'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Zionists Welcome at the US Social Forum (Part 3) 

UPDATE: Statement by the National Planning Committee of the US Social Forum in Regard to the Stand with Us Workshop

My translation is that the Committee wants Stand with Us to withdraw from the Forum so that it can avoid having to decide to force them out. Interestingly, the NPC's account of a non-cooperative Stand with Us in regard to the conduct of the workshop is contrary to yesterday's USPCN/IJAN statement.

INITIAL POST: Apparently, a deal has been struck at the US Social Forum:

Dear all, Thank you very much for your statement to the NPC of the US Social Forum concerning the StandwithUs workshop.

We forwarded your statement to the NPC along with a joint USPCN/IJAN letter expressing our full and unequivocal support. We take our duty of speaking on behalf of our communities seriously, and aim to use this as a key opportunity to build long-term and sustained unity within US Social Forum leadership on the question of Zionism and Palestinian self-determination. Below is our update:

On behalf of USPCN and IJAN, both members of the US Social Forum National Planning Committee (NPC), we would like to issue the following update regarding the workshop currently scheduled by StandWithUs. This overtly Zionist organization claims to speak on behalf of LGBTQI liberation in the Middle East while at the same time actively supporting the Israeli agenda that directly oppresses these same communities. This lack of transparency is an attempt to pinkwash Zionism at the Social Forum.

StandWithUs has also been responsible for maliciously disrupting and attacking the work of Palestinians, academics, and solidarity activists across the United States. As of right now, we are still waiting a formal decision from the NPC, and want to share with you the strategy that we are leaning toward and our reasoning.

We urge those interested in the building of joint struggle between the movement for justice in Palestine and other anti-racist and anti-war movements in the UnitedStates to not allow the slipping of this workshop between the cracks to undermine the Social Forum. Nothing would please StandWithUs and the Zionist network that StandWithUs is part of more then to divide the Palestinian, Palestine solidarity, Arab and anti-Zionist networks from the Social Forum and visa versa.

The inclusion of this workshop in the social forum is not a reflection of a lack of commitment to Palestinian rights and self-determination. Through the submission of a misleading description of the workshop, StandWithUs is setting up the Social Forum and attempting to divide us.

The letter from Helem, Al-Qaws, ASWAT, and PQBDS that condemned the StandWithUs workshop and requested an explanation from the Social Forum as to how this workshop made it into the program, reflects the perspectives that USPCN and IJAN have shared with our fellow US Social Forum (USSF) National Planning Committee (NPC) members. IJAN and USPCN issued the attached joint statement to the NPC.

Through conversations with the NPC, the orientation to the StandWithUs workshop will:

· Have consistency with the anti-racist, anti-homophobic and anti-colonial commitment of the NPC

· Have consistency with the NPC invitation to the US Palestinian movement to participate in the USSF planning process

· Reduce the potential for targeting of the USSF or organizations on the NPC by Zionist organizations

· Reduce the potential for Zionist organizations to divide the movement in the United States

· Reduce the potential for the Zionist movement to create antagonism toward the US Social Forum

· Act with genuine unity based on a shared understanding of the racism involved in Zionism, what anti-Semitism is and is not, and the tactics used by Zionist rganizations

· Build our unity and not allow any organizations or sectors whose interests oppose those of the USSF to divide us

· Not fall into a trap that intends to use this to attempt to delegitimize all of the justice for Palestine
work that is happening at the Social Forum.

To be clear, the presence of StandWithUs at the US Social Forum demonstrates the acute need for us all to continue making meaningful alliances and inroads with the Progressive Left in the United States. The presence of USPCN and IJAN on the National Planning Committee of the Social Forum is evidence that we have come a long way, particularly since the 2007 US Social Forum.

We are looking forward to a Palestine Track that boasts over 50 workshops, the presence of Jamal Juma'a at the international plenary session, two Palestine Tents, and three People's Movement Assemblies, one of which represents an unprecedented gathering of committed BDS activists from all over the country. However, more work needs to be done in order to institutionalize the idea of Palestinian equal rights into the US Social Forum planning process and the broader agenda of the Progressive Left.

StandWithUs was able to get one workshop on the Social Forum's agenda because they intentionally obscured the true nature of their workshop, which went under the radar due to the lack of familiarity of the USSF proposal review committee with the organization. And, thirdly, due to the lack of staffing for the US Social Forum that would make it possible for the committee to do more background checks on organizations and run the proposals by those involved in the planning that were more familiar with any given area of struggle

These are changes that USPCN and IJAN are strongly suggesting for future US Social Forums. However, they do not represent a lack of commitment on behalf of the NPC to justice in Palestine and Palestinian liberation.

In considering how to handle the fact that this workshop is included in the agenda, it feels important to consider the intention of StandWithUs, and the Zionist network they are coordinating with, in organizing a workshop as part of the social forum.

As laid out in an article that just came out in the Jewish Detroit News, StandWithUs is part of the counter-organizing in response to the success of the Palestinian, Palestine solidarity and Jewish anti-Zionist organizing happening around and at the assembly: http://djn.pressmart.com/JN/JN/2010/06/17/ArticleHtmls/17_06_2010_021_001.shtml?Mode=1

This article gives us a better sense of the extent of organizing they are doing and the context we are going to be working in:

"Locally, the JCRC, ADL and American Jewish Committee have brought Jewish groups together to inform them of the AZ conference and prepare a unified statement of support for Zionism. Conference calls have been held that include the gamut of Jewish organizations both liberal and less so - "A to Z" or "Ameinu to ZOA" is the way AJC-Michigan's Kari Alterman describes it - including the Washtenaw Jewish Federation and Ann Arbor synagogues as well as national organizations like J Street, which has a special cache with progressive groups. Ideas and information are also shared hrough an Internet discussion group. An action plan for the U.S. Social Forum still is in development."

We have to understand this workshop as an attempt to find a leverage point with which to attack the Social Forum for supporting the organizing of USPCN, IJAN and many other groups working for justice in Palestine. Currently, they have nothing but the usual empty accusations that the US Social Forum, USPCN and IJAN are anti-Semitic.

Not having the workshop there is right on principle and there is no disagreement with this on the NPC of the USSF. However, USPCN and IJAN are willing to give up the immediate satisfaction of preventing this workshop from occurring if it means not giving the Zionists the satisfaction of being able to use claims of censorship to a media all too willing to take this up at the expense of covering the challenges that the Social Forum makes to US racism, capitalism and imperialism.

We are not convinced that canceling the workshop is the best course of action in achieving the ultimate goal: to nurture, develop, and solidify a commitment to proactively defending and safeguarding the rights of Palestinians within the Progressive Left. As Palestinian and anti-Zionist activists, we feel an obligation to finding a solution that is both right and effective.

To put things in perspective, the US Social Forum has, without hesitation, supported and defended the visibility and strength of justice for Palestine across the Social Forum. StandWithUs currently has one workshop at the Forum, which was the result of a breakdown in process and lack of clarity based on the organizing we have not yet been able to do but are closer to achieving then ever.

Over the next couple of days, we look forward to developing a decisive and productive solution that reaffirms the Social Forum's commitment to the decolonization of Palestine.

We hope you will support us in the direction that we believe will bring long term broad and strong solidarity with Palestine and broader anti-imperialist movements in the region.

Yours in solidarity and struggle,

Very sad. Yet again, we encounter a US left that is unable to intellectually and politically separate itself from Zionism, or too spineless to do so. The notion that Stand with Us will conduct itself during the workshop according to any ground rules established by the Forum is comical. The Forum acknowledges that Stand with Us should have never been permitted to conduct a workshop, yet remains powerless of doing anything about it. But, despite this, we are supposed to believe that the Forum will forge an effective unity going forward on Palestine. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, Arabs and Muslims are dusting themselves off after having been thrown off the bus again. Sadly, they must be used to it by now.

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