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A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism): Profile 
By Stand4Fact.org

Overview

ANSWER is a principal player in all anti-war and pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Its steering committee members, Richard Becker, Sara Flounders and Elias Rashmawi, often speak at events, but it also invites other speakers, some of whom may not wholly share or even be aware of the group's views.

ANSWER was formed a few days after 9/11 as a "new anti-racism, anti-war, peace and justice" group and led its first protest just weeks later against the impending US-led attack on Afghanistan.[1] It went on to oppose the war and occupation of Iraq, homeland security measures and what it perceived to be American racism against Middle Easterners, Muslims and people of color.[2]

ANSWER is pro-Palestinian and spearheaded efforts to tie the anti-war and pro-Palestinian movements together. It boasted that it had sponsored "the largest demonstration in US history in support of Palestinian rights" on April 20, 2002, and that this was a "breakthrough since the anti-war and peace movement in the US has historically considered Palestine a 'taboo' subject."[3]

But ANSWER is not just another anti-war, anti-Israel group. It has sparked controversy even among anti-war progressives for its radicalism. David Corn of the left-leaning Nation Magazine denounced its leaders for their association with the Stalinist Workers World Party, their extremist positions and their co-opting the anti-war rallies to push their larger agenda which includes ending capitalism and freeing Jamil Al-Amin from jail.[4] The University of Michigan Daily warned students who wanted to attend the January 2003 anti-war rally sponsored by ANSWER that "many who read about the rally afterward will assume the crowd showed up to support ANSWER's agenda rather than to learn about or participate in the anti-war movement. This agenda includes not only the immediate release of Milosevic, but more recently, a demand for the immediate elimination of U.S. weapons of mass destruction."[5]

ANSWER's extreme position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict-essentially a one-state solution-also caused rifts with its anti-war coalition members. When the Palestine Solidarity movement split in August 2003, ANSWER supported the more radical New Jersey faction.[6] When ANSWER refused to allow Rabbi Michael Lerner, a well-known peace activist, to speak at the February 16, 2003 peace rally in San Francisco, Lerner charged that it was because of "his criticism of the anti-Israel bashing that had occurred at some of the previous rallies sponsored by A.N.S.W.E.R."[7] and he wrote about the need to fight "anti-semitism in the anti-war movement." [8]

You can understand why ANSWER is so controversial by looking at some of its positions:

  • Supports the Iraqi resistance against US troops "Having achieved their victory [the US in Iraq], however, the occupiers now confront a people who have a long and proud history of resistance. The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance." Richard Becker, ANSWER Steering Committee, Downloadable flyer on "Counter-revolution and Resistance in Iraq," May 2003
  • Supports Cuba and Fidel Castro "We invite you to sign this statement in solidarity with the people of Cuba." "We call upon the Bush Administration to free the five Cubans who are imprisoned in the US for trying to stop Miami-based terrorism against their people."[9]
  • "Free Jamil Al-Amin." (former Black Panther convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy in 2000) ANSWER Rally Sign October 25, 2002[10]
  • "We also believe that the movement must strongly express its solidarity with the struggling people of the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, who are fighting to determine their own destinies free from U.S. imperialist and colonial domination and that of the transnational corporations." ANSWER statement February 27, 2002[11]
  • "We fight hard for a better life right now, but we know that nothing is secure... as long as capitalism exists. So our goal is a society run by workers, not just as pawns in aParty newspaper[12]
  • "I know that the ANSWER coalition would not have a pro-Israel speaker on its platform." Tony Murphy, media coordinator for ANSWER, on NYC radio show January 28, 2003.[13]
  • "The [ANSWER] Commission of Inquiry is preparing an indictment charging the state of Israel and the US with conspiring and acting... to commit the most serious crimes of apartheid and crimes of occupation, war crimes against humanity in violation of all international norms and standards [in Palestine]."ANSWER's "The Other Apartheid: Commission of Inquiry to Investigate US-Backed Israeli War Crimes in Palestine"[14]
  • "In the United States, we, the Arab-Americans and Muslims, have been maliciously targeted, stripped of our rights and positioned outside the constitutional framework of this country. A new COINTELPRO has been unleashed against our homes and living rooms, as our fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters are plucked away and thrown into unknown prison cells." "A Call to Action for Solidarity with the Arab-American and Muslim Community" on ANSWER website[15]
  • Rejects the Road Map and the Geneva Accord. "The Geneva Accord is a natural extension and an inevitable result of the 'Road Map'The outcome... would be to terminate the Palestinian march to freedom, to nullify indefinitely and delegitimize the Palestinian right to return, and to subordinate the Arab nation to a heavily militarized outpost... ." ANSWER Public Statement on the Geneva Accord[16]
  • "The ANSWER Coalition expresses its solidarity with the call issued [to hold]... activities timed to coincide with the third anniversary of the second Palestinian Intifada... ."[17] (ie supports the terrorist campaign)

[1] "A Call to Join a New Anti-War Coalition," at www.internationalanswer.org/call.html www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/092301answerpr.html

[2] "A Call to Join a New Anti-War Coalition," at www.internationalanswer.org/call.html

[3] http://www.internationalanswer.org/pdf/o25tabloid.pdf

[4] David Corn, "Behind the Placards," November 1-7 2002 at www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views02/1031-08.htm

[5] Opinion, "Know the ANSWER," University of Michigan Daily, January 15 2003 at http://www.michigandaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/01/15/3e24f450abedd

[6] "3rd Call: Support the Third Annual Palestine Solidarity and Divestment Conference," at www.internationalanswer,org/news/update/081803palconf.html

[7] Tikkun Mail at http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/yavneh-na/yavneh-na.03.02.12 Also see Evelyn Nieves, "Antiwar Organizer's Politics Cause Rift," Washington Post, February 16, 2003 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A13873-2003Feb15?language=printer, Michael Lerner, "Fighting on Two Fronts: Against the War with Iraq and Against Anti-Semitism in the Anti-War Movement," February 12, 2003 at http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/yavneh-na/yavneh-na.03.02.12, and David Corn, "The Banning of Rabbi Lerner," The Nation February 11, 2003 at http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views03/0211-06.htm, "Let Anti-War Rabbi Michael Lerner Speak," February 11, 2003 at Tikkun Mail at http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/yavneh-na/yavneh-na.03.02.12 Also see Evelyn Nieves, "Antiwar Organizer's Politics Cause Rift," Washington Post, February 16, 2003 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A13873-2003Feb15?language=printer, Michael Lerner, "Fighting on Two Fronts: Against the War with Iraq and Against Anti-Semitism in the Anti-War Movement," February 12, 2003 at http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/yavneh-na/yavneh-na.03.02.12 , and David Corn, "The Banning of Rabbi Lerner," The Nation February 11, 2003 at http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views03/0211-06.htm, "Let Anti-War Rabbi Michael Lerner Speak," February 11, 2003 at http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0211-09.htm

[8] Lynette Clemston, "Threats and Responses: Dissent, Some Protesters Uneasy with Others," New York Times, January 24, 2003, National Desk section and Evelyn Nieves, "Antiwar Organizer's Politics Cause Rift," Washington Post, February 16, 2003 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A13873-2003Feb15?language=printer, Michael Lerner, "Fighting on Two Fronts: Against the War with Iraq and Against Anti-Semitism in the Anti-War Movement," February 12, 2003 at http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/yavneh-na/yavneh-na.03.02.12

[9] www.internationalanswer.org/campaigns/cuba/index.html

[10] cited in David Corn, "Behind the Placards," November 1-7 2002 at www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views02/1031-08.htm

[11] http://www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/022702a20unity.html

[12] www.workers.org/wwp.php

[13] Cited in David Corn, "The Banning of Rabbi Lerner," The Nation February 11, 2003 at http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views03/0211-06.htm

[14] www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/071802commission.html

[15] www.internationalanswer,org/news/update/011704openletter.html

[16] www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/120503geneva.html

[17] "International Days of Protest," August 9 2003 at www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/o8o903sep28update.html


Organization Background

Richard Becker, Sara Flounders, Elias Rashmawi and other progressives were already activists when they formed ANSWER in the wake of 9/11. They had already planned to protest against “the Bush administration’s reactionary foreign and domestic policy and the IMF and World Bank”[1] for the end of September 2001. But when 9/11 occurred, they quickly changed their focus, and within days organized ANSWER as a “new anti-racist, anti-war, peace and justice group.” The rally they had planned now shifted to protesting against US’ war plans in Afghanistan.[2] The group went on to protest the war and occupation of Iraq, the Patriot Act, and other US policies and became a principal organizer of anti-war rallies from September 29 2001 on.

ANSWER rapidly expanded as anti-war sentiment grew, and it formed loose coalitions with other emerging groups such as Not In Our Name (NION), United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and the campus Palestine Solidarity organizations to co-sponsor events.[3]

ANSWER, however, soon sparked controversy even among anti-war progressives because of its radical agenda and roots. Though its guest speakers come from a variety of backgrounds, its core members are from the Workers World Party,[4] “a radical Socialist group with roots in the Stalin-era Soviet Union,” according to the New York Times[5] and from one of the WWP’s offshoots, the International Action Center founded by Ramsey Clark, according to David Corn of the Nation.[6]

Corn reported that the WWP “advocates socialist revolution…It is a fan of Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba, and it hails North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il for preserving his country’s ‘socialist system,”….[and] campaigned against the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.”[7] Corn also pointed out that several ANSWER leaders, including Brian Becker, Sara Flounders, Larry Holmes and Leslie Feinberg, were also affiliated with the WWP.[8] In return, A.N.S.W.E.R accused these critics of “classic McCarthy-era Red-baiting…to demonize and divide and diminish” the movement.[9]

Corn feared that ANSWER would dilute the anti-war message and alienate potentially active mainstream Americans who oppose Bush’s policies but who would be put off by the organization’s radicalism. Progressive anti-war Rabbi Michael Lerner complained that at ANSWER sponsored rallies, “it feels that we are being manipulated when subjected to mindless speeches and slogans [of] anti-imperialism…”[10]

ANSWER does support a laundry list of leftist causes. It is anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist and anti-racist. Its steering committee “represents major national organizations that have campaigned against US militarism and intervention in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia.”[11] Its website is full of urgent calls to action to free Jamil Al-Amin (the former Black Panther convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy), support Cuba and North Korea against the US, and fight globalization and the Coca-Cola corporation for its policies in Colombia.[12]

ANSWER is also pro-Palestinian. The Free Palestine Alliance, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), and Muslim Student Association (MSA) were on its original steering committee.[13] . Pro-Palestinian groups such as Al-Awda also joined ANSWER coalitions[14] and opposition to Israel and to a 2-state solution are prominent features of ANSWER’s agenda.[15] It has worked to link the anti-war, anti-imperialism movements with the Palestinian cause and boasted that it had made this breakthrough at the April 20, 2002 rally for Palestinians.[16]

Despite the organization’s radicalism, open controversy about it erupted largely because of its anti-Israel positions. ANSWER would not let Rabbi Lerner speak at the Bay Area’s February 15 2003 anti-war rally on the grounds that he had criticized the organization.[17] Lerner charged that it was because he had accused ANSWER of including too many speakers who claimed that the US was threatening to attack Iraq because Israel wanted the war and for using “anti-war demonstrations to put forward anti-Israel propaganda.”[18] The controversy mounted when ANSWER media coordinator Tony Murphy said on a NY radio station that the group would not allow a “pro-Israel speaker” at its rally.[19]

Lerner is highly critical of Sharon and the occupation, but he supports a two-state solution and the existence of the Jewish state and found it

“offensive and outrageous that those of us who wish to protest against…an unjust war must be subjected to a barrage of slogans and speeches that are one-sidedly hostile to Israel…insisting that if we support human rights we must therefore uncritically support the violence of some Palestinian ‘freedom fighters’ who have made no secret of their desire to overthrow the Zionist enterprise.”[20]

Well-known progressive intellectuals were also angered and signed a petition calling for Lerner to speak and condemned the organization. “We believe this is a serious mistake, and that it exemplifies ANSWER’s unfitness to lead mass mobilizations against war in Iraq.”[21] The Washington Post reported that the rift “demonstrates the difficulty of having such a small, radical group play a prominent role in organizing the peace effort.”[22]

When Palestine Solidarity groups renounced New Jersey Solidarity during plans for the 2003 3rd annual campus divestment conference, ANSWER sided with the radical New Jersey faction.[23] And when a majority of UFPJ members objected to linking anti-Israel rhetoric and endorsement of the right of return to their anti-Iraq war demonstration in October 2002, ANSWER sided with the minority and threatened to withdraw from the coalition if the minority view did not prevail.[24]

The controversy continued as ANSWER helped plan a mass rally for March 20, 2004. Some groups requested that the call to end US occupation of Iraq not be linked with the Palestinian cause. But pro-Palestinian groups responded with “A Call to Action for Solidarity with the Arab-American and Muslim Community,” demanding that the Rally’s slogan, “End all colonial occupations from Iraq to Palestine to everywhere,” not be changed.[25] The signatories also threw down the gauntlet to anti-war groups that disagreed, arguing that “Any organization or movement that finds it acceptable to minimize or disregard for political expediency the struggles of any people should not be allowed to function with the global justice movement.”[26] ANSWER endorsed their call.[27]

ANSWER takes extreme positions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It organized a committee of Inquiry, “The Other Apartheid: Committee of Inquiry to Investigate US-Backed Israeli War Crimes in Palestine.”[28] It sent members to Jenin, Ramallah and the Gaza Strip who reported on the Israeli atrocities they witnessed. At ANSWER’s January 2003 march in Washington, Abdul Malim Musa, a Muslim cleric, spoke. Musa had previously spoken to the National Press Club where he had excoriated the “Zionists in Hollywood, the Zionists in New York, and the Zionists in D.C,” according to David Corn.[29]

ANSWER denounces Israel as a colonialist/imperialist enterprise, opposes the Road Map and even the much more liberal Geneva Accords, and demands divestment, an end to US aid to Israel, the right of return and a one state solution-that is, the end of a Jewish state.[30]

Coalition Organizations as listed on ANSWER Website[31]

Al-Awda (Right of Return Coalition)
IFCO/Pastors for Peace (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Free Palestine Alliance - U.S. (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Partnership for Civil Justice - LDEF (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Nicaragua Network (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Bayan - USA/International (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Korea Truth Commission (ANSWER Steering Committee)
International Action Center (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Muslim Student Association of the U.S./Canada (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Kensington Welfare Rights Union (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Mexico Solidarity Network (ANSWER Steering Committee)
Middle East Children's Alliance (ANSWER Steering Committee)
National Council of Arab Americans
National Lawyer’s Guild
Not in Our Name
United for Peace and Justice

Speakers at ANSWER-Co-Sponsored Events as listed on ANSWER Website [32]

Ramsey Clark
Cynthia McKinney
Jesse Jackson
Al Sharpton
Elias Rashmawi (Free Palestine Alliance)
Peter Lindsay (ANSWER Youth and Student Coordinator)
Larry Holmes (International Action Center)
Brian Becker (International Action Center)
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard (Partnership for Civil Justice)
Marie Hilao Enriquez (BAYAN)
Macrina Cardenas (Mexico Solidarity Network)
Chuck Kaufman (Nicaragua Solidarity Network)
Yoomi Jeong (Korea Truth Commission)
Cheri Honkala (Kensington Welfare Rights Union)
Ismail Kamal (Muslim Students Association National)
Rev. Lucius Walker
Tamara Rettino (Jews for a Just Peace)
Naseer Aruri (Palestinian historian and author)

[1] www.internationalanswer.org/call.html and www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/092301answerpr.html

[2] www.internationalanswer.org/call.html

[3] Eric Marx, “Peace Front Faces Schism Over Right of Return,” The Forward, September 5 2003 at http://www.forward.com/issues/2003/03.09.05/news2.divestment.html

[4] David Corn, “Behind the Placards,” November 1-7 2002 at www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views02/1031-08.htm and Michael Tremoglie, “What is the ANSWER?” March 29, 2002 at www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=1544

[5] Lynette Clemetson, “Threats and Responses: Dissent; Some War Protesters Uneasy with Others,” New York Times, January 24, 2003, National Desk section.

[6] David Corn, “Behind the Placards,” November 1-7 2002 at www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views02/1031-08.htm and Michael Tremoglie, “What is the ANSWER?” March 29, 2002 at www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=1544

[7] David Corn, “Behind the Placards,” November 1-7 2002 at www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views02/1031-08.htm and Michael Tremoglie, “What is the ANSWER?” March 29, 2002 at www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=1544

[8] David Corn, “Behind the Placards,” November 1-7 2002 at www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views02/1031-08.htm and Michael Tremoglie, “What is the ANSWER?” March 29, 2002 at www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=1544

[9] Lynette Clemetson, “Threats and Responses: Dissent; Some War Protesters Uneasy with Others,” New York Times, January 24, 2003, National Desk section

[10] Lynette Clemetson, “Threats and Responses: Dissent; Some War Protesters Uneasy with Others,” New York Times, January 24, 2003, National Desk section

[11] http://www.internationalanswer.org/pdf/o25tabloid.pdf

[12] www.internationalanswer.org

[13] http://www.internationalanswer.org/pdf/o25tabloid.pdf

[14] http://www.commondreams.org/news2003/0211-01.htm

[15] http://www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/041502a20unity.html

[16] http://www.internationalanswer.org/pdf/o25tabloid.pdf

[17] http://www.commondreams.org/news2003/0211-01.htm

[18] Evelyn Nieves, “Antiwar Organizer’s Politics Cause Rift,” Washington Post, February 16, 2003 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A13873-2003Feb15?language=printer and Michael Lerner, “Fighting on Two Fronts: Against the War With Iraq and Against Anti-Semitism in the Anti-War Movement,” at http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/yavneh-na/yavneh-na.03.02.12

[19] http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/yavneh-na/yavneh-na.03.02.12 and David Corn, “The Banning of Rabbi Lerner,” The Nation, February 11, 2003 at www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views03/0211-06.htm

[20] Michael Lerner, “Fighting on Two Fronts: Against the War With Iraq and Against Anti-Semitism in the Anti-War Movement,” at http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/yavneh-na/yavneh-na.03.02.12

[21] “Let Anti-War Rabbi Michael Lerner Speak,” February 11, 2003 at www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print/cgi?file=/headlines03/0211-09.htm

[22] Evelyn Nieves, “Antiwar Organizer’s Politics Cause Rift,” Washington Post, February 16, 2003 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A13873-2003Feb15?language=printer

[23] “3rd Call: Support the Third Annual Palestine Solidarity and Divestment Conference,” at www.internationalanswer,org/news/update/081803palconf.html

[24] Eric Marx, “Peace Front Faces Schism Over ‘Right of Return,” The Forward, September 5 2003 at www.forward.com/issues/2003/03.09.05/news2.divestment.html

[25] www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/011704openletter.html

[26] www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/011704openletter.html

[27] http://www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/012104openletter.html

[28] http://www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/071802commission.html

[29] Cited in David Corn, “The Banning of Rabbi Lerner,” The Nation February 11, 2003 at http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views03/0211-06.htm

[30] “The Reality of the ‘Geneva Accord” at www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/120503geneva.html

[31] http://www.internationalanswer.org/endorsers.html

[32] http://www.internationalanswer.org/endorsers.html



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