Most people are aware (but sometimes forget) that movements are almost always infiltrated by people who wish them to fail.
Infiltrators are there to do two things: to monitor what is going on, and to interfere with its effectiveness. Such interference can take several routes. Among these are to promote ineffective, sometimes damaging actions -- such people are generally called 'agent provocateurs."
The other way they interfere is to promote division.
Like many people, I've long suspected that this is increasingly happening in the movement for justice in Palestine.
A case in point is the recent controversy over Greta Berlin.
Greta is a longtime activist on Palestine and was one of the tiny group of people who began the flotilla movement. For years she and her colleagues Mary Hughes and Paul Larudee worked to make these happen when most people thought this was a truly impossible dream.
When Greta and others finally managed to obtain a boat and set sail for Gaza, no one knew whether they would return alive.
Yet, in the past week or so Greta has been attacked by a handful of activists. They accused her of "anti-Semitism" over a small incident in which an action she took was incorrectly portrayed. While many came to Greta's defense (eg here, here, here, here, and here), considerable damage and division were sown.
It is sad that some people jumped on and sometimes led the inquisition against Greta, despite the fact that she has a long, strong track record of extraordinarily courageous and committed activism.
One of the results was that Greta's long scheduled author tour for Freedom Sailtors, a book on Gaza and the flotillas that would have immensely informed audiences about the situation in Gaza was largely torpedoed.
I hope that in the future people will not be so quick to attack committed activists within the movement whom they have been led to believe have strayed from the path they decree, and will instead focus on productive work to bring the change that is so urgently needed.
Incidentally, I have long heard of similar attacks against me, though these have been considerably smaller and far less public.
For example, a few years ago an activist within the UC Berkeley SJP managed to sidetrack the group from using the If Americans Knew materials that so many people around the country find to be extremely effective.
The person did this by telling the group that one of our materials referred people to a book by an allegedly offensive author. When I later heard about this, I was astounded and tried to figure out which of our 50+ materials contained such a reference.
I finally figured out that the person was apparently mistakenly referring to our brochure The Catastrophe Al Nakba: How Palestine Became Israel, one of our most popular handouts.
On the back of this brochure is a list of 21 excellent books (I'll provide the list at the bottom of this posting). One of the books in the long list was written by Israeli author Israel Shahak, an Israeli peace activist who is particularly despised by Zionists. This was apparently the allegedly "offensive" author.
Two things struck me at the time. First, that one person managed to side-track an entire group with misinformation.
Second, I wondered how in the world this person had gone through over 50 detailed materials to find something that he or she was led to believe was offensive? It struck me as most likely that someone else had pointed her/him in this direction. It would be nice to know who this was.
And it appears that this activist, or an associate, has continued to attack me venemously to others, though the person has never said anything to me directly.
It's important not to allow this type of destructive activity to prevail. There will be differences within this movement for justice, as in all movements; individuals will make mistakes or perceived mistakes; and people will have varying viewpoints and approaches. Rather than allowing this to occupy our time and efforts, it is crucial that we keep our focus on the productive and crucial work so desperately needed to end the oppression, violence, racism, and cruelty we all oppose.
The fact is, we're having a real and extremely significant impact. That's why there is such an effort to divide and distract us. Let's not allow this to succeed.
Below is the list of books on the back fold of our brochure "The Catastrophe Al Nakba: How Palestine Became Israel"
- George W, Ball & Douglas B. Ball, The Passionate Attachment
- Mazin Qumsiyeh, Sharing the Land of Canaan
- Greg Philo and Mike Berry, Israel and Palestine: Competing Histories
- Paul Findley, They Dare to Speak Out
- Ali Abunimah, One Country
- Jonathon Cook, Blood and Religion
- Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
- Israel Shahak, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel
- Donald Neff, Fallen Pillars
- Salman Abu-Sitta, Palestine Right of Return, Sacred, Legal, and Possible
- Robert John & Sami Hadawi, Palestine Diary 1914-1945
- Kathleen Christison, Perceptions of Palestine
- John W. Mulhall, CSP, America and the founding of Israel
- Charles D. Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
- Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians
- Stephen Green, Taking Sides
- Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle
- Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest
- Virginia Tilley, The One State Solution
- Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah
- John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby
Greta has just contacted me to clarify the situation, and I have slightly modified my posting accordingly. I truly apologize if I repeated a false allegation. Below is Greta's message:
3. I did not watch the video. Why would I have watched the video? I was in a hell of a hurry and was traveling like crazy those four days. I would have watched it in the small group. Would we have had a discussion on it? Probably. We discuss all kinds of things.
4. I did not know my personal Facebook page was connected to the Free Gaza TWITTER page. There are 3300 TWEETS on the Free Gaza page, and people all attacked me for this mistake without even giving me a chance to clarify
5. Free Gaza apologized on the front page of the website, using exactly the language that Ali Abunimah gave us.
6. I apologized after I figured out what had happened. That should have been the end of it.
Yes, that should have been the end of it.
To reiterate my main point: This is all a destructive, time-consuming distraction from our real work. I hope we will now all now get back to it instead of attacking one another. I intend to.