Michael Lerner and
the Workers World Party
Ranting Rabbi Doesn't Speak for All Anti-War Jews
by LENNI BRENNER
In 1959, I was a printer's helper in Greenwich
Village with Bembo Typographers, which produced Labor Action,
the organ of the Independent Socialist League. One day we got
a new account. The Workers World Party had just set up, after
Sam Marcy led a handful of followers out of the then Trotskyist
Socialist Workers Party.
Marcy was a platitudinous Maximum Leader,
and their literature was dull compared to Labor Action, edited
by Hal Draper, a world-class historian. Subsequently, WWP often
pursued senseless strategies and said foolish things. However,
by chance, on 2/14, I heard Brian Becker, New York organizer,
on "The relationship between US foreign policy and Iraq's
history and political development." He was well informed
re deeds and dates as to how Washington has seen Iraq, Saddam's
totalitarian character, oil's role, etc.
There is a new maturity thruout the anti-war
movement. The serious players want united demonstrations. In
that context, I eagerly defend the WWP against Michael Lerner's
accusation that they are "Antiwar Anti-Semites," using
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), one of the groups
sponsoring SF's demonstration, "to put forward anti-Israel
Some years ago Lerner relocated in NY,
got no audience among the apple's secular and largely atheist
intelligentsia, and slunk back to the Bay Area. Indeed, if he
had levied the accusation in Manhattan, everyone would have spit
in his face.
WWP is intimately involved in Al-Awda,
The Return, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, open to
anyone who supports its principle. WWP's specialty is street
demo logistics, and a NY Al-Awda march is a impressive sociological
statement. I've paraded with bearded Orthodox Jewish Hasids,
identical in black suits, wearing their traditional fur hats,
pious Muslim women, heads covered, with secular Jews, Christians,
some in clerical garb, Puerto Rican musicians, etc. Most onlookers
cheer a pro-Palestine march with obvious Jews in it. The cops
are friendly. Orthodox and Palestinians together, marching with
the WWP, aren't terrorists.
Those Orthodox are the Neturei Karta,
the Guardians of the City. Jews make up ca. 11% of New Yorkers.
Seventeen percent of the Jews are Orthodox, and ca. 25% of these
identify with the NK. WWP's anti-Zionism pales to nothing compared
to theirs. In 1981 they sent me to Beirut to report on whether
the PLO would recognize Israel: "The Palestinians might
compromise with Zionism. We can't. The Talmud forbid Jews to
try to reconquer the land of Israel. G-d will restore us when
he sees fit. If the PLO recognizes Israel, we must break with
them." Ask NK if the WWP is anti-Semitic and they'll laugh
in your face.
The anti-Iraq war movement correctly
includes Zionists who understand that war would generate unending
suicide attacks against Israel. And at present, most activists,
want to see Israel and a viable Palestinian state, side by side.
But there is no room on our speakers' platforms for anyone making
easily disproved libels against an organization playing a pivotal
role in the growing opposition to the powers-that-be.
Criticism of the WWP and everyone else?
Of course!! Indeed publically debating what Americans should
do re US military and/or financial "aid' to Israel, the
Palestine Authority, Saudi Arabia, etc., is one of the best ways
of educating the concerned public about the Middle East.
Happily, the ranting rabbi doesn't speak
for the Jews. According to the American Jewish Identity Survey
2001, done at City University of New York, only 51% of US Jews
believed in any form of Judaism. By 2003, its followers are a
minority of our Jews. American Jewry, Orthodox to atheist, is
the world's most educated stratum. Most of the young reject Judaism
as incompatible with science, and marry gentiles.
In 1995 the American Jewish Committee
reported that only 22% of all Jews declared themselves Zionists.
The number is far lower now, mostly "the learned elderly
of Zion.' Worldly Jews scorn Israel because of its medieval official
religion. NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke for them in 1995,
before he turned politician: "I wont give too much money
to the U(nited) J(ewish) A(ppeal), because of the hold the religious
have on Israel. I have one wish: Shoot all the clerics."
When movements collapse, the fanatics
stay to the end, and its difficult to determine which is crazier,
Lerner's politics or his theology: "We call for... the creation
of a Palestinian state.... But we also call for... Israel's admission
into NATO--or some other equally powerful military alliance--to
give the Jewish state genuine security."
Yes, NATO is about to take in Israel.
Any minute now.
His theology is wonderfully fanciful.
In "A Jewish Renewal (Kabbalistic-Mystical-NeoHasidic) Approach
to God," Lerner not only denounces prophets for not fully
understanding God, he reveals himself to be smarter than God:
"Cain seeks God's acknowledgement
that his contribution, his sacrifice, is as valuable as that
of his brother Abel, yet he does not get that sense of being
recognized as valuable and contributing. In his pain and fury,
he kills his brother.... If blame is to be assigned at all, it
is to God, who failed to give Cain the recognition that he so
badly needed; and it is perhaps out of this understanding of
His own culpability that God does not kill Cain but instead only
Lerner is out of a Freudian text on narcissism.
The kabbala was early medieval magic, conjuring with words. Hasidism
started in the 18th century as a revivalist cult, combining kabbalaism
with "storefront church' singing and dancing. "Poof'
say their Rabbis, performing miracles, tho none so grandiose
as NATO inviting Israel to join it. From wishful thinking to
forgery is just a bounce and, indeed, Lerner has confessed to
publishing bogus letters to the editor of Tikkun, that God's
critic wrote himself.
Such a simpleton inevitably attracted
equally profound defenders. A list of his partisans have denounced
"ANSWER's unfitness to lead mass mobilizations against war
in Iraq." Internal evidence strongly suggests that the initiative
for the slander campaign comes from elements in Democratic Socialsts
of America. Among the signers is Bogdan Denitch, a Socialist
Party leader in the early 60s. His specialty was proclaiming
that the only way to build the anti-Vietnam War movement was
to proclaim ourselves as "Against Washington and Moscow."
We told him to go to hell, openly worked with Communists, and
recruited hundreds of thousands to the cause, while the SP broke
up. We called them "State Department Socialists' and ultimately
Norman Thomas, their most famous figure, was exposed as a CIA
collaborator by the NY Times.
Today Denitch is DSA's guru as it gives
out awards in Thomas' name. At best, DSA is divided between those
who think he was a great man, who unfortunately secumbed to the
CIA's blandishments in his old age, and those who think his taking
secret CIA money was the highpoint of his brilliant career.
Jack Newfield, another signer, was a
star attraction at DSA conferences in the early 80s. In the end,
Newfield went to work for the NY Post, which makes Mussolini's
lL Popolo di Italia look timid.
Nation writers and editors Marc Cooper,
Katha Pollitt, Judith Long and Roane Carey also rushed to Lerner's
side. Nation scribes write endless pages on how to build the
peace movement. But, in 51 years of left politics, I remember
exactly ONE Nation staffer attending exactly ONE planning meeting,
and doing the work that goes into building a demo.
Anti-war work, like charity, begins at
editor of 51
Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis, can
be reached at [email protected]
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/ 16, 2003
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