Ken Freeland reports on the “national assembly to end the Iraq war” Presiding Comittee:
...The organization I represented had been alienated by the undemocratic machinations and Zionist-friendly politics of an earlier attempt to unite the peace movement, the United For Peace and Justice leadership, and had disassociated from UFPJ...I had been particularly impressed by the Palestine-centered proposal of the Middle East Crisis Committee of Connecticut, and was able to join forces early on with its delegates Stan Heller (who broadcasts a poignant weekly progressive news program called “The Struggle” that is carried on some 30 local Cable Access channels) and Mazin Qumsiyeh, the prime mover of the Wheels for Justice program. Following the adoption of the Coordinating Committee's Action Proposal by the Assembly, Stan submitted an amendment incorporating the basic principles of the MECC's earlier proposal, consisting of several parts. All of it called for stronger, clearer language on the issue of Palestine and its integral relationship to the antiwar movement, in opposition to the lip-service language proposed as an alternative by the Coordinating Committee. But it also contained a revolutionary claim that challenged the Coordinating Committee's boilerplate “war for oil” explanation by proposing two additional causes of the war: "the interests of the military industrial complex and the influence of the lobbies of Jewish and Christian Zionists."
This multi-part amendment was opposed by the Coordinating Committee, and those of its leading members who now comprised the Presiding Committee took turns speaking against it as it came up for vote. The three of us agreed that Mazin should give the overall introduction, I should address the additional causes of war, and Stan would address the rest and summarize, since we were allowed a total of only three speakers. Here was the substance of my remarks, which were limited to two minutes. I present here the full text of my speech from my notes, for reasons that will become clear later:
The slogan “no war for oil” had real resonance and organizing potential during the First Gulf War. But as a complete explanation for the current war against Iraq it has been effectively debunked by modern scholars, who have identified Zionist Israel as the necessary condition of the war against Iraq. In fact, there are significant contradictions, explicated by Jonathon Cook in his recent work “Israel and the Clash of Civilizations,” between the current political chaos in Iraq (about which he documents the Bush Administration was well warned before proceeding with this war) and the expressed interests of the oil industry.
Can we possibly sell this “war for oil” hypothesis to ordinary Americans who are daily gouged at the gas pump, that this war has gained oil for America? And what of the promise made to them by the war's promoters that the costs of this war would be paid for by the oil revenues of Iraq, instead of by taxes levied on working people, indebting our children for possibly generations to come?
If we honestly reflect, we must recognize that the deepest divisions in the antiwar movement have been around this issue, and the failure of the movement as a whole to openly recognize it. This has in turn hampered our ability to recruit our natural allies, Arab-Americans and Muslims, who have a natural, experiential understanding of this issue, to fuller participation in the antiwar cause and therefore our ability as organizers to mobilize. If, on the other hand, we take this opportunity to finally lift the taboo on recognizing that the oppression of Palestinians and the influence of the Zionist lobbies are integral parts of the “war on terror,” not only in launching the war against Iraq, but even more unarguably in pushing the impending war against Iran, it will go far to begin healing this breach, a necessary step if we really hope to unify our divided antiwar movement.
Stan Heller's speech, which followed mine, concluded with a rousing call for a “fearless antiwar movement” that brought many to their feet in applause. The final vote was close, but the Assembly's vote clearly favored our amendment over the milquetoast language of the Coordinating Committee. This was our first democratic victory. But the opponents of our proposal were not subdued. Despite the understanding we had been given that the winning proposal would be forthwith included in the Action Program, the acting Chair, who I believe was Jeff Mackler, ruled that he would now allow amendments to our language. This, of course, is a violation of Robert's Rules, which requires that whenever an assembly is considering alternative proposals, all amendment must be done BEFORE they are voted on. Alas, this would not be the last of Robert's Rules to be seriously breached by our opponents. In any case, an amendment was offered from the floor to remove from our amendment any reference to the Zionist lobbies as a cause of the war. Its proponent argued that he did not believe that the Zionist lobby dominated US foreign policy. In speaking against the amendment, I noted that it was essentially an effort to rob our recently approved language of its substance (essentially raising the same issue twice, which Robert's Rules forbids), and then went on to cite the many scholars, including Drs. Walt and Mearsheimer, Dr. James Petras and Jonathon Cook, all of whom have identified the influence of the Zionist lobby as instrumental in instigating US war against Iraq. The vote was extremely close on this one, but once again we prevailed: the majority of the Assembly defended our language that included explicit reference to the Zionist lobbies. This was our second democratic victory. Then the amended language was put to a final vote, and it now won easily. This was our amendment's third democratic victory.
Naturally, we were elated by all this, and left the Assembly with hope and good faith understanding that the Action Program document issued by the Administrative Body (whose members were elected at the very end of the Assembly after many of us had already left) would reflect the democratic decisions of the Assembly, including our adopted amendments. But our trust was tragically ill placed. Our opponents refused to accept their democratic defeat... [a deconstruction of the oposition's actions can be read at the link below]... statements of fact about Zionism are POLITICALLY UNACCEPTABLE to those with Zionist leanings, or those who are overly concerned about the possible response from those with Zionist leanings. In the first category, I would list so-called Left Zionists: those in the antiwar movement who want to have their cake (appear to oppose war) and eat it too (except where Israel's role in it, or Israel's putative security, is concerned). In the second category, a good example would be many members of the Democratic Party (60% of whose fundraising comes from Jewish-funded political action committees, according to a recent estimate by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post). And of course, there are more than enough of both in the antiwar movement who wish to co-opt it for their own political purposes.
There is a failure in the antiwar movement generally to grasp the essence of Zionism, and to understand how inimical it is to justice or to peace. It is inimical to justice because it is premised on the brutal dispossession of native Palestinians and their permanent alienation from their own land and homes, and it is inimical to peace because it wishes Israel to have undisputed hegemony in the Middle East, and its powerful lobbies are employed to manipulate the United States government into securing it for them by fighting Israel's “enemies” on Israel's behalf. The antiwar movement cannot make common cause with Zionists any more than it can make common cause with Nazis or Nicaraguan Contras. Some ideologies are violent by nature.... they have unjust, antidemocratic goals which can only be accomplished by illicit, belligerent means. And when their votaries (or agents) infiltrate the antiwar movement, they eventually manifest this same pattern of behavior. The antiwar movement cannot serve both the cause of peace and the cause of Zionism – morally speaking, these two causes are diametrically opposed. And as we have seen in this example of the National Assembly, as in so many others before it, Zionists and their cronies cannot serve both the cause of Zionism and the cause of peace (and democratic praxis) either. In the end, what does Zionism have to do with peacemaking? The continuing attempt to admix these two opposing forces of light and darkness has led, naturally enough, to the waning twilight of the American antiwar movement.
Our movement is now at a crossroads: As this report demonstrates, yet another attempt to unite the antiwar movement democratically has failed to materialize. The pattern of imposing authoritarian political correctness and of performing endless damage control for Zionism at the expense of internal democracy is no less apparent in this latest episode of the National Assembly's Administrative Body as it was in UFPJ from its first convention, but why should we expect anything different? After all, a number of its principals are the same people!
It therefore behooves those who genuinely seek an end to US wars to come to grips with Zionism's role in perpetrating America's modern wars, and to categorically exclude from participation in the antiwar movement anyone with Zionist sympathies. The way to do this is EXACTLY by beginning with an unequivocal anti-Zionist position. Why would we ever want the participation of anyone whose first goal is to deflect criticism from a primary progenitor of the war (Israel)? Recognizing that this is the hidden agenda of Zionists within the antiwar movement is the first, necessary step to recovering our internal democracy as a movement, and thence our energy and direction. Having Zionists in the antiwar movement is not much different from having in the movement someone working for the CIA, for Lockheed-Martin or an Army recruiter, who joins the antiwar movement to seek a softer line from us on the military-industrial complex because our obloquy against it hits a little too close to home. Wars are not waged without cause. Wars always serve somebody's interests. Those who have taken the time to study contemporary US wars understand that all three of the forces that would have been listed by the National Assembly's action program if it had not been corrupted by Zionist influence -- the military-industrial complex, Zionists and likely a few opportunists in the oil and oil services sector – believed they stood to gain from US war against Iraq (and potential war against Iran), and Zionists in particular promoted this war from the very beginning. Any denial of this by the antiwar movement flies in the face of modern historical scholarship. Crypto-zionists (and their sycophants) in the antiwar movement serve as the rear guard of the Zionist Power Configuration so well described by author James Petras in his latest books, and they should not be permitted to further obstruct the movement's progress in identifying the real and demonstrated perpetrators of the wars we so bitterly oppose, which are draining our nation (not to mention those nations wantonly attacked) of blood and treasure, while indebting generations yet unborn to pay for it, in the interests of making the world safe...for Apartheid Israel.
How can we, in the antiwar movement, ever inspire other less informed Americans to think outside of the box, if we cower before the taboo of recognizing Zionism as a co-belligerent and primary instigator of the current war against Iraq and of an impending war against Iran? The answer, of course, is that we cannot, because our actions always speak louder than our words. And even if the National Assembly succeeds in mobilizing mass numbers to demonstrate against the current war, its major announced goal, the antiwar movement cannot make any real progress without freely and fearlessly confronting this five-ton elephant in our living room. With recognized scholars like James Petras, Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer and journalists of the stature of Jonathon Cook and Jeffrey Blankfort all assiduously documenting the manipulation of America's bellicose policies in the Middle East by the forces of Zionism, we have no excuses left.