[act-ma] Attempt to Shut Down Boston Conference on Zionism

Richard Hugus 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 
(<http://www.encuentro5.org>http://www.encuentro5.org ). 
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, 
struggling organizations:

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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