[act-ma] Attempt to Shut Down Boston Conference on Zionism
rhugus at cape.com
Tue Mar 18 15:54:25 PDT 2008
March 16, 2008
Jewish Labor Committee Attempts to Shut Down Boston Conference on Zionism
Zionists walked into a well-known center for left activists in Boston
this week and managed, with a single complaint, to take away an
already agreed-upon meeting space for an April conference on
Palestine organized by the New England Committee to Defend Palestine.
Around March 9, the local branch of a national group called the
Jewish Labor Committee told the director of Encuentro 5 and the
landlord of the building that houses Encuentro that the New England
Committee to Defend Palestine is a "hate group" and demanded that it
not be allowed to hold the conference in Encuentro's meeting space.
On March 14, the director of Encuentro informed the conference
organizers that he would have to accede to pressure from the Jewish
Labor Committee and UNITE-HERE (the Union of Needle trades,
Industrial and Textile Employees and Hotel Employees and Restaurant
Employees Union). UNITE-HERE is connected to a trust that owns the
multi-story brick industrial building in Boston's Chinatown.
Encuentro's space is on the 5th floor of this building and is held
without a lease, making it vulnerable to landlord threats.
Beneath the facts of the case lie a number of ironies:
* Attacks like this are exactly the subject of the disputed
conference. The purpose of the conference, whose title is "Zionism
and the Repression of Anti-Colonial Movements," is to expose attacks
on activists as they have been carried out historically by zionist
forces. Activists scheduled to speak have been involved in the Native
American struggle against European genocide on the North American
continent, the Black liberation struggle in the US from slavery
onward, the struggle against US imperialism in Central America, the
movement against apartheid in South Africa, the struggle against US
imperialism and genocide in Iraq, and the struggle against US-Israeli
genocide in Palestine.
* Encuentro bills itself as "a space for progressive movement
building" in Boston
Massachusetts Global Action -- the organization that runs
Encuentro--argued the need for a "tactical retreat" and offered us
$400 and help finding another venue if we would consent to leave. We
told them that this would undermine the meaning of our conference,
their own work, and the movement as a whole. Our suggestion to
Encuentro was to take this matter to the activist community -- to the
people who use the space -- to tell them what was taking place and
invite them to help organize a struggle to defend the integrity of
our collective work.
Zionist organizations like the JLC have more material and political
power than perhaps at any time in the past. But this power is
increasingly hollow, since it must increasingly assert itself by
shutting down a discussion about that power--a discussion that is
growing and moving into the mainstream. The JLC did not succeed by
persuading Encuentro 5, but by threatening them through the
building's owners. These are clearly threats that they have the power
to carry out--a fact that proves what critics of zionism are saying.
But this also demonstrates that while they have more material power
than ever before, they have less ideological support than ever
before. The legitimacy of the zionist project--the passive consent
given to US support for "Israel"--is collapsing. That collapse must
come before the serious fight over material power--a fight that is
We are disappointed that Encuentro 5 and Mass Global Action decided
that it was not strategic for them to challenge this abuse of power
now. We know that the repercussions might well have been severe, and
recognize that this would affect a great deal of effort and work that
has gone into building their organization. We offer the following as
a challenge--not so much to them, but to the movement as a whole,
since finally the question is not about any of our specific,
Can we build a movement against imperialism, or against social
injustice in the United States, if the limits of our discussion can
be set by organizations like the JLC--organizations that are
committed to ensuring that billions of dollars in US military and
economic support are given yearly to one of the most militarized
colonial states in the world?
There is widespread discontent with zionist power. This discontent
will not turn itself into a meaningful response until it becomes
organized around specific battles. This can only take place if at
some point people are willing say "it stops here."
* "Progressives" are not progressive. The "progressives" are the
Jewish Labor Committee, which calls itself "the Jewish voice in the
labor movement." The JLC did not come in from the outside but
actually has an office in Encuentro's own space. The Jewish Labor
Committee's web site
(<http://www.jewishlabor.org>http://www.jewishlabor.org ) shows its
president, Stuart Applebaum, standing proudly with war criminal
Shimon Peres in February in Jerusalem. The JLC has put out a
statement condemning the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment,
and sanctions against "Israel." The JLC statement asserts that
Israelis, who have brutally occupied Palestine for 60 years, carrying
out a program of genocide ever since, should not be seen as
The progressives are UNITE-HERE, the brave union for oppressed
garment and hotel workers, which acted in this fiasco as a landlord
bully threatening to kick out tenants for political speech.
The progressives are leftists who support resistance in Palestine,
but not resistance that uses measures of a kind used by its enemy --
namely, armed struggle. The leadership of the resistance in
Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan today is Islamic.
Progressives in the US support secular political movements, so they
don't support the people who are actually carrying out the resistance
in these countries which the US and "Israel" are busy devastating.
Support for resistance by oppressed people should be given without
* The criminal has accused his victim of the crime. The real hate
groups are those who support genocide in Palestine. The Boston
Jewish Labor Committee's accusation that the conference organizers
are a "hate group" comes right out of the manual of the
Anti-Defamation League which has gone to great pains to define
political speech and action as good or bad in terms favorable to the
zionist project. The ADL is a "progressive" organization -- it seems
to be for the right thing, except when it comes to criticism of
"Israel." Criticism of "Israel" is anti-Semitism -- that's hate
speech, that's against the law. The ADL was part of a recent attack
on a mosque being built in Boston. It was exposed for lobbying
Congress against a bill that condemns the Armenian genocide. During
the late '70's and early '80's, it spied on organizations in the U.S.
that supported the struggle against white supremacist apartheid in
South Africa. This do-good "no place for hate" organization is
actually a front group for a racist foreign power.
The limits of political speech on the left are now being defined by
the very organizations who say they're working for the good. There is
no open debate. The idea is to simply prevent political speech. Why
is support for a nasty racist state in occupied Palestine driving so
much of US and international politics? And the question goes beyond
Palestine, since these same organizations have the power to set
limits on the discussion of "social justice" and racism here inside
the US. This includes a history of demonizing black nationalists
like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and the Black Panthers as
"anti-Semites." In many cases people's careers have been ruined and
their reputations smeared by forces who never came out in the open.
Joseph Massad, Tony Martin, Ward Churchill, and most recently
Catherine Wilkerson, are examples. Ward Churchill will be among the
speakers at the conference.
The New England Committee to Defend Palestine assures all those who
have been invited to and registered for the April 12 and 13
conference that we have secured another venue and will be announcing
it soon. We couldn't have provided a better example of zionist
interference in anti-imperialist activism than the one that just
happened here. We have great speakers coming from many different
movements. We hope that supporters of the struggle in Palestine, and
all those who recognize the need to build a truly independent
opposition to oppression inside the US, will join us for this event.
New England Committee to Defend Palestine
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