Peggy and I are in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We’re here to give papers at the “Moving beyond Capitalism” conference of the Center for Global Justice (CGJ). I’m honored to be part of a panel with Rabbi Michael Lerner (editor of Tikkun Magazine, the Jewish left-progressive quarterly). My job will be to present the Palestinian viewpoint on the conflict with Israel.
Frankly, there’s only one reason I’ve been invited. It’s because of a crisis I created in San Miguel eight years ago when I spoke on the same topic. It nearly brought the end of the Center for Global Justice. It even threatened my job at Berea College.
The whole incident illustrates the way even small-time publications and good-willed advocates of social justice can be intimidated and silenced by champions of Zionism. The incident represents a summons to such agents to break the silence and speak the truth regardless of Zionist bullying and threats.
You see in 2006, Peggy and I were working with the CGJ directing a summer intern project for students from the U.S., Mexico and Cuba. Out of the blue, one week the program chair of the local Unitarian Universalist (U.U.) meeting asked me to speak at their Sunday gathering. I had done that in several places before and accepted without a second thought. The invitation came specifically because of my connection with the Center for Global Justice.
“Why do you want me to speak about?” I asked the organizer.
“Anything you want,” she replied.
“Well, I speak on conflicting understandings of Jesus,” I said. “As a liberation theologian, I like that topic.”
“Oh no,” came the immediate reply. “The last time someone spoke on Jesus we were all bored to tears. Can you talk about something else?”
That gave me pause. . . . But I had just returned from a three week trip to Israel sponsored by Berea College where I taught for 36 years. So I said, “How about sharing observations from my recent trip to Israel?”
“That sounds great,” the program chair said. “Let’s call your talk, ‘A Report from Israel.’”
I agreed, prepared my remarks, and delivered them the next Sunday. My thesis was clear and unambiguous. “The real terrorists in Israel, I said, “are the Jewish Zionists who run the country.” I didn’t consider my basically historical argument particularly original or shocking. Chomsky and others had been making it for years.
What I didn’t realize was that almost everyone in my audience was Jewish. (I didn’t even know about San Miguel’s large Jewish population – mostly “snowbirds” from New York City.) Nonetheless, my remarks that Sunday stimulated an engrossing extended discussion. Everyone was respectful, and the enthusiastic conversation even spilled over beyond the allotted time.
Immediately afterwards, during breakfast in the U.U. center, one of the founders of the CGJ said, “That was great, Mike. You really ought to put all of that down on paper. You can publish it as an article in San Miguel’s weekly English newspaper, Atencion. They give us column space there each week.”
“Great,” I said. (I already had the talk written out.) I sent it into Atencion and it was published about a month later. By then I was back in the states teaching at Berea.
I’ll never forget what followed: all hell broke loose:
• A barrage of angry letters flooded the Atencion pages for the next two weeks and more.
• As a result, Atencion threatened to cancel the CGJ’s weekly column.
• San Miguel’s Bibliotheca talked about ending the CGJ’s access to meeting space there.
• My article was removed from Atencion’s archives and (I think) from the archives of the Center for Global Justice.
• Someone from the AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) phoned my provost at Berea College reporting me for my inflammatory article, asking whether I really taught there and if my credentials were genuine.
• The CGJ’s leadership was forced to do some back-pedaling distancing itself from me and my remarks.
• They lit candles of reconciliation at a subsequent U.U. meeting begging forgiveness from the community and absolution for that mad man from Berea.
• The guiding assumption in all of this was that my argument was patently false.
In other words, an article that should have stimulated discussion of its thesis (with CGJ activists leading the way as a voice for the voiceless) was met instead with denial and apology.
However, the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza only confirms my original thesis. So let me repeat it here: the real terrorists in Israel are the Jewish Zionists. I’ll go even further and say that in the present phase of the conflict between Jews and Palestinians, the Jews have little or no right to claim they are acting in self-defense. They are clearly the aggressors guilty of extreme war crimes.
This time I base that argument on helpful analytic distinctions concerning “violence” commonly made be liberation theologians in general and by Palestinian liberation theologians in particular. I interviewed the latter back in 2006 at the Sabeel
Ecumenical Center for Liberation Theology in Jerusalem.
I’ll explain the relevant distinctions in the second part of this posting. For now my points are these:
• Zionist defenders are afraid of open discussion of the conflict in Palestine.
• Zionist media control extends far beyond The New York Times.
• It even blacks out Palestinian viewpoints in small-time publications like San Miguel de Allende’s Atencion.
• It threatens academic integrity as well attempting to reach into classrooms like my own at Berea College.
• It even intimidates well-meaning and highly informed activists like those at the CGJ.
My conclusion for now: the media and even would-be “radicals” need to own their power in fearlessly denouncing the war crimes of Israel’s Zionists which will be discussed in the article following this one: “The Conflict in Israel: the Perspective of Palestinian Liberation Theology.”
6 thoughts on “Mike Silenced by the AIPAC: A Case Study of Zionist Control of Media and “Peace Groups””
It’s typical of the US media, and apparently of the Center for Global Justice, to have a Jew represent the Israeli position and an Anglo-Saxon represent the Palestinians. Why are you the spokesperson for a group that has plenty of articulate representatives? I understand the history that you outlined. But, for heaven’s sake, Palestinians should speak for themselves. And Michael Lerner will deplore the excesses but insist on a Jewish-only “democracy” in the way that only he can.
Thanks for speaking out mike. The Zionists and their supporters are quick to take the role of victims, and accuse anyone daring to criticize them of being antisemitic. This hubris leads them to think they can do no wrong, and hence have free reign to marginalize and oppress others. Being the chosen of God gives them another basis for unbridled arrogance. Does this make me anti Jewish to say this? No, some of my closest friends have been Jews. There may be some Zionists who do not hold the extreme views I am criticizing, and if so, I would have no problem with them.
Thanks for your brave, prophetic witness!
Regarding Judaism, that’s a tradition not noted for passivity. Jewish communities thrive on an unusually high level of verbal/written argumentation, and exploration of details. What were you expecting? Hopefully not the kind of obedience that Catholics traditionally offer to a priest or a Pope (ingrained obedience which historically gels into a very warm, very “vibrant”, but usually, very unequal, very hierarchical head-honcho-top-down society).
Mike, you’ve been challenged (and remember, you’ve challenged others as well). You’ve hardly been silenced. And in part, that is something we could thank Baptist traditions for; it is the Baptists who agitated for the Bill of Rights, for freedom of speech, religion, conscience. I wish Baptists had received more respect in Berea classrooms for their historical contributions, especially since there were so many slams directed at the “Protestant Work Ethic”, WASPS etc. No, I’m not Baptist. But this part of the country has strong Baptist/Methodist traditions, and I value the best of what they offer.
Nobody’s perfect, everybody brings something to the rest of humanity. As someone who’s not even particularly Jewish (just part of very mixed-tradition families), if I have offended you with my objections, please know that I have been offended by the statements of you and others as well. I could go into the details, but not sure you’d be interested. I often felt, as a student at Berea (and in other situations) I was “silenced” from speaking my truth, while leaders demanded passivity from students. There is respect in honesty, and it can help to clear up miserable situations. You should say what you think and feel, but then, shouldn’t others speak their truth as well? It’s a two-way street, and uncomfortable for both, but critically important for dealing with the issues.
Where do you think this development noted in “Lebanon News” is going to lead? (WUC is based in the US.) Imaginary exercise: follow your intentions all the way through. Suppose you get your wish; alliances shift, and the US no longer supports Israel’s “Iron Dome”, and the casualties in Israel are proportionally hideous to those in Gaza in this war. Then what?
Note: The WUC is based in the U.S. For me, this brings to mind Lenin and his trip into Russia via sealed railway car. Good for Germany in the short term. Not so good long-term though
“US-based RFA said that Tahir had been critical of violence carried out by Uighurs, and China’s official Xinhua news agency in early July quoted him as condemning terrorist violence carried out in the name of ethnicity and religion.
“Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress (WUC), did not condemn the killing.
“Chinese policies in the area have caused things to happen which should not happen,” he told AFP in an email.
Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/World/2014/Jul-31/265617-imam-of-chinas-biggest-mosque-killed-in-xinjiang.ashx#ixzz39400nAaA
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
The end game here is Israel’s accepting UN Resolution 242, which the entire Arab world has been willing to accept since 1976. The U.S. has to stop supplying arms to Israel. A recent MIT study (see one of last week’s editions of “Democracy Now”) shows that the “Iron Dome” is really a porous sieve. It’s Israel’s very efficient warning system and mandated shelters in every home that are preventing loss of life there. Even just hitting the ground when a rocket is incoming reduces chances of fatalities by 80%.