Peace Center director criticizes commissioner Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jul 13, 2007 at 4:30 pm
Paul George, longtime director of the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center in Palo Alto, has written a letter to the city's Human Relations Commission sharply critical of the comments one of the commission members made in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Wednesday edition of the Palo Alto Weekly.
Posted by Stephen Rock, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 4:30 pm
This is with regard to Jeff Blum's Op/Ed article defaming the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center (PPJC) by referring to undocumented "allegations" and "charges" of anti-Semitism. He then tries to give creedence to these untrue slanders by claiming the Palo Alto Human Relatins Commission is looking into them. I am Jewish and a member of the board of directors of the PPJC. These accusations are completely false.
Anti-Semitism (as well as other forms of intolerance) is completely abhorent to all members of the PPJC board and the staff. Anti-Semitism is a very loaded word and it should not be thrown around lightly.
By repeating these lies in a prominent place in the Palo Alto Weekly, Blum has effectively stabbed the PPJC in the back with the stolen knife of the Human Relations Commission, and then says "I want to focus on moving forward". I do not know which way "forward" is for Blum, but I think he should move toward retracting his statements, apologizing and resigning. There should be no place on the Human Relations Committee (or any other city body) for someone who uses these underhanded tactics. I am not trying to keep Blum from expressing his views. However he should do so as a private citizen, not as a representative of the city of Palo Alto.
Posted by citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 5:19 pm
And he pulled the exact same 'when did you stop beating your wife' attack on the MI opponents in the same breath. 'Lets all get together and mediate racism in the context of these two issues' is tatamount to a witch hunt.
I support the call for resignation.
While they're at it though the city of palo alto needs to shut the entire HRC down until they can explain to us the HRC's authority, charter, mission and boundaries. How can we have an appointed commission to investigate anything and everything it damn well pleases? And it looked like there were strict controls on what could be said. More than one commenter was shut down when the commission didn't like the direction of the comments (for whatever reason). This was a scary little meeting. Very alarming.
Blum seems to tout the idea that the commission has raised its profile by raising these issues! Thanks for raising to our attention this creepy little commission (which I never even knew existed before this week.) City Council, shut this down! What is this?
Posted by Pot Meet Kettle, a resident of Stanford, on Jul 14, 2007 at 8:30 am
In January 2000 Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel attended an Holocaust education conference, where it was declared that the international community had a “solemn responsibility” to oppose genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, and xenophobia. A reporter afterward asked Barak about the Palestinian refugees. Barak replied he was against even one refugee coming to Israel: "We cannot accept moral, legal, or other responsibility for refugees".
Conversely, the Anti-Defamation League published the following comments in 1999: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today lauded the passage of sweeping changes in Germany’s immigration law, saying the easing of the nation’s once rigorous naturalization requirements “will provide a climate for diversity and acceptance. It is encouraging to see pluralism taking root in a society that, despite its strong democracy, had for decades maintained an unyielding policy of citizenship by blood or descent only,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The easing of immigration requirements is especially significant in light of Germany’s history of the Holocaust and persecution of Jews and other minority groups. The new law will provide a climate for diversity and acceptance in a nation with an onerous legacy of xenophobia, where the concept of ‘us versus them’ will be replaced by a principle of citizenship for all.”
One wonders exactly what is Jeff Blum's opinion of the towering hypocrisy of Jewish ethnocentrism coinciding as it does with Jewish activism against the ethnocentrism of non-Jewish Europeans.
Whatever the answer to that question may be, Blum needs to find a way to talk about people who oppose policies he endorses without tarring them as “anti-Semites” or "racists".
Posted by Kathy, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2007 at 9:39 pm
"The commission has raised its profile by raising these issues."
Gee, just what this situation needed: a little self-interested justification of unmerited attacks and inappropriate use of public forums. Awesome.
I am disgusted by the entirety of this man's machinations, from beginning (apparently manipulating the panel's agenda setting) through his incendiary Weekly op-ed, through the end, this entirely self-congratulatory reflection. No apology, no acknowledgment, no reflection on the harm he might have done. Just a happiness that he's raised his "profile."
Posted by MiddleEastBurnOut, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 11:45 am
Brand me an anti-semite if you like, but actually the palestinians and lebanese are also semitic peoples, and I believe that what Israel has done to them (with U.S. backing) is genocidal. No group of people (whether you define them ethnically or geopolitically) is above the law. Having oppression in one's ethnic or geopolitical history is NOT an excuse for genocidal behavior in the present.
I for one am very sick and tired of:
1) waking up to bad news from the middle east on my morning radio every day for the past 30 years. Why should it take center stage as opposed to other important human crises around the world, environmental issues, reports on how corporations are taking over the world, and BTW lots of good news about people doing positive things in the world? I'm to the point where I want to say "Screw the middle east, and let them all kill each other; it's not my problem." Sounds harsh, doesn't it? But that is where some people of good will headed these days.
2) having the holocaust, anti-semitism, and "refusal to recognize Israel" used as justification for bad behavior on the part of Israel as a state. For one thing, hey we refuse to recognize Cuba but does that give them the right (assuming they had the might) to bomb us? If folks who've been persecuted want revenge, that is understandable. But they should take their revenge on those who oppressed them. "Taking it out" on a third party is the moral equivalent of kicking the dog after a bad day at work, and is morally reprehensible.
Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 1:27 pm
The previous post shows a lack of understanding of the history of the term "antisemitism" along with an erroneous use of the term "genocide." Furthermore, Israel doesn't attack its enemies because of their refusal to recognize Israel. Otherwise, they'd be attacking most of the Middle East. They do attack those who threaten their security and kill their citizens.
It's hard to have a debate on the issues when terminology and logic are treated so loosely.
Posted by MiddleEastBurnOut, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 2:27 pm
Actually I disagree that my use of the terms antisemitism and genocide are so far from accepted usage that all debate is rendered impossible. But I'll address your concerns. If by "history of the term 'antisemitism'" you mean that the term is generally used (in Euro-Western communities anyway) to mean "anti-Jewish", ok I do understand that. And I'm happy to use that meaning in our debates.
As for genocide, reasonable people can differ on that one. Case in point: Did Europeans commit genocide on the Native Americans in North America? A famous computer scientist is on record saying "No, because quite a few people are walking around with 1/4 to 1/32 Cherokee blood in them. I.e., the native americans intermarried so there was no genocide. Plus of course quite a few ethnically pure Native Americans are living on reservations today. Others would define genocide to include the destruction of a people's culture and way-of-life, and or forcing them to live in some bounded space that is not their own.
Again, for the purposes of debate I am happy to accept whatever terms *you* would suggest to describe the condition of the Palestinians and the horrific bombing of Lebanese civilians last summer.
Posted by Michael Slaughter, a resident of another community, on Jul 16, 2007 at 3:57 pm
I am a Jewish former board member at PPJC. There is no anti-Semitism at PPJC. This rancid obscenity perpetrated by Commissioner Blum is similar to and reminiscent of the despicable--and ultimately successful--tactics of an unspeakable Harvard professor to deny another professor tenure at Depaul University.
So how to respond effectively? As Noam Chomsky points out, "You really can't." The evil underhanded deed is done. And the harm is probably irreparable.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 16, 2007 at 7:12 pm
I am Jewish and I am not affiliated with PPJC. I have, over the years, come to believe that not only is their anti-semitism at PPJC, but a constant stream of Israel bashing and anti-zionism eminating from PPJC.
Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jul 16, 2007 at 11:16 pm
Thanks for responding in such a measured and civil tone. As for the term "genocide," why should we be defining it anew for ourselves, or trying to define it in expansive ways that will dilute its strength so that it can be hurled at Israel? Isn't there more or less an agreed upon definition, (with some possible minor variations)? How about "the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national or racial group"? It's a giant leap to go from credible charges of excessive force to a claim of systematic extermination.
As for what happened in Lebanon last summer, yes, I was troubled by the civilian casualties and especially by Israel's use of cluster bombs. I was similarly troubled that Hezbollah took up positions where they used civilians as an intended shield, and that they used white "flags" and ambulances to disguise their movement. And are you similarly concerned about the civilian death toll when Hezbollah fought the Lebanese army this summer? Are you similiarly concerned about the grotesque executions perpetrated by Hamas against Fatah militiamen this summer? Has the PPJC criticized any of these actions?
It is the singular criticism of Israel to the exclusion of any criticism of Muslims that leaves many of us asking, "Why Israel? What makes Israel so unique, that its actions are held to a standard far in excess of any other government or army?" Note - I don't have a problem with holding Israel to a high standard. As many before me have noted, Israel is a vibrant democracy with a wide range of voices criticizing every action from all sides. It's not the criticism itself that's necessarily a problem - but I've tried in vain many times to find on PPJC's web site one critical word about Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, even al Quaeda. (If the situation has changed let me know). But if Israel alone warrants criticism in what should obviously be seen as a multi-lateral conflict, then what, other than its Jewishness, makes Israel uniquely deserving of PPJC scrutiny?
Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jul 16, 2007 at 11:23 pm
Sorry - just one more thing, to answer more directly.... I respectfully disagree with your potential examples of "genocide." Destroying a people's way of life is pretty vague, and I don't agree that Israel is doing that, especially not broadly and systematically. If it is happening, I would distribute the blame beyond Israel. As for the part about forcing people to live in a confined area, I can't see any way to reconcile that with the word "genocide" and still have the word genocide retain usefulness to distinguish Darfur, Rwanda, the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, etc.
Posted by MiddleEastBurnOut, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 17, 2007 at 12:10 pm
As I said I'm happy to use a different word than genocide. It should be pointed out, though, that your paragraph beginning with "It is the singular criticism of Israel ..." represents another kind of verbal laxity: factual laxity.
In fact, Israel is not held to a higher standard. Far from holding Israel to a higher standard, American media and daily life are saturated with criticism of Arab/Muslim countries, and Muslims in general.
We hear very little criticism of Israel coming from leaders or in mainstream media, and it seems the minute some small voice tries to add some balance to the mix, a wave of voices rises up with indignation and much exaggeration to stamp it out by claiming anti-semitism and that Israel is being held to a higher standard.
The ironic thing is that this suppression of free discussion is NOT true in Israel. Israeli citizens are highly moral, want to do the right thing, and highly diverse in their views. And they aren't nearly as afraid to express them in public as we are here in the States. Suppressing free discussion in the name of protecting Israel is, in my view, an act of disrespect to Israel. It presumes they can't defend themselves on moral grounds, and it suggests a country composed of a bunch whiners looking for a free ride. That is not who the Israeli people are.
A free discussion of Israel's policies and the massive amounts of U.S. tax dollars sent there every year (25% of all U.S. foreign aid, sent to Israel for mostly military purposes) might, in fact, enlighten some folks to the possibility that the U.S. is just using Israel for its own emperialist purposes. Let THEM take the heat for us. Now there's something to discuss.
Posted by MiddleEastBurnOut, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 17, 2007 at 12:40 pm
Civilians as shields: That's bogus argument. Not everyone can afford to mobilize big tanks and airplanes that operate far from the homeland. It's a luxury of being a military superpower. Smaller and less powerful groups tend to fight where they live, because ... um ... their homes are what they are defending.
To use this argument to make yourself look more moral is ridiculous. U.S. bombed the bejeezis out of German and Japanese civilians in WWII. Maybe we tried to justify this by saying "Hey, they had anti-missiles or armament factories or terrorists planted among those civilians". But the fact is, we just didn't care. Sherman in Atlanta didn't care, U.S. in Vietnam didn't care, and U.S. today in Iraq doesn't care. Attila the Hun probably didn't care. It's nothing new, and I'm pretty tired of hearing this 'civilians as shields' thing as an excuse for ANY country's bad behavior.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 17, 2007 at 12:44 pm
It is unfortunate that 17 hours after the fact the editors of this thread have chosen to remove portions of my post criticizing the post of Michael Slaughter (see above), while leaving the derogatory comments posted by Mr Slaughter, which forms the main part of the items deleted from my post.
In addition they have also deleted my comments commending Mr Blum for his actions regarding PPJC.
I have long suspected that the PA Weekly was very sympathetic to PPJC (a perfect example is Don Kazak's column from over a year ago praising Joel Beinin who has been affiliated with PPJC)--the editing of my last post seems to confirm my feelings.
Posted by Admiration for Skeptical Al's Posts, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 17, 2007 at 1:51 pm
Wow...Skeptical Al, your posts in this thread are right on and beautifully said. I have nothing to add, and am going to add your posts to my list of admirable, restrained, eloquent and role-model posts.
Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jul 17, 2007 at 7:59 pm
We're getting really loose about things here. I was arguing that the PPJC is entirely focused on Israel in its criticism, and you countered that the mainstream media criticizes Arab/Muslim countries and groups. Okay. Now look at PPJC's web site, and tell me if they supply links that indicate any kind of balanced view. Let's stick to the topic on that point.
Regarding Lebanon, you wonder if the US orchestrated the war? Meaning... the US had to convince Hezbollah to cross the border, attack and kill some Israeli soldiers, and kidnap two.
And the point about civilian shields was not meant to make ME look moral, as you suggest. I wasn't in the fight. I'm just saying that it's a bit disingenuous to blame Israel alone for civilian casualties when Hezbollah is content to fire missiles and rockets from apartment buildings rather than empty lots or hillsides. All I'm asking for in terms of moral judgment is some recognition of shades of gray. Israel is not entirely evil because they have the larger army or because they fire back when someone fires at them. I'm fine with debates about the size of the response (and the big problem that I see - cluster bombs) as long as it's not cast as a discussion of Israel as the sole aggressor. (I trust we've put aside the term "genocide.")
Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jul 17, 2007 at 8:01 pm
p.s. - thanks to "Admiration..." It's easy to keep the tone moderate when I'm not the only one. MEBO and I don't agree, but at least we're talking to each other about the issues and the debate rather than getting personal. Thanks to MEBO.
Posted by MEBO, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 17, 2007 at 10:02 pm
It's my understanding that the Hezbollah incursions had happened before, and were likely to happen again. So the war resulted from a decision to respond with great force to that particular incident. That decision could have involved U.S. influence.
As to one-sidedness, I did understand your point about PPJC (not that I have a position on them, but just in the abstract). MY point was that to achieve balance in an environment that is already one-sided, it's fair -- good, even -- to state the opposing view strongly. A nygroup biased toward the underdog would probably flipflop if the larger environment were to reverse. Just to keep balance overall.
Any conspiracy aficionados out there who'd like to speculate with me on the hidden agenda of the Bush dynasty in the Middle East?
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 7:12 am
Mr George writes in a letter published in today's PA Weekly:
Mr. Blum's poorly considered essay has caused harm to our organization's reputation and the individuals at PPJC were deeply hurt on a personal level. Three of our eight board members are Jewish. My partner is Jewish. Can you imagine how we all felt last week when we read Mr. Blum's piece?
Can Mr George imagine how people like myself feel by the constant one-sided bashing of Israel emanating from PPJC. The fact that board members of PPJC and George's partner is Jewish is irrelevant. What is relevant, as Skeptik Al pointed out, is that there is absolutely no balanced view regarding the Mideast conflict presented by PPJC.
Does PPJC have to present a balanced view? No they do not, but if the head of PPJC is going to whine about feeling "unfairly attacked and smeared", then perhaps he needs to clean up his own house before presneting hypocritical complaints about Mr Blum's writings.
Posted by Stephen Rock, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 10:21 am
There is some concern about the Peace and Justice Center's activities. What, in reality, does the Peace Center do?
From January 1 of this year to date, PPJC has sponsored programs on the following issues. The first number shows the total number of programs already held. The number in parentheses indicates programs that are scheduled but haven't yet taken place.
Iraq war - 5 (3)
Possible war on Iran - 3 (1)
Immigration - 3
Civil rights & liberties - 3
Israel/Palestine - 3
Small countries (Nicaragua, Guam, Haiti) - 2 (1)
Health care - 1
New Orleans - 1
Nuclear weapons - (1)
Thus Israel/Palestine = 11.1%
We focus our efforts on issues where there is direct and substantial US involvement (or culpability, as the case may be). As US citizens, we can influence our government. Israel recieves approximately 30% of all US foreign aid. The US is very involved in the Israel/Palistine conflict. It has been very frequently in the news. So it should come as no suprise that it is a subject for us. The US govt (and certainly the PPJC) has no direct influence over the policies of Hamas, Hezbollah, El Qaeda, Iran and others. It would be a waste of our resources to have programs on why El Qaeda or other organizations are bad. What we can and do try to accomplish is to present the views of Americans, Israelis and Palistinians who are trying to find a peaceful and just solution for all involved in this terrible situation. These voices are mostly not presented in what is loosly called "the mainstream media". This sometimes involves trying to understand the motives and positions of Israel's enemies as well as Israel. It is certainly true that most of the criticism is directed at Israel. This is because despite being a "vibrant democracy" at home, it has been the dominant military power in the region over the past 30 years and has done more damage than the other parties.
To get more of an historical view of the PPJC, here is a list of some
of our other previous (and ongoing) major efforts in foreign affairs.
1)Opposition to US support of oppressive governments in Central America and the US support of the Contras in Niguragua.
2) Oppositon to the 1st Gulf war
3) Oppositon to US bombing of Serbia
4) Opposition to US invasions of Hati
5) Opposition to the current Iraq War (since before it started).
6) Opposition to unjust Globalization
7) Opposition to US Cuba policy
On many of these issues the PPJC was part of a tiny minority voice for awhile, heavily criticised for not following the government policy. We are pleased that at least on the Iraq War and Globalization, the tide
has turned. The PPJC will continue its efforts to bring about a Peaceful and Just solution for all the people of Israel and Palistine. I hope the tide will turn for that issue also.
A common theme is that we are involved in trying to change what the American govt. is doing. We did not have speakers representing the viewpoint of the Contras and we did not have speakers representing the viewpoint of US govt. on these issues.
Look at our web site, www.peaceandjustice.org to see what we are doing. If you want to find the Israel/Palistine issue, follow the link "Foreign Affairs" in the upper left (after Iraq). Then the 2nd link
Posted by Stephen Rock, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 11:14 am
Yes, as I said in my previous note, the PPJC does present many views that are critical of Israel. Marvin has shown some examples. I would like to know where Marvin gets his news that is not considered "one-sided" by one side or the other. I would especially like to hear about small organizations, with limited resources.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 11:23 am
I read many of the online editions of the Israeli newspapers (many of which are known to be very critical of the Israeli government), as an example.
PPJC has the right to be one-side if they want to be (and I feel that they are to the extreme). With that said, people like Mr Blum had others, including myself, have the right to criticize for their, in our opinion, one-sidedness.
I think if you go through the PA Weekly archives you will see plenty of letters decrying this one-sidedness and many of them are rebutted with the type of response contained in Mr george's letter.
i have yet to see/read/hear a PPJC sponsored event in which Israel is not blamed for the situation in the Middle East, while terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah are given a free pass by PPJC to perpetrate atrocities against Israelis/Jews and their own people as well. it has become in vogue for organizations like PPJC to use the term "apartheid" when chastising Israel for their self-defense measures in the face of continued calls by groups like Hamas and Hezbollah for Israel's destruction.
It is unfortunate that PPJC's blanket policy of "blame Israel" does nothing to further the goals of peace in the middle east.
PPJC is free to take what ever stand they want and people like Mr Rock are free to follow along--however as far as i am concerned PPJC is a morally bankrupt organization that does nothing to address the real issues in the Middle east
Posted by Stephen Rock, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 11:53 am
1)The initiator of the current round of accusations against the PPJC was Jeff Blum. He referred to charges of "anti-Semitism". He did not
refer to "one-sidedness". I hope most people recognizes the difference
which some try to slur over.
2)I am not so sure that everyone will agree that Israeli newspapers are a source of unbiased reporting on the Israel/Palistine conflict.
Who thinks that US newspapers have presented an unbiased view of the war in Iraq and give the viewpoint of the Iraqi opposition?
3)The PPJC has never supported, endorsed or condoned terrorism.
4)As for not blaming Hamas, I refer everyone to the most recent posting of relevent articles on the PPJC website on Israel/Palistine.
"6/27/07 - The US Role in the Gaza Tragedy
by Stephen Zunes of Foreign Policy in Focus
There is much blame to go around regarding the tragic turn of events in the Gaza Strip. While Hamas is the most immediate culprit, responsibility also rests with Fatah, Israel - and the United States."
"The vast majority of ordinary Palestinians, meanwhile, are disgusted at the behavior of both Hamas and Fatah, who see it as little better than gang warfare and a tragic setback in their struggle for freedom against foreign military occupation."
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 12:44 pm
Just to be clear about my feelings--I think that the constant stream of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric coming from PPJC stems from an undercurrent of anti-semitism that is present at PPJC (regardless of whether the director has a jewish partner and some board members are jewish--jews can be anti-semtites also).
While PPJC may have never supported, endorsed or condoned terrorism I do not know this for a fact) their failure to condemn acts of terrorism against Israel and their constant "blame Israel" philosophy leads me to believe that PPJC has great admiration for organizations like hamas and hezbollah.
Posted by Stephen Rock, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 2:40 pm
This is the last entry for me.
1) I have already shown that there is no "constant stream of anti-Israel" or "blame Israel" rhetoric from the PPJC. There is criticism of Israeli govt. policy toward the Palistinians.
Often when I travel in other countries, most people will make a distinction between their dissagreement with US foreign policy and their liking of American people as individuals or collectively. I hope we can also make that distinction between criticism of the policy of the current Israeli govt. with regard to Palistinians on the one hand and our regard for the Israeli people on the other.
2) It is difficult to refute claims that there are "undercurrents". You are assuming a nasty hidden cause for a phenonena which is much more easily explained. Simply put, some people criticise Israeli policy toward the Palistinians because they think it is a bad policy.
You do not agree with that assesment of Israili govt. policy, but that is not a reason for name calling and involing hidden agendas. Please note that I believe that many of the policies of the Israeli govt. are exemplary e.g. its health care system and scientific research. I believe Israel is justly praised for its kibbutz.
3) There is no "great admiration" for Hamas and Hezbollah at the PPJC. There is not even small admiration. However, whether we like it or not, Hamas did win a relatively fair election. I think it is important to understand why, just as it is important to understand why Bush won the last US presidential election.