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Report from IHRC Anti-Zionist Conference in London
From: Jeff Blankfort <jblankfort@earthlink.net>
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: Report from IHRC Anti-Zionist Conference in London
Sent: 09 July 2006 04:09:56
Dear Readers,

I have heard from a number of you who expressed their puzzlement or concern that you had heard nothing from me between June 30 and July 5. I appreciate your concern but there will be some days when I leave my computer behind and do something else. In this case, it was a trip to London where I had been invited to speak on a panel on an all day conference in London sponsored by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the subject of which was: Against Zionism: Jewish Perspectives.  I was told that the entire event will be available on the IHRC's web site as well as on a DVD and will let you know when it is on line or available.

The day was broken down into three panels. The first was the "Religious Case Against Zionism" which featured two rabbis from Neturei Karta,  Rabbi Yisroel Weiss from New York whose business card contains the slogan, "Pray for The Spe
edy Peaceful Dismantlement Of The State Of 'Israel'" and Rabbi Ahron Cohen from the UK, and Prof. Yakov Rabkin from Canada,  whose most recent book is "Jews Against Zionism." and whose subject was  "The Use of Force in Jewish Tradition and Zionist Practice." Neturei Karta, which springs from the Satmar movement,  is the only one of the Hassidic groups that remains actively true to its anti-political zionism antecedents.

The second panel on "Subjugation in the Name of Self-Determination" was composed of Israeli historian Uri Davis, who was the among the first to describe Israel as an apartheid state,  Les Levidow, a member of the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign whose subject was "Western support for Zionism; implications for strategy," and Roland Rance, a trade union activist whose subject was "Opposition to Zionism: The core strategy of a solidarity movement."

On the third panel were Michael Warshawski, who spoke on "Zionism as the Frontline of so-called Jewish-Christian Civilization;  John Rose, a leading member of the UK's Socialist Workers Party, who spoke on "Dismantling Zionism--the pre-condition for Arab-Jewish reconciliation," and yours truly, who spoke on "The Influence of Israel and its America Lobby over US Middle East Policy."

Anyone listening to the second panel would have been forgiven for wondering if any of the speakers had heard of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper, let alone read it. There was nothing in the presentations of Levidow or Rance who were presumably addressing what should be the strategy of a Palestine solidarity movement that would indicate that they had or that paying attention to what the Zionist lobby was doing in the UK or elsewhere was of any significance. It was only when a member of the audience asked the panelists what they thought of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper did they respond and denounce it and the notion of the lobby's power, Rance with as much gusto as he devoted to denouncing Israel's crimes in Gaza, and Levidow more passively but just as firmly. While it was not Davis's subject, he agreed with both that the Israeli tail does not wag the American dog.

After Warshawski's presentation, which did not refer specifically to the issue. I gave the better part of my talk, explaining in some detail what the lobby is, how it functions, and some of its history. Given the time restraints, I did not present the whole paper but certainly enough to get the basic ideas across. My presentation, as I expected (having previously viewed the UK SWP web site)  roused the ire of John Rose who departed from his remarks to blast the idea of the lobby having any say over US policy, insisting that Israel is a "proxy" for the US in the region and dredging up Israel's victory over Egypt in 1967 to prove it while offering no other  later example (probably for the reason that there are no later
"examples," and that one hardly qualifies since France was Israel's chief provider at the time and the US had some ongoing relations with the Nasser regime which it hoped to pull into the US orbit.).  In a brief rebuttal, provided by the moderator, I drew the audience's attention to the fact that the only two groups that have rejected the thesis of the  Mearsheimer-Walt paper are the Zionists, themselves, and the Anti-Zionist Left, and that it was curious that those who had done so with such emotion at this conference, unlike myself,  have had no experience dealing with the Israel lobby in the US;  that their position allowed the pro-Israel forces to run up and down the field with no opposition. I am appreciative of the fact that the IHRC gave me the opportunity to present a side that is still largely excluded from conferences on the I-P issue that are organized by the "official" Palestine solidarity groups.

What happened on that Sunday was not just an academic disagreement on a hot London summer afternoon,  but represents a critical failing of the Western Palestine solidarity movement;  one that amounts to allowing certain self-decribed "anti-zionist" Jews who have assumed key positions in the movement over the years to continue to provide a protective shield  for the well-documented destructive activities of the pro-Israel lobbies both in the US and the UK and no doubt, elsewhere.  They clearly need to be confronted and challenged
even as the lobby itself needs to be confronted and challenged and the issue thoroughly discussed and understood among movement members.. Those who think otherwise should examine the sorry record of the solidarity movement thus far and ask whether or not the failure to recognize the importance of the lobby's role is one of the reasons for its failure.

Jeff

PS
On another note, having been away from my computer for so many days, I still have more than 800 unread emails, and a couple of hundred coming in every day, so if you don't get replies to individual messages, please don't take it personally.

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