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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. 24)

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 cable station.

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 movement.

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
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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