November 12, 2019

ADL, Jewish Groups Criticize Fresno Event for Featuring Speaker with ‘Anti-Semitic’ History

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Central Pacific and other Jewish groups are criticizing an event taking place at Clovis Community College (CCC) on Sept. 18 featuring Alison Weir, a speaker that ADL Central Pacific says uses “anti-Semitic tropes.”

The event, titled “Uncovered: Israel’s Occupation of Palestine,” is hosted by the Fresno-based news outlet GV Wire, which covers issues in the Central Valley. Weir has claimed that Israel harvests Palestinians organs, been featured on a white supremacist radio show and in white supremacist publications and blamed Jews for anti-Semitism, according to Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg. Both Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation have disassociated themselves from Weir over the aforementioned issues.

CCC President Dr. Lori Bennett said in an Aug. 30 statement that the CCC is not sponsoring the event and it is not in any way affiliated with the college or any student groups on campus.

While external organizations pay to rent facilities at Clovis Community College, it does not mean an endorsement of the speaker and/or organization. Clovis Community College is committed to maintaining a safe campus of inclusion and equity for all,” Bennett said. “Clovis Community College does not endorse hate speech or anti-Semitic remarks.”

ADL Central Pacific Regional Director Seth Brysk said in an Aug. 30 statement that they respect Weir’s right to express her views, but that “the leadership of Clovis Community College and other community leaders” should condemn her.

Under the pretense of political activism, Weir routinely employs classic anti-Semitic tropes: Weir blames Jews for anti-Semitism, labeling Jews a ‘race’ that is ‘an object of hatred of all the peoples among whom it has established itself’; promotes versions of the anti-Jewish blood libel (the accusation that Jews prey on gentiles for their blood); and likens Israeli policies to those of the Nazis, a comparison explicitly cited in the respected International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism,” Brysk said. 

Other Jewish groups criticized GV Wire for hosting Weir.

We are shocked that GV Wire would organize a talk with someone who seeks airtime on white supremacist shows and has promoted the medieval blood libel that Jews ritually murdered Christian children,” American Jewish Committee Los Angeles said in a statement. “A robust debate on Israel and the Palestinians is important and welcome.  But in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh and Poway killings, and countless other attacks on Jews throughout the country, it is disturbing that someone with a blatantly anti-Semitic history would be given a platform by this media organization.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that the event is “an advocacy event” and questioned why GV Wire didn’t also provide a speaker with an opposing viewpoint to Weir to provide more balance on the issue.

“She hates Israel, slanders Israel, devoted her life to doing this in word and in writing,” Cooper said. “She is even too much for people who still feel there’s still spaces for dialogue on the issue. She’s not a dialogue lady, she’s a propagandist.”

StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement that Weir is “notorious for spreading vicious hate and wild conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel.” She added that GV Wire and other organizations supporting the event are not legally obligated to carry on with the event.

“If they do not withdraw support from the event, they will be complicit in promoting anti-Semitism – an increasingly deadly form of racism,” Rothstein said.

The Progressive Zionists of California also said in a statement to the Journal, “As a group whose members have experienced her vitriolic attacks first hand, we are shocked that anyone would platform her and her reprehensible views. In 2019, as hate crimes against Jews in California continue to skyrocket, it is irresponsible to endorse such hate.”

GV Wire has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

UPDATE 1: Weir said in a statement to the Journal she was “shocked” that the ADL and AJC “are going to such trouble to try to impede my talk at a small college in Clovis, California. As I write here, I think the purpose is to prevent people from learning the facts about Israel-Palestine. The ADL has tried to bully the college, intimidate me, and scare off Fresno/Clovis citizens. But the college hasn’t canceled the event, I’m going to be speaking there, and, I hope, people who live in the Fresno-Clovis area will come to hear me for themselves and make their own decisions.”

She added, “I have written a multitude of articles on Israel-Palestine (some of them are here). Two of them were detailed, thoroughly cited articles about Israel’s connection to organ trafficking. A number of my sources were Israeli news media. You can read them here and here. Both were published by respected, progressive news organizations… I have been interviewed on a multitude of news media, most often liberal or left-wing ones. In my appearances, I provide facts about Israel-Palestine and speak out against all racism, bigotry, and violence.  I feel all Americans, regardless of their race, religion, or political perspective have the responsibility and need to be fully informed about Israel-Palestine, since all of our tax money is going to the over $10 million per day that American politicians give to Israel. You can see our mission statement and principles here.”

Weir also pointed to her response to JVP as well as one of her essays titled, “Anti-Semitism Is Wrong.”

UPDATE 2: GV Wire Publisher Darius Assemi said in a Sept. 4 statement to the Journal, “The mission of GV Wire is to explore, explain and expose. We are bringing Ms. Alison Weir to Clovis Community College as part of our ongoing speaker series. Our hope is that audience members will listen and weigh what she has to say about Israeli and Palestinian relations and decide for themselves the best path to peace.”

He added, “We do not take a position on the speaker’s information. Our goal is to provide different perspectives than those customarily provided by the mainstream media on issues of global concern. Continuing our efforts to examine important topics from all sides, we are reaching out to Jewish organizations to schedule a speaker who will provide a countering viewpoint to Weir’s analysis at a future date in our speaker series.”