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Mondo co-editor to speak in Cambridge tomorrow night

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Tomorrow night in Cambridge it’s my honor to give a talk about the American love affair with Zionism and how to break it off, in honor of a great woman who was a mentor to me and countless other folks who engaged on the Israel/Palestine question: Hilda Silverman, who died in 2008.

Details about the talk are below. First some words about Hilda.

Hilda gave me and many other activists strength and guidance. She was well ahead of almost every Jew I know who is engaged on the conflict. Here is a beautiful reminiscence by Alice Rothchild:

Hilda quickly distinguished herself as an extremely knowledgeable, thoughtful, moral voice who was able to maintain a strong sense of her own Jewish identity and a painful awareness of the Holocaust while articulating a consistent and powerful critique of Israeli policy. In a 2002 op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Hilda wrote, “I am a Jew with a profound consciousness of Jewish victimization through history. But for me, victim and victimizer, oppressor and oppressed are not mutually exclusive categories.”

As a younger activist trying to find my way in the bewildering maze of history, politics, trauma, and conflicting narratives, Hilda’s voice was a critical part of my education. In the book, Culture and Resistance, Edward Said told this story: “It was in 1988. There was a Tikkun conference in New York…I, and my friend Ibrahim Abu-Lughod were on a panel with Michael Walzer. At one point, in a moment of exasperation, Walzer said, ‘All right, you’re going to get your state, so I think it’s important to stop thinking about the past. You go have your state, we’ll have ours, and that’s the end of it.’ At which point, a woman in the audience, who I’ll never forget – her name was Hilda Silverman – got up in a state of rage, railing at Walzer, saying, ‘How dare you tell a Palestinian that he should stop reminding us of the past, when you and I belong to a people that is always reminding the world of how much we suffered, and asking people never to forget? How dare you tell a Palestinian to forget?'”

Though she warned me not to adopt her as a mother figure before checking with her own children, Hilda was loving and nurturing to me at a time when I needed that emotional support about this issue, though she never hesitated to correct me. She had depth. You could not throw her, she combined passion and intelligence with humanity and humor. She could relate the Armenian Genocide to the Nakba and the Holocaust, without reducing any of those episodes. For instance, she wrote of the ADL’s efforts to trivialize the Armenian genocide:

Most of us who identify as Jews have a deep and visceral understanding that at many times and in many parts of the world—and today still in *some* parts of the world—we have been considered expendable.  I think the extraordinary passion and rage of the Armenian community in recent weeks has shown that this is a community mobilized to say, in effect, “neither we as a people nor our history are expendable”; and I have watched with awe and a profound sense of appreciation the stunning impact that their words and actions have had.

And when I praised her as exemplar of universal values, for her criticism of Elie Wiesel for not going to Gaza, she wrote back with wisdom and self-awareness: 

I’ve … come to feel that actually *none* of us can truly live in terms of universal values, however deeply held.  One simply could not get through the day. We all pick and choose where to put our time and energy and passion and, to varying degrees, try to block out the rest.   I think that some choices are more morally defensible than others, though, and I still think that Elie Wiesel is a hypocrite (unlike me and thee, of course!).

Now here is some info about the talk:

The Hilda Silverman Memorial Lecture

Community and Ideology: What Will it Take for American Jews To Walk Away from Zionism? A talk by Philip Weiss Creator and co-editor of the popular blog Mondoweiss Philip Weiss is a New York writer who, in the wake of the Iraq war, began to examine issues of Zionism in Jewish life and in the American power structure. In 2006, he founded a website, Mondoweiss.net, devoted to these questions and, inspired in part by Hilda Silverman, began reporting on the conditions of Palestinian life in the occupied territories.

Tuesday, April 16, 7:30 pm

First Church Cambridge, Congregational

11 Garden St. Donations welcome

Sponsored by American Jews for a Just Peace Boston and co-sponsored by the Palestine-Israel Task Team of First Church in Cambridge, Congregational

My talk is going to be about how I came to a very late awareness about the importance of Zionism in American political life, and about what it will require to divorce the American Jewish community from this ideology. For I believe that the American Jewish community’s commitment to religious nationalism has exercised considerable sway over American political culture.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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17 Responses

  1. just on April 15, 2013, 11:25 am

    Super news, Philip. Congratulations!

    Hilda sounds like a inspirational and transformative giant. You are carrying her torch, and I am sure she is proud.

  2. Blaine Coleman on April 15, 2013, 11:35 am

    This would be a good spot to suggest a Harvard campaign to boycott Israel.

  3. Citizen on April 15, 2013, 11:38 am

    I sure wish I could be at your talk in Cambridge, Phil. I hope it is is recorded on video and the transcript is made available on the internet too. I wish you well there. The long row you have hoed since your childhood is inspiring for truth-seekers everywhere in the contemporary world. Thank God for the Hildas of this world. And for your wife too.

  4. annie on April 15, 2013, 2:34 pm

    i really wish i could attend. ditto citizen’s wish it’s recorded on video. i hope it is an exceptional event.

  5. Eva Smagacz on April 15, 2013, 3:01 pm

    My first thought was – Phil is in Europe! I can make it to Cambridge! Who knew that there is more than one Cambridge in the world? Bummer

    • Hostage on April 15, 2013, 11:08 pm

      My first thought was – Phil is in Europe! I can make it to Cambridge! Who knew that there is more than one Cambridge in the world? Bummer

      Yes, a reference to “the University in Cambridge” (USA) was used for comedic effect in an episode of Inspector Lewis.

  6. MHughes976 on April 15, 2013, 4:05 pm

    Well it would suit me better if Phil were to repeat his remarks in Oxford, not the one in Mississippi.

  7. Cliff on April 15, 2013, 4:23 pm

    Yes upload this please I never understand why these aren’t part of a regular Youtube channel.

  8. DICKERSON3870 on April 15, 2013, 5:39 pm

    RE: “Hilda quickly distinguished herself as an extremely knowledgeable, thoughtful, moral voice who was able to maintain a strong sense of her own Jewish identity and a painful awareness of the Holocaust while articulating a consistent and powerful critique of Israeli policy.” ~ Alice Rothchild

    MY COMMENT: I think I’m in love, albeit posthumously and through a “medium” of sorts, so to speak.

    P.S. This is the music Robbie Robertson selected for the credits at the end of Scorsese’s 2010 film “Shutter Island”.
    ● Dinah Washington & Max Richter: This bitter earth/On the nature of daylight [VIDEO, 06:10] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxHZ-9vQj9I
    . . . This bitter earth
    Well, what fruit it bears
    Ooooh, This bitter earth . . .

  9. Citizen on April 15, 2013, 6:53 pm

    Maybe Phil knows that Sartre advocated that an individual should criticize everything that is given to you as part of your culture. Freedom is not an end in itself, but is an action and the road, that you take to get to it, is the expression of the existential experience. Sartre’s legacy is that of an ethical compass with a noble attitude that does not let the elites off the hook for their transgressions against the Inherent Autonomy of the individual.

  10. MHughes976 on April 16, 2013, 9:27 am

    Your audience in Cambridge will be very aware of what an angry and violent place the world now is and how central the conflicts of the ME now are. The bombs have got to be a 10th anniversary event for Iraq. I know you’ll remind them that wrongs don’t make rights and that anger against anger isn’t enough.

    • annie on April 16, 2013, 12:18 pm

      The bombs have got to be a 10th anniversary event for Iraq.

      or the 20th anniversary for wako texas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_siege

      • eljay on April 16, 2013, 1:16 pm

        Nah, it’s Iran or, worse, Al-Qaeda in Iran (AQIR)! 8-o

      • American on April 16, 2013, 2:42 pm

        Very strange bombing to me…. what was it’s ‘statement’ or ideological target? As in what policy or issue or entity was it aimed at?
        Seems it’s purpose was mainly to create fear in the public—-make them fearful or leery of going about their normal lives and activies.

      • MHughes976 on April 16, 2013, 5:28 pm

        You’re quite right of course American. There is something strange about terrorism when no statement claiming responsibility emerges anywhere in the worlds length breadth and circumference. Still I think its ro.ots have got to be in the ME

  11. eljay on April 16, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Hilda Silverman strikes me as another person I can admire. Best of luck to you with your speech, Mr. Weiss!

  12. American on April 16, 2013, 2:33 pm

    ”and about what it will require to divorce the American Jewish community from this ideology. For I believe that the American Jewish community’s commitment to religious nationalism has exercised considerable sway over American political culture.’…Phil

    So what do you think it will require for Jews to divorce zionism?
    Please don’t say waiting for the younger generation of Jews to take over—the zios work 24/7 with plenty of money to bring more young Jews into their cult while your camp works with fewer resources to bring them out –so that looks like a draw or stalemate to me –or a long, long process to defeat the zios……do any of us, Palestines, US, Israel, etc. have that much time left to avert some kind of real disaster?

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