[sixties-l] Ronnie Gilbert on the FBI's investigation of Women in Black (fwd)

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Date: Fri Oct 05 2001 - 13:40:15 EDT

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 10:00:13 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Ronnie Gilbert on the FBI's investigation of Women in Black

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Gila Svirsky <gsvirsky@netvision.net.il>
    Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2001
    Subject: Ronnie Gilbert on the FBI's investigation of Women in Black

    As some of you have heard, members of the San Francisco vigil of Women in
    Black are being iinvestigated by the FBI. Here's a letter to the editor by
    Ronnie Gilbert, the well-known American folk singer, as conveyed by Marcia
    Freedman, a well-known Israeli feminist, who stands together with Ronnie
    in the Bay Area Women in Black.

    Dear Editor:

    I respectfully submit the following opinion (857 words) for your
    consideration. Thank you for reading it. Very truly yours, *

    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 fok music repertoire, Leadbellys
    "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 militarys 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 husbands 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 anyones 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 wed later come to regret, would be regretting now, if our
    leaders were honest.
    Today, in the wake of the worst hate crime of the millenium, a dragnet
    is out for "terrorist" and we are told that certain civil liberties may
    have to be curtailed for our own security. Which ones? Im curious to
    The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech or of the press? The
    right of people peaceably to assemble? Suddenly, deja vu - havent 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.

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