Urgent, Our Rights are Under Attack!
By Bonnie Weinstein
The following letter was written in response to an attack on “The Struggle for Palestine” conference that took place at Horace Mann Middle School, a San Francisco public school on October2.
The attack came in the form of an article, entitled, “San Francisco Schools For Jihad” by Lee Kaplan, which appeared in FrontPageMagazine.com, October 1, 2004—a day before the conference.
In the article, Mr. Kaplan contends, among other things, that the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) aided terrorism by granting the use of the public school for the conference, and claimed that all those opposed to the war were also aiding terrorism, and should be denied the use of public schools in the future.
He calls upon people to write to the SFUSD and Governor Schwarzenegger and urge them to create rules that would prohibit similar uses of public school facilities unless a statement swearing patriotism and loyalty to the U.S. government and the war is signed by the organizers of such events.
Because of the particularly vicious nature of this article, Bonnie Weinstein, online group moderator for Bay Area United Against War (www.bauaw.org), wrote to the SFUSD and Governor Schwarzenegger to let them know that there were others in San Francisco who did not agree with Kaplan.
Bay Area United Against War is one of many groups and individuals in the Justice in Palestine coalition that sponsored the conference.
Bonnie is also a frequent contributor to Socialist Viewpoint magazine.
An Open Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger and Arlene Ackerman of the San Francisco Unified School District Regarding “The Struggle for Palestine” Conference:
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger and Ms. Arlene Ackerman,
I was very fortunate to be able to attend “The Struggle for Palestine” conference held at Horace Mann Middle School Saturday, October 2 sponsored by the Justice in Palestine coalition. It was well attended and extremely informative with excellent presentations that shed light on the many areas of conflict in the Middle East. I commend you for acknowledging the right for it to take place.
The presentations were scholarly, thorough, and unbiased. The facts presented spoke for themselves. But these are facts not covered by “mainstream media.” That is why it is so important to allow access for the free dissemination of information and ideas to as broad an audience as possible.
Allowing and encouraging conferences such as this one is fundamental to our belief that the more informed a person is, the better he or she is able to judge the facts. This is basic to democratic principles.
As a person who has been the target of anti-Semitism in her life, there is a big difference between such bigotry and opposition to the atrocities Israel is carrying out in the name of all Jewish people. My response to Israel and the U.S. government actions that prop up this apartheid is, “Not in my name!”
The conference shed light on the distinction between the evil of anti-Semitic acts and the evil actions of the state of Israel against the people of Palestine.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with Israel being central to U.S. control of the Middle East’s and the rest of the world’s oil resources. The struggles and wars all around the world, from Venezuela to the continent of Africa to the Middle East and the former Soviet Block countries, all have this common thread.
Israel and their strategic arsenal of weapons of mass destruction would not exist but for the $5 billion a year of U.S. tax dollars sent to prop up its apartheid rule. U.S. aid over the years—since the founding of Israel in 1948—adds up to over $280 billion. It also amounts to millions of innocent Palestinian lives lost, murdered, displaced, and crushed—their land ravaged and stolen, and their human rights forfeited.
The U.S. Government’s massive support of Israel, with the official stamp of approval by the overwhelming majority of both Republican and Democratic senators and congressional representatives, profoundly impacts us. This is our money going to pay for the war for oil waged against the people of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. The corporations are not paying, they are profiting from these conflicts!
Weapons manufacturers are making trillions of dollars using the world’s resources, building bombs then blowing them up, along with all of the human and Earthly life and structures of civilization they land on.
Then American corporations vie and compete for extravagant contracts to “re-build” what the U.S. war machine just destroyed—also paid for with our tax dollars—securing contracts that are fraught with corruption and fraud.
These monies, wasted on greed and war, are desperately needed by our schools and our children and grandchildren. I have raised two children in the SFUSD and I am well aware of the budget problems that exist in our schools. I am sure I don’t have to tell you about them.
Conferences and forums such as this one—afford the chance to “hear the other side”and see the “bigger picture” and help us to put our finger on the real problem. This is the first step to solving a problem—identifying it for what it is and looking for a common thread. That’s basic science.
But attempts to squelch free debate and the dissemination of facts and ideas abound. Under the guise of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security these rights are being drastically eroded and our ability to see things clearly suffers as a result. Hence those who profit the most from this world scheme of oppression and war dupe many.
But I believe people are basically intelligent. And when given all the facts they are able to come to a correct and just conclusion on how we can solve the strife that consumes the world today.
All of us who cherish freedom of speech and thought applaud the decision to acknowledge that this conference and others like it have a right to take place in our communities and in our schools—which are at the foundation of the democratic process. Encouraging free thought and discussion develops well-informed opinions—the best kind of opinions. That is what education is all about. This is the lesson we want to teach our children.
Again, thank you for your sound judgment in favor of democracy.