“Not at this time. Not in this place.” AJ Duffy, regarding the discussion of Palestinian Human Rights. 10/13/06
Duffy called an emergency Human Rights Committee meeting, for October 13. Before the meeting, several activists, including Human Rights Committee member, David Rapkin, and founding Committee member and UTLA Charter member, Don White, were turned away and told that they were not qualified to be in attendance. Other UTLA members who were not Committee members, were allowed into the meeting, under the pretext of leadership roles within the Union, or because they had relevant information, or were personally affected by the decision. At the meeting, it was asserted that MDS/SDS had betrayed the Committee by circulating a leaflet calling for a rally, and for obscuring the intention of the meeting https://cafeintifada.wordpress.com/2006/10/12/three-letters-steve-seal-public-and-private/. It was further asserted that Café Intifada founder, Emma Rosenthal, had obstructed democratic process by posting information to the listserve that provided members with information related to decisions, and Committee housekeeping, for not editing post content of members, and for posting more than anyone else. (No guidelines for moderation, had ever been established, except that the list was for discussing HRC business, and not for posting articles or events, except as they informed HRC decisions.) Newly named, Director of Communications, Dan Barnhart, in stark contrast to his previously stated positions in support of the meeting, list and web page, as well as the HRC’s support of Palestinian solidarity, presented a detailed graph of the number of posts by members of the Committee. He was critical of the use of the rise-up listserve because of its radical affiliations. It should be noted that the listserve had three moderators: Emma Rosenthal, who, under the direction of the Committee, founded the list, Steve Seal, Committee Chair, and Andy Griggs, past Chair. Nonetheless, the list itself, was blamed for the decision taken, and Emma was blamed for the list. All posts by list moderators were attributed to her, and not to either of the two men, who were also moderators.
One of the issues raised by the Zionist organizations was a link to “extremist groups” on the Human Rights Committee web page. Rosenthal had recently updated the web page, including links to human rights organizations, particularly those who had worked with the Human Rights Committee, including Cafe Intifada, which had been repeatedly targeted during this campaign. Upon updating the webpage, she had posted the link to the listserve for group input and approval. Suggestions for additional material and links were made, as were some orthographic improvements, including linking to sister organizations, such as Cafe Intifada and CAMS.
It was decided at the meeting, to destroy the list, along with the public announcement list, and the web page; all of which were associated with Rosenthal’s initiative and based in Committee approval. The Committee did agree to the following statement, to be posted on the webpage.
The Human Rights Committee of UTLA is in the process of reviewing our structure and function to better implement our mission statement. The website is temporarily unavailable. Your understanding is appreciated.”
It is quite clear to Cafe Intifada, that in addition to providing President Duffy with the face saving statement (above), the purpose of the meeting was the destruction of any of the contribution over the years of Emma Rosenthal, and to assure that she would have no place in the leadership of the Committee in the future. (Despite Rosenthal’s activism within the Committee, she was one of the few members of the Committee NOT contacted by Duffy prior to his decision to cancel the meeting.) As activist, Linda Baughn, stated afterward, “the unifying principle at work was opportunism.” Activists within the Committee who had initially voted to hold the BDS meeting, vying for power within the Committee, having waged a brutal campaign against Emma on the issue of disability rights, opportunistically sided with the UTLA “progressive” leadership, who, in a desperate attempt to save their popularity within the Union, under pressure from a well orchestrated and well funded campaign by the Jewish Zionist establishment, joined ranks, in shutting down the meeting, dismantling the Committee infrastructure and blacklisting Rosenthal. Had this been simply the matter of an ill advised meeting, then simple cancelation would have been sufficient, not the destruction of the entire infrastructure of the committee, including the archive of communication on the listserves. Of important note, prior to the cancelation of the meeting by Duffy, efforts were being made to have the meeting canceled by MDS and Cafe Intifada for security reasons. This would have allowed for the cancelation of the meeting without casting any slanderous attacks on individuals or groups, without blacklisting, without character assassination, without shutting down an entire committee, without destroying union democracy, without throwing around terms like “extremist” or “fringe”. When Board Member Andy Griggs alerted Duffy to this development Duffy’s response was that he wasn’t willing to wait. Before Rosenthal could contact MDS and get confirmation (a process that took less than an hour) the decision had been made and accusatory press releases had been issued.
During the meeting, President Duffy, repeatedly referenced emails and letters from hundreds of teachers, and offered to allow any of the Committee members access to the letters.
The following chronology, taken from the dialogue on the listserve, was presented by Emma Rosenthal, at the meeting, where she specifically asked if there were any differences of opinion to that account of the chronology and there was none. The original chronology included the first name, of all committee members. Café Intifada has replaced some of the names with initials. Names of people who have provided consent, as well as Committee Chair, Steve Seal, UTLA Board Members, and UTLA Officers, remain, as identified.
During the meeting, Rosenthal also provided the Committee with information regarding some of the Zionist groups who had waged this campaign of letters, meetings and emails, including Stand With Us, and their black list, secret dossier on individual activist. Presenting Rosenthal’s Stand With Us dossier, which prints out to 62 pages, she demonstrated the degree of privatized espionage that these groups carry out in singling out activists critical of Israeli policy. (Stand With Us’ blacklist is not available to the public. One must apply for a special password to gain access. It was a rare opportunity that allowed Rosenthal to get ahold of the materials about her, The dossier is available to select student groups, and the press,) http://www.stand4facts.org/
For information on the campaign within the Committee, against Rosenthal, due to her assertion of disability rights, go to: http://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/category/utla-human-rights-committee/
When activists turn on each other, especially in the face of death threats and blacklisting, the results can be devastating. This lack of discipline (revolutionary discipline- the discipline necessary to really confront the vast machine that leftist activists claim they want to disassemble,) can have horrible results. These actions put people in real danger. These are not simply school yard pranks, which, though considered innocent, have other devastating consequences. These are real purges in a very real world, that leave real people in very real danger.
Especially distressing is the deafening silence. The acts of voiceless complicity, the attempts to protect one’s own program, agenda, image, at all cost. So many activists quietly voiced support, in private, but made no public statements of support or principle.
The brutal campaign launched by a mighty, external establishment, wrapped in the language of human rights, but brazenly out to control the narrative on the Middle East, limit academic freedom and free speech, and isolate activists, is part of a larger political agenda, reaching well beyond the walls of UTLA. It isn’t as simple as Steve Seal might suggest: that we pick our battles. This battle picked us. And we responded terribly.
No doubt, Cafe Intifada will need to find other venues to fight for justice, and in the present climate, between the attacks on Emma Rosenthal on this issue and the issue of disability rights, there may require time for reflection and retreat. There is much work to do; if nothing else, at the very least, there is study; an important activity; study, gaining new insights or new skills. Let’s see where we go from here.
Chronology to a Decision:
- Sept 14, Steve posts to the list, Larry Lambert’s request for a meeting room.* Steve asks the members: Is this something we want to do?
Andy posts: I support this.
Emma posts: yes
R.L. writes: I think so
Linda Baughn writes: Does anybody know these people?
Andy posts: Yes–I have worked with many of the members of SDS-MDS over the years–the only reason I am not involved now is the lack of time.
Emma Writes: yes, i plan to be involved in this, as part of the l.a. palestine labor solidarity committee. i referred them to steve.
Linda writes : cool
Emma writes: Wow, I always wanted to be cool.
A. I. posts: Yes, however one reality is that UTLA is pretty booked up in October. I know that Sat. Oct. 7th is booked, and Evy said October is very full.
Emma posts: good point. they only need one room, and they’re pretty flexible about the time. there’s a room near L.T.’s office that isn’t used much. i don’t know the room number, but she does.
Sept 15 Steve posts in an email on the agenda for the upcoming meeting:
I will be out of town next week for a few days so if anyone can work on the room for SDS It would be appreciated by them and me.
Emma Posts: I can take care of the room for SDS.
M. R. posts: I vote yes
There is no further discussion on list about this meeting, though during this entire period several people post on other issues and no dissenting positions are expressed at the meeting on Sept. 27. Andy and I work on getting a room. There is some discussion between me, Andy and Larry regarding the wording of UTLA HRC’s role in the meeting. Based on past precedent when hosting a meeting that we are not producing (see below!) we decide to state that the meeting is hosted by the HRC.
Sept 29 Steve posts, including the email announcement of the meeting, ** which clearly states that HRC is hosting the meeting:
I hope people in our committee are planning on being there for this to assist in logistics and to make sure it runs smoothly since we are listed as a “meeting host” I will not be there due to prior commitments.
Emma posts i’m on it! i encouraged others to attend as well.
Oct 1: The announcement is made on several progressive listserves.
Oct 3: Duffy cuts the link from the UTLA page to the HRC page and posts a public letter stating that he will not censor a committee. Carolina from communications contacts me telling me to post it to the HRC page and that I am to remove all links to other organizations. I tell her that I can’t do anything without the direction of the Committee. I forward her email to the committee and ask for suggestions.
Steve posts: Hello all, <>Just wanted to let you know that there is some controversy brewing around our “hosting” of the meeting on the MDS/SDS thing on the 14th of this month. There has been pressure on the union to not have the meeting at UTLA and to not have the HRC host it. Since this is not being run by our committee directly I feel it is probably in our interests to pick our battles and possibly pull our hosting. This has turned into more work for us than it should be. Duffy wants to have a meeting to discuss this issue soon.<> I will keep you informed.
Over the next few days the following people weigh in (some of the responses are quite lengthy and are available on our archive.)
Agree to cancel: R. L. R. U.
Don’t agree: Emma, Andy, Michael, Dan (Barnhart), Linda, M.R.
A.I. writes “I’d like to do that.” Which I think means she wanted to cancel the meeting.
In a conversation with Andy, on October 5, the day he decided to cancel the meeting, Duffy reports that he spoke with 10 members of the Committee and that not all agreed with him. There are 26 members on the Committee.
And here we are!
—– Original Message —–
From: steve seal
Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2006 9:03 PM
Subject: [utla-hrc-discussion] Fw: [Al-Awda-Los-Angeles] Fw: BDS CAMPAIGN IN LOS ANGELES AREA
Does this look like something we should do for the group? Let me know what you think.
—– Original Message —–
To: larry lambert
Cc: Steve Seal
Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2006 8:24 PM
Subject: Re: [Al-Awda-Los-Angeles] Fw: BDS CAMPAIGN IN LOS ANGELES AREA
Hi, Steve —–
I’m a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) , the non-student affiliate of Students for a Democratic Society We are looking for a venue for a meeting we are having to plan a Boycott, Divestment , Sanctions campaign against Israel anytime between Oct 2- 6th or Oct 9-13th( in the evening from 8 -9:30 PM ) or at 1 or 2 PM to 4 PM on Saturday, Oct 7th or Saturday, Oct 14th. Please let me know if you could donate the use of a meeting room at UTLA headquarters to accommodate 20-30 persons on one of the above dates. Of course, should you be willing to donate meeting space to us, we will specify in our publicity and announcements that our meeting is not endorsed or sponsored by your organization
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide —