Revolution Online, January 17, 2009
Town Hall Meeting in NYC Condemns Israeli Massacre in Gaza
On Tuesday, Jan 13th, 550 people attended a Revolution Books Emergency Town Hall Meeting held at the Center for Ethical Culture in Manhattan. The meeting demanded a stop to the Israeli massacre in Gaza, and condemned the U.S. role in this war crime. The emergency meeting was an important challenge to people to understand the horrific situation in Gaza, the causes and implications, and to act.
There was a great sense of urgency and determination on stage, and in the audience. The meeting, and the thousands of dollars needed to make it happen, were pulled together in a few days. In spite of an impressive lineup of prominent speakers, the mainstream media censored the event, but alternative media, including WBAI and Democracy Now interviewed participants, and WBAI broadcast some of the speeches. Videos of the entire event are available at http://www.youtube.com/user/joefriendly.
The emergency meeting was opened and moderated by Andy Zee from Revolution Books. Abdeen Jabara, past-president of the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, introduced the event, and painted a searing picture of the horrific situation in Gaza before the current Israeli invasion, and today. Activist Adam Shapiro of the International Solidarity Movement, who has documented the Palestinian diaspora in a new film, spoke about the suppression of news from Gaza by the U.S. media including systematic targeting of activists who are exposing what is going on in Gaza for assassination by the Israeli military.
Former New York Times Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Hedges said "The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction" on Gaza was aimed at "creating squalid, lawless, and impoverished ghettos in the West Bank and Gaza where life for Palestinians will be barely sustainable." And Hedges posed a scenario of Gaza being reduced to a situation like that in Somalia, with neighborhoods run by warlords, and without a functioning government.
Peter Weiss, Vice President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, exposed the criminal nature of the Israeli massacre, including violation of international laws banning collective punishment of civilian populations, and indiscriminate targeting of civilians.
Actor Vanessa Redgrave refuted media claims that there have been almost no protests against the invasion within Israel, and indicted all the world powers for their complicity in the slaughter. Actor Najla Said, daughter of Palestinian intellectual and activist Edward Said, performed a poignant, autobiographical scene about her visit to Gaza with her parents from her play, "Palestine."
Revolution correspondent Alan Goodman shared his experiences as a Hebrew school student in the 1960s coming to grips with the nature of Israel, and spoke to the significance of the quote from RCP Chairman Bob Avakian, "After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel."
Former Congresswoman and Green Party candidate for President Cynthia McKinney told of her attempt to deliver tons of desperately needed relief supplies to Gaza on a small boat in December. The boat was rammed by the Israeli military and prevented from docking in Gaza. She described how a CNN reporter on board argued in vain with the CNN anchors to put the story on the news, and that instead CNN ran "Israeli disinformation" on the incident.
The day of the event, copies of a lie-filled poster from a group calling itself the "Jewish Defense Organization" appeared at and around Revolution Books in New York and in the area of the event itself. The poster included specific threats against Alan Goodman and Adam Shapiro. This attack on the event and speakers came in a context of ongoing censorship of the truth about the Israeli massacre in Gaza, and suppression of those who speak the truth about this. Human rights activists and U.N. representatives have been detained and barred from Israel, the media is not allowed in, and the mainstream media in this country has acted, as Chris Hedges put it, as "stenographers" for propaganda from Israel and the U.S. And there is particular intolerance on the part of fanatical backers of Israel’s crimes of any exposure or denunciation of those crimes by Jewish people. The threats and slanders did not deter any of the speakers, or the event organizers or the hosting venue.
In the spirit of urgent determination to stop the massacre of Gaza, the presentations, and the exchanges among the participants during a Q&A period wrestled with and debated critical questions: How should we respond to those who say "but what about the Hamas rockets?" Should the goal of the struggle be for peace, or the liberation of Palestine? What is the essential nature of the State of Israel? And, what is the actual relationship between Israel and the United States, including the role of the powerful Israel lobby, and how does this relationship fit into the fundamental nature of the United States and its role in the world?
The exchanges with the audience and among the speakers were framed by a common desire to understand and expose the underlying situation behind Israel’s massacre in Gaza and the U.S. role in these war crimes in order to stop them. Several protests were announced and organized on the spot. And, the presentations and discussion opened the door to larger questions and debates about the fundamental nature of the United States, and what kind of change is really needed in this world.
See also "A Night of Conviction: Hundreds Gather in NYC to Denounce Massacre of Gaza", by Malcolm Shore, at the World Can't Wait website.
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