who have written.
In addition to messages of support, some people have alerted me to additional accusations that have been made against me through the years in efforts to prevent my talks.
I’d like to set the record straight on these, also, since I suspect that many people have heard them. Similar accusations are frequently made about other activists, and I hope we will all listen to such rumors skeptically and check them with their subjects, as well as, when possible, the original sources.
(1) One activist leader told another that I had supposedly said, “There are too many Jews in JVP.” I have never said anything even remotely close to that foolish and offensive statement.
I don’t know whether the person relaying this falsehood fabricated it, or whether this person heard it from someone else. I would love to learn the original source.
(2) Another activist claimed that I had said that Phyllis Bennis and Josh Ruebner (the founders of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Bennis is president) “are Zionist Jews.” Again, I have never said this, and would not do so.
Although both grew up in Zionist families (Ruebner is an Israeli citizen), I am convinced that both abandoned Zionism a number of years ago. They have produced a great deal of important work and authored valuable books. Ruebner co-founded Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, which merged with Jewish Voice for Peace.
Again I would love to know who started this false rumor, which I fear was calculated to obstruct the information I share with Americans.
Both of these claims about me are completely false and yet have been disseminated by others.
(3) A prominent activist (who served in the IDF before becoming aware and active on peace efforts, though this is not widely known) apparently tells people that I am anti-Semitic, without supplying any reason; I suspect his accusation stems from his disagreement with my analysis that the Israel lobby drives US policies on Israel-Palestine.
When in one long conversation he could not refute the many well-supported facts I supplied about the lobby’s influence on US Mideast policy, he resorted to calling me a “conspiracy theorist.” Behind my back, he now calls me “anti-Semitic.”
As this example demonstrates, accusations against me often come from individuals and groups who disagree with the information I report – particularly on the Israel lobby and supporting Palestinians’ right of return. Rather than openly debating these topics, they attempt to bury the facts by burying the messenger.
I’m not the first or only person this has happened to. However, I believe this ADL-like tactic is losing its power as more and more people are becoming aware of the facts.
(4) I am told that still another prominent activist, who grew up in a powerful, pro-Israel household but who now opposes Israel, tells people he won’t attend conferences where I am one of the speakers. This seems to stem from a speech I gave in which I discussed some of the information now contained in my book, “Against Our Better Judgment.” (iakn.us/AOBJ-site)
This person attacked that information as “bizarre,” even though it is quite thoroughly cited. Since hearing that speech, this person seems now to try to influence groups against having me speak. Some appear to have abided by his decree.
I am grateful to people who tell me about these whispered accusations so that I can then address them.
(5) There are also numerous additional accusations of all sorts. One person who says he is an activist emails people that I am “pro-Zionist,” part of a “well organized, ‘liberal’ Zionist network,” and that I have “shown total subservience to this network.” Another claims that my organization is funded by the Saudi government. None of this, of course, is true.
Fortunately, many people have not caved in to the type of pressure described above and have been inviting me to speak around the country – you can see a list of my talks in the past year at iakn.us/AOBJ-events.
A video of my speech is at iakn.us/1KMuVJ9. Apparently these few activists don’t want Americans to hear the facts discussed in it.
I hope others will continue to help us overcome this whispering campaign: