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In Rome, Israeli Embassy and Jewish Community Association Use Anti-Semitism to Cancel Ann Wright's Talk on Gaza

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Ann Wright, speaking in Rome
(Image by Photo by Stephanie Westbrook)
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An often-used tactic to squelch any criticism of the policies of the State of Israel is to call the criticism anti-semitic. The sponsors of the event become afraid of the label anti-semitism, false as it is, and cancel the event to avoid any controversy. The tactic is used widely all over Europe and the United States.

Yesterday, my talk on the Women's Boat to Gaza and the conditions in Gaza that I was to give in a room at the Rome City Hall, was cancelled 24 hours before the event by the Council Member who had agreed to arrange for the room. His staff revealed that he had gotten intense pressure from the Israeli Embassy and Rome's Jewish Community Association to stop the presentation.

In a fast media blitz organized by Italy's Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions program, two of Rome's newspapers wrote of the cancellation and several radio stations reported on it.

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BDS Italy scheduled a press conference about the cancellation in the plaza in front of the City Hall at the time the talk was scheduled. Around 20 media attended, a much larger number than would have attended the talk itself.

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Due to the number of media and the questions concerning the cancellation, the Marcello de Vito, President of the Rome City Council, invited three of us to come into the City Hall to discuss the cancellation. This invitation provided us with the opportunity to discuss the conditions in Gaza and the West Bank and the nonviolent tactics such as BDS and Boats to Gaza to bring international attention to the harmful policies of the State of Israel. From their questions, it was apparent that the President, another City Council member and their staff were not familiar with the Israeli Blockade of Gaza, the illegal settlements, the apartheid wall, the numbers of Palestinian children and youth held in Israeli jails and the theft of Palestinian resources by Israeli companies.

Last year in Beyreuth, Germany the prize for Tolerance and Peace awarded to CODEPINK: Women for Peace was cancelled by the Mayor after two reporters well-known for writing spurious articles alleged that CODEPINK was an anti-semitic organization. Following an extensive letter writing campaign from members of the German Parliament and others who know CODEPINK's actions that challenge the policies of the State of Israel are not anti-semitic, the Bayreuth City Council voted to reinstate the award amidst much publicity.

Also, last year a conference in which grandmothers who had been through World War II were to speak was cancelled with the same allegations. 90-year old Hedie Esptein, whose parents had been killed in the Holocaust and she herself survived only by being sent to England as a part of the Kindertransport, and a strong and vocal critic of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians brought her into the target of defenders of Israeli policies and caused a cancellation of the entire event.

Events on university campuses all over Europe and in the United States have been cancelled as the State of Israel exerts extreme pressure on any institution allowing the honest debate of Israeli policies.

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Responding quickly to the false allegations of anti-semitism is key to challenging the Israeli government offensive toward those who challenge their illegal and inhumane policies toward Palestinians. Following are links to media coverage in Rome which highlight how the pushback from BDS Italy created far more publicity for the plight of Palestinians than the event itself would have:

Right wing mainstream

Top newspaper, Rome pages

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)

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