Authoritarianism and Anti-Semitism in the Anti-War Movement?

Tikkun, May/June 2003 | Go to article overview

Authoritarianism and Anti-Semitism in the Anti-War Movement?


A higher percentage of Jews oppose the war in Iraq than most other American ethnic groups, so it was distressing to us at TlKKUN to hear so many Jews report that they were encountering what they perceived to be anti-Semitism at anti-war demonstrations organized by International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Violence)-a coalition of anti-war groups that seems to be led by the Worker's World Party. As a magazine that has long criticized Israeli policy toward Palestinians, we are all too aware of the tendency within the Jewish establishment to equate any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. For this reason, it was alarming to hear Jews in the Tikkun Community-Jews who share our intense criticisms of Israeli policy toward Palestinians, and who reject the notion that being critical of Israel is equivalent to anti-Semitism-report that the cultural climate at these anti-war demonstrations was making them feel very uncomfortable.

Here is what they reported:

*Israel was being singled out for criticism in anti-war demonstrations that were supposed to be about America's planned invasion of Iraq. In addition, A.N.S.W.E.R. avoided criticizing Saddam Hussein's far greater human rights violations, not to mention the systematic human rights violations in China, Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, etc.

A.N.S.W.E.R. refuses to acknowledge or support the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination-though it supports that right for every other group with a history of oppression. When Jews are denied the rights of others, it is a tell-tale sign of anti-Semitism.

In response, TlKKUN's editor Michael Lerner and others in the Tikkun Community began to speak out publicly in critique of A.N.S.W.E.R.

Meanwhile, A.N.S.W.E.R. had entered into an agreement with other anti-war groups (United for Peace and Justice and Not In Our Name) sponsoring a San Francisco anti-war demonstration in February to ban any speakers who had publicly criticized any of the organizing groups. When someone in the United for Peace and justice coalition (not from TIKKUN) raised Lerner's name for consideration, he was told that there was no point in even considering it, because doing so would violate this agreement-and A.N.S.W.E.R. had already rejected Lerner as a possible speaker.

Lerner never asked to speak.

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