[Reader-list] McCarthyism Again? : FBI after Women in Black

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at mnet.fr
Thu Oct 11 23:57:02 IST 2001

   Kpfa 94.1fm / Bekerley USA   (http://www.flashpoints.net/)

the below URL is an audio segment of Ronnie Gilbert speaking about 
WIB under investigation by WIB


FBI Investigates Peace Group

  McCarthyism Again?

  This is a letter to the editor by Ronnie Gilbert, famous
  as a member of the folk group "The Weavers" who brought
  all kinds of songs into popularity. One of the original
  members, Pete Seeger is still on the road.

  The group "Women in Black" that she refers to is a group
  of women from Isreal and Palestine that hold peace vigils
  dressed stylishly in black and who work to end the
  occupation of Palestinian territory, through cooperation
  between the two peoples. There are women throughout
  the world who have decided to start "Women in Black"
  vigils, including the one in San Francisco that Ronnie
  Gilbert is a member of.

  The letter is about the FBI's scrutiny, apparently of
  peace groups.

  Please relay it on. This could be important.

  Dear Editor:

  For the second time in my life - at least - a group
  that I belong to is being investigated by the FBI.

  The first was the Weavers. The Weavers were a recording
  industry phenomenon. In 1950 we recorded a couple of songs
  from our American/World folk music repertoire, Leadbelly's
  "Goodnight Irene" and (ironically) the Israeli
  "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" and sold millions of records for the
  almost-defunct record label. Folk music entered the mainstream,
  and the Weavers were stars. By 1952 it was over. The record
  company dropped us, eager television producers stopped knocking
  on our door. The Weavers were on a private yet well-publicized
  roster of suspected entertainment industry reds. The FBI came
  a-calling. This week, I just found out that Women in Black,
  another group of peace activists I belong to, is the subject of
  an FBI investigation.

  Women in Black is a loosely knit international network of women
  who vigil against violence, often silently, each group
  autonomous, each group focused on the particular problems of
  personal and state violence in its part of the world. Because
  my group is composed mostly of Jewish women, we focus on the
  Middle East, protesting the cycle of violence and revenge in
  Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

  The FBI is threatening my group with a Grand Jury investigation.
  Of what? That we publicly call the Israeli military's occupation
  of the mandated Palestine lands illegal? So does the World Court
  and the United Nations. That destroying hundreds of thousands of
  the Palestinians' olive and fruit trees, blocking roads and
  demolishing homes promotes hatred and terrorism in the Middle
  East? Even President Bush and Colin Powell have gotten around
  to saying so. So what is to investigate? That some of us are
  in contact with activist Palestinian peace groups? This is bad?

  The Jewish Women in Black of Jerusalem have stood vigil every
  Friday for 13 years in protest against the Occupation; Muslim
  women from Palestinian peace groups stand with them at every
  opportunity. We praise and honor them, these Jewish and Arab
  women who endure hatred and frequent abuse from extremists on
  both sides for what they do. We are not alone in our admiration.

  Jerusalem Women in Black is a nominee for the 2001 Nobel Peace
  Prize, along with the Bosnia Women in Black, now ten years old.

  If the FBI cannot or will not distinguish between groups who
  collude in hatred and terrorism, and peace activists who
  struggle in the full light of day against all forms of terrorism,
  we are in serious trouble.

  I have seen such trouble before in my lifetime. It was called
  McCarthyism. In the hysterical atmosphere of the early Cold War,
  anyone who had signed a peace petition, who had joined an
  organization opposing violence or racism or had tried to raise
  money for the refugee children of the Spanish Civil War, in other
  words who had openly advocated what was not popular at the time,
  was fair game.

  In my case, the FBI visited The Weavers' booking agent, the
  recording company, my neighbors, my dentist husband's patients,
  my friends. In the waning of our career, the Weavers were
  followed down the street, accosted onstage by drunken "patriots,"
  warned by friendly hotel employees to keep the door open if we
  rehearsed in anyone's room so as not to become targets for the
  vice squad. It was nasty. Every two-bit local wannabe G-man
  joined the dragnet searching out and identifying "communist spies."

  In all those self-debasing years how many spies were pulled in by
  that dragnet? Nary a one. Instead it pulled down thousands of
  teachers, union members, scientists, journalists, actors, entertainers
  like us, who saw our lives disrupted, our jobs, careers go down the
  drain, our standing in the community lost, even our children
  harrassed. A scared population soon shut their mouths up tight.

  Thus came the silence of the 1950s and early 60s, when no notable
  voice of reason was heard to say,"Hey, wait a minute. Look what
  we're doing to ourselves, to the land of the free and the home of the
  brave," when not one dissenting intelligence was allowed a public
  voice to warn against zealous foreign policies we1d later come to
  regret, would be regretting now, if our leaders were honest.

  Today, in the wake of the worst hate crime of the millennium, a
  dragnet is out for "terrorists" and we are told that certain civil
  liberties may have to be curtailed for our own security. Which ones?
  I'm curious to know.

  The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech or of the press?
  The right of people peaceably to assemble? Suddenly, deja vu -
  haven't I been here before?

  Hysterical neo-McCarthyism does not equal security, never will. The
  bitter lesson September 11's horrific tragedy should have taught us
  and our government is that only an honest re-evaluation of our
  foreign policies and careful, focused and intelligent intelligence
  work can hope to combat operations like the one that robbed all of
  us and their families of 6,000 decent working people. We owe the dead
  that, at least.

  As for Women in Black, we intend to keep on keeping on.

  Ronnie Gilbert

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