Magazine article Tikkun

Democracy and the Peace Movement

Magazine article Tikkun

Democracy and the Peace Movement

Article excerpt

Like many people who support the peace movement, I have found the politics of the mass mobilizations disturbing. The rallies are cheerleading sessions; they do not even try to reach out to the American people with ideas that can challenge American foreign policy, morally or intellectually. Many of the speeches have a mindless quality that repels the listener. The speakers are loud in their denunciations of American and Israeli policy, but they lose moral force and political effectiveness by maintaining a tight-lipped silence about terrorism and dictatorship in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The reason for all this is clear to those who pay attention. The dominant force in the International ANSWER coalition is an obscure ideological sect, the Workers World Party, which leverages its mobilization skills to shape the message of the big demonstrations. I suggest interested parties go to their web site at and compare the long list of diverse endorsers with the short list of narrow-focus groups that make up the Steering Committee. A simple web search can tell you a lot about the politics of those who are running the show. Don't worry about the people who shout, like the Wizard of Oz, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

WWP has been around since 1959. They represent a brand of totalitarian leftism that defends the monstrous Slobodan Milosevic, has not a word to say about Saddam Hussein, supported the slaughter of Chinese students in Tiananmen Square, and sided with hard-line Stalinists in the Soviet Union. Those of us who believe in peace and the reconciliation of peoples on a democratic basis cannot allow our voices to be muzzled by such as these. Their love affair with North Korea is as repugnant as our government's long-standing alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its prior relationship with the Taliban and with Saddam Hussein and his regime of killers and torturers.

TlKKUN Editor Rabbi Michael Lerner has been excoriated by some on the Left for daring to speak of this in the mainstream press rather than keeping the embarrassing information within "the family" according to some unwritten Mafia-like code of silence. Defenders of International ANSWER have attacked Lerner rather than responding to the charges that the politics of the mass mobilizations have been dumbed down and straitjacketed through ideological screening of the rally speakers. Their cry of "red-baiting" and McCarthyism is hypocritical s ince they are the ones suppressing dissent.

The coalition organizations attempted to defend themselves in a public statement declaring that Lerner was rejected as a speaker because he had criticized International ANSWER. They had an agreement, you see, to disallow rally speakers who criticized any of the organizing groups. For me, this "defense" was really a confession, exposing a complete lack of understanding of the need for diversity, debate, and criticism in the peace movement. It's not surprising that Lerner should be at the center of this uproar, since TlKKUN has always publicly raised issues that are considered taboo by most of the American Jewish establishment. TlKKUN readers know about the damage done to the political life of this country by those who seek to silence criticism of Israeli government policies and practices.

We challenge anti-democratic ideas when they come from George Bush and John Ashcroft. We must do the same when similar ideas emerge within the peace movement.

"Everyone Is for Democracy"

In the modern world, everyone rhetorically embraces democracy. The oil-man, George Bush, proclaims he will bring some phantasmagoric version of democracy to the Iraqis by bombing, invading and occupying their country. The same cynical use of words is displayed by anti-capitalist regimes like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, whose very name is a lie. It is because democracy is a high aspiration of the peoples of the world that the term is used demagogically to enlist support for false causes. …

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