Set the record straight
Four anti-war coalitions respond to Lerner
By Leslie Feinberg
Virtually on the eve of the massive Feb. 15-16
demonstrations against Washington's plans to unleash war
against the Iraqi people, a political attack was launched on
one of the leading forces in the anti-war movement.
The Nation magazine features an article titled "The Banning
of Rabbi Lerner" in its current issue. The blurb explaining the
article--which is the lead item on The Nation web site--reads:
"How revolutionary socialists were able to censor the antiwar
message of a prominent progressive." (Newsstand date: Feb.
The article is penned by David Corn, Washington editor for
The Nation magazine and a paid consultant with the Fox News
Channel--media mogul Rupert Mur doch's virulently pro-Pentagon
Corn is already familiar to many in the movement for his
red-baiting broadside following the massive Oct. 26 anti-war
rallies in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. ("Behind the
Placards: The Odd and Troubling Origins of Today's Anti-War
Movement," L.A. Weekly, Nov. 1-7, 2002) That McCarthyite
article attacked the International ANSWER coalition (Act Now to
Stop War & End Racism), which organized the protests, as a
front for Workers World Party. The article drew many rebuttals
from activists in the coalition and the broader anti-war
In his most recent article, Corn slams ANSWER because Lerner
is not on the speakers' list for the Feb. 16 San Francisco
rally, which is being organized by a united front of four
anti-war coalitions: Not in Our Name project, United for Peace
and Justice, ANSWER and Bay Area United Against War.
All four coalitions issued the following joint public
rebuttal on Feb. 11, and ask all progressives to distribute it
far and wide:
"We would like to clarify the misunderstanding regarding
Rabbi Michael Lerner's perception that he was 'banned' from
speaking at the peace rally. His charges are untrue, and we
wish to set the record straight.
"As the Bush administration continues its relentless drive
toward war, the mass mobilizations in cities around the world
on the weekend of Feb. 15-16 have taken on great significance.
Millions of people are expected to demonstrate in cities around
the world in what may be the last opportunity to stop a new war
on Iraq before it starts.
"In the San Francisco Bay Area, four coalitions--each
comprised of many organizations and individuals--have come
together to sponsor a broad and united anti-war march and rally
on Sunday, Feb. 16. The four coalitions--Bay Area United
Against War, Not In Our Name project, United for Peace &
Justice, and the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War
& End Racism) coalition--have been working together
successfully for the last several weeks to maximize the turnout
on Feb. 16.
"One of the first agreements that was made between the
groups organizing the Feb. 16 anti-war protest was that none of
the coalitions would propose rally speakers who had publicly
attacked or worked to discredit one of the coalition groups.
When members of the Tikkun Com munity, who have actively
participated in the organizing meetings for Feb. 16, suggested
to Bay Area United for Peace and Justice that it propose
Michael Lerner as a speaker, it was explained by members of
UFPJ that since he had publicly attacked ANSWER in both the New
York Times and Tikkun community email newsletters, his
inclusion in the program would violate the agreement among the
Feb. 16 organizing groups.
"It was this issue--Michael Lerner's public attacks against
one of the anti-war coalitions--that resulted in his not being
formally proposed as a speaker on Feb. 16; his views on Israel
and Palestine had nothing to do with it. Within the anti-war
movement, there is a wide spectrum of diverse and opposing
views regarding Israel and Palestine, and those views will be
heard on Feb. 16.
"On that day, two rabbis, David Cooper and Pam
Frydman-Baugh, both of whose views are similar to those of
Michael Lerner, will be speaking. To reiterate, the fact that
Michael Lerner was not invited to speak on Feb. 16 was not the
consequence of a veto by the ANSWER coalition. None of the
coalitions have veto power over the Feb. 16 program
"We strongly abhor all forms of racism and bigotry,
including anti-Semitism. At the same time, we don't believe
that criticism of Israeli government policies should be labeled
as anti-Semitism any more than criticism of U.S. government
policy should be labeled as anti-American.
"On the eve of a terrible war, we call upon everyone to join
together in making Feb. 15-16 a massive and powerful statement
for peace and justice. We are heartened by the broad range of
participation that is developing for Feb. 16, including within
the Jewish community, and encourage one and all to join with us
in our efforts to stop the war on Iraq."
Reprinted from the Feb. 20, 2003, issue of
Workers World newspaper
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