To those who say that the Zionist lobby in the US has little power and believes in open debate, two cases to ponder. Cecilie Surasky is communications director for the Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace:
Last year, I agreed to speak to a Jewish youth group about my organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, and our opposition to Israel’s occupation. My talk was to follow one from a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself “America’s pro-Israel Lobby.”
A week before, a shaken program leader said the AIPAC staffer had threatened to get the entire youth program’s funding canceled if I was allowed in the door. The threat worked, and in disgust, they canceled the whole talk.
Pundits will surely argue for years about professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s explosive new book, The Israel Lobby, which blames poor U.S. policy in the Middle East on a loose network of individuals and pro-Israel advocacy groups.
But the book, and the response to it, opens up another controversy: the stifling of debate about unconditional U.S. support for Israeli policies.
And in a far more embarrassing act, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was refused access to an American university because the institution’s administration worried that his words would offend some Jews in the community:
Rumors have been circulating for some time that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was banned by the University of St Thomas in Minnesota because of statements he made that some consider anti-Semitic. Now it’s official: winning the Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t protect you from charges of anti-Semitism if you criticize Israeli human rights practices. Neither, apparently, does being one of the most compelling voices for social justice in the world today, or even getting an honorary degree from and giving the commencement address at Brandeis.
Minneapolis/St.Paul’s City Pages just reported that members of the St Thomas Justice and Peace Studies program were thrilled when Bishop Tutu agreed to speak at the University– but administrators did a scientific survey of the Jews of Minneapolis, which included querying exactly one spokesperson for Minnesota’s Jewish Community Relations Council and several rabbis who taught in a University program– and concluded that Tutu is bad for the Jews and should therefore be barred from campus.