Last week, I promised an entry about Alison Weir, who was hosted at the same local church where Anna Baltzer spoke earlier this summer. In what was not a sign of things to come, the event was opened by a member of church's Social Justice Committee with a prayer for Israelis and Palestinians to "strive for reconciliation and peacemaking" and a plea for "meaningful dialogue". I think he was sincere; I also think he completely failed to appreciate the irony, given the speaker that he was introducing and the content of her presentation.
Alison Weir is a self-proclaimed "unbiased journalist" (she used to edit a local community newspaper in Sausalito) who on the basis of two trips to the West Bank and Gaza and a review of newspaper headlines and network TV broadcasts, has come to the unbiased journalistic conclusion that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a pure battle between good and evil, that there is only one side, and she is going to be an unbiased crusader for the principles of justice, fairness and equality--in other words, the Palestinian side.
Weir has at least several different types of presentations that she gives, apparently depending on the expected naivete of the audience. When she spoke at Sonoma State University several years ago, and also at UC Berkeley the night before recent her local appearance, she railed much more openly about the "Zionist conspiracy" (which apparently included people moving furniture in the room directly upstairs), and also challenged those who would question her statements as "Zionist troublemakers". She has made statements such as
“People who say there are two sides to this ‘conflict’ are full of bs … Here there is the brutalizer and the brutalized. It’s not complicated.”
“When a rare, crazed, would-be freedom-fighter escapes this prison and tries to strike his oppressor, we need to read about the prison he exploded out of. Rather than an ‘inexplicable, fanatical terrorist,’ we would see what we had helped create with our aid to Israel-a terrorized victim who has tragically but inexplicably turned to violence himself.”
"In the 1948 War, the Zionist army consisted of over 90,000 European trained soldiers and possessed modern weaponry, including up-to-date fighter and bomber airplanes. The Arab forces, very much a third-world army, consisted of approximately 30,000 ill-equipped, poorly trained men. The US army, British intelligence, and the CIA all agreed: it would be no contest."
At Berkeley, she also claimed that there had been an independent sovereign Arab country of Palestine prior to the establishment of Israel. That comes as no surprise given her interpretation of the Six-Day War as "Israel attacked its neighbors" without any mention of Egypt's closing of the Straits of Tiran and the bellicose genocidal pronouncements of Arab leaders.
At the church, she was more subdued; I don't recall hearing the phrase "Zionist conspiracy" even once! She does have a montage of slides, photos and videos with the variety of truths, half-truths, and extra bonus features such as a video interview with a former government official who stated that "The White House is dominated by Israelis" and her charge that the media is controlled by pro-Israel individuals and groups. To anyone who doesn't know the history of the region and the conflict, this one-sided presentation can be very effective. Jews have no right to self-determination in Palestine in Weir's world, but she would deign to have them stay there as part of a one-state solution (at least until they get dispossessed by the Arabs).
But there may be more to the story than this. Weir, unlike most anti-Israel activists who tend towards the far left, has an interesting association with the extreme anti-Semitic right. David Duke is a fan of hers, having reposted in its entirety on David Duke.com an article Weir wrote for Counterpunch--interestingly, not about Israel itself, but about Israeli influence on the Russian government. Apparently Weir has made no effort to get this copyrighted work off of Duke's site-- when asked about this several years ago by this writer, she stated that she had no control over the use of her work. As an unbiased professional journalist, one would expect that she is familiar with the principle of fair use so maybe she really doesn't mind. She was a guest in 2006 on the public access cable TV show of one Hesham Tillawi, an anti-Israel activist from Louisiana whose foul spoor is easily tracked over the Internet even by those like myself who aren't unbiased professional journalists. Duke himself has appeared on Tillawi's “Current Issues” three times to peddle his brand of Jew-hatred and also proudly posts a fawning letter from Tillawi written in 2005 (a year before Weir was a guest on his show). Duke warned that there is a “worldwide Jewish extremist media and government [effort]” to corrupt children with violence and promote drug use; to “destroy…the home and the family”; to wipe away “individual cultures and freedoms” and institute “a new age of darkness.” Another guest on Tillawi’s show has alleged that Jews are somehow aligned with demonic forces. “Call it anti-Christ, call it Satan, call it whatever,” Russian-born Jewish covert to Christianity Israel Shamir said on “Current Issues.” “This kind of force tries to defeat Christ, and it is heavily armed with tools of Jews.” Among the Holocaust deniers Tillawi has hosted on his own personal "Wayne's World" is Bradley Smith, who has crusaded since the 1980s to bring Holocaust denial to college campuses. He also interviewed Fredrick Toben, a Holocaust denier from Australia. In his interview Toben propounded his theory that Jewish and Zionist forces invented the threat of Islamic terror to “squash dissent” and serve as a “decoy” distracting world attention from a different goal: demolishing the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and replacing it with a rebuilt Temple of Solomon. Mark Weber, who directs the California-based Holocaust-denying Institue for Historical Review, has been a guest on Tillawi’s show more than once. When not trying to chip away at the Holocaust’s historical evidence, Weber attacks Holocaust commemoration efforts. “Holocaust remembrance is not a noble effort motivated by sincere concern for humanity,” Weber told Tillawi’s viewers. “This campaign is an expression of Jewish-Zionist power and it’s designed to further Jewish-Zionist interests.” Tillawi also said: “And of course economically, correct. They have a stranglehold on Congress and the administration…the American people are in the same shape that the Palestinians are in, because the media is controlled, the government is controlled, the economy is controlled, and actually they are in worse shape than the Palestinians...There is a good book written by Henry Ford called The International Jew, and my own personal take on the protocols: I don’t care if it’s authentic or not, I don’t care if it’s real or if somebody just dreamed them up. The thing is they are being used as blueprints. If you read the protocols and look at what’s going on right now, and [inaudible] government, who controls them, the money, who etc. the media, who controls it, all these things are in the protocols. So I don’t care if it’s authentic or not, they are using it as a blueprint.”
(credit to the Anti-Defamation League for the background information on Tillawi).
It's hard to imagine that Weir was unaware of all this when she chose to add her name to Tillawi's guest list of extremist haters. After all, she's an unbiased professional journalist who would want to do some background research before appearing on someone's TV show. Perhaps she did her research and recognized that her lines such as “What Israel says, our media repeat. What Israel demands, our government gives. ”(Counterpunch, March 15, 2005) echo the tropes of classic anti-Semitism.
Weir closed her talk by saying that the "intentional arousal of hatred, bigotry and fear is very dangerous". Once again, the extraordinary irony of that statement went unnoticed by too many in the room.