For those who don’t know Ann Wright, she served in the U.S. Army for 29 years, retiring as a Colonel, then put in 16 years in the U.S. diplomatic corps, until she resigned in 2003 to protest the war on Iraq. Since then she has been an indefatigable campaigner for peace and justice around the world.
I got to know her last year, when she led the U.S. Boat to Gaza, on which I was a passenger. Last week I had the honor of helping to chauffeur Ann Wright around Northern California as she delivered more than a dozen talks, plus several radio interviews, about Gaza, drones, and sexual harassment in the U.S. military. She arrived here straight from Pakistan, where she had gone with CodePink to support the anti-drone movement. When she left, she headed to Washington and Oregon for a few more talks, then planned to proceed to Europe to board the Estelle, the Swedish boat currently making its way to Gaza.
Then came some devastating news, detailed in a statement she just released:
Two days ago, on October 13, three hours before I was to board a flight to Europe to meet up with the Swedish boat to Gaza, the “Estelle,” the next boat to challenge the Israeli blockade, I was called by a board member of the Estelle who said that because of the furor around Greta Berlin’s posting and because I am a member of the new, 2 week old board of the Free Gaza Movement, I was no longer invited to be a passenger on the “Estelle.”
The board representative acknowledged that the reason for their invitation to me to be on the “Estelle” was that I am a retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war, that I am a vocal critic of Israeli and United States policies on Palestinians and that I have been to Gaza 4 times in the past 3 years, assisted 7 groups to go to Gaza in 2009, helped organize the December, 2009 Gaza Freedom March, was a passenger on the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, helped organize the 2011 US Boat to Gaza and am an organizer for one of the latest initiatives, Gaza’s Ark.
But, because I am a member of the new board of the Free Gaza movement, and despite the fact I, and Greta and all members of the new board have made public statements posted on the Free Gaza Movement’s website that neither Greta, nor members of the current or previous board are anti-Semitic, bigoted or racist, the fact that I am on the new Free Gaza board was the reason the board of the “Estelle” was withdrawing the invitation for me to sail on the Estelle due to allegations of anti-Semitism of the Swedish Boat to Gaza by pro-Israelis groups in Sweden.
I am saddened by the decision of the board to withdraw its invitation and I believe it is wrong. All of our projects that have challenged Israeli policies toward Palestinians have been called anti-Semitic by pro-Israeli groups. This is not a new tactic used to scare pro-Palestinian groups.
Phil Weiss and Adam Horowitz in an article posted on Mondoweiss said – “there is no room for racism in a movement working for equality, justice and freedom for all in Israel/Palestine”—and they are right, but at the same time, there is no room for throwing long-time international activists for Palestine “off the boat,” so to speak.
Greta Berlin is not an anti-Semite, a bigot or a racist, and neither am I.
I wish the passengers and crew on the “Estelle” a safe voyage in challenging the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza and call for all who support Palestinians to keep their eyes on the prize—justice, dignity and freedom for Palestinians who are suffering under unjust Israeli policies and actions.
Peace to all and among us all,
My two cents: this is sheer madness. I happen to admire Greta Berlin and to believe her explanation for her unfortunate posting, but whatever you think about Greta, remember that Greta is not the person the Swedish Boat group disinvited. Instead, they’ve disowned and, by implication, impugned the integrity of one of the hardest-working, most capable, and most respected campaigners we have. It’s indisputably a case of guilt by association. And if the Swedish Boat group really believes their action will ward off accusations of anti-Semitism against them, they’ve lost their grip on reality. In the end, this entire episode has divided and undermined our movement. How is that going to help the Palestinians?