Born to Jewish parents in 1941, Barbara Lubin grew up in what she calls “a very right wing Zionist home” that “supported the policies of the State of Israel blindly.” She dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and subsequently started a family in Berkeley, California. In 1969 her third child, Charlie, was born with Down Syndrome. During the years that followed, Lubin became increasingly involved in advocacy work for special-needs youngsters like her son.
Impressed by Lubin’s community-organizing abilities, fellow activists in the disability-rights movement encouraged her to run for the Berkeley school board. Lubin won a seat on that board and served there from 1982-86. During that time, she recalls, Berkeley mayor Gus Newport “began to educate me about the Middle East,” and “gradually, I began to think about the situation [between Israel and the Palestinians] very differently from what I had been taught growing up in a Jewish household.” Before long, Lubin became a tireless activist for Palestinian rights and statehood.
In early 1988, shortly after the start of the First Palestinian Intifada, Lubin collaborated with human rights attorney Jeanne Butterfield to organize a tour of the Palestinian Territories for a group of Americans. When her trip was finished and she returned to the Bay Area, Lubin reported that she had been “shocked by the conditions” in “refugee camps with raw sewage running down the streets, demolished homes, and shortages of food, water, medical care, and sanitation.” Around this time, Lubin met San Francisco Examiner reporter Howard Levine, who soon became her life partner. In 1988 the couple co-founded the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA). Since then, Lubin has led nearly twenty additional delegations of North Americans to Palestine/Israel, Iraq, and Lebanon, often with cargoes of food, blankets, and other humanitarian-aid supplies in tow.
While in Lebanon in 1991, Lubin was abducted by armed Hizbullah guerrillas. During her captivity, she engaged her kidnappers in conversation. After she was released, Lubin said: “Hizbullah, they’re just ordinary schleps like the rest of us.”
In August 2001, Lubin was a participant in the NGO Forum that preceded the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, a largely anti-Semitic, anti-American event that was held in Durban, South Africa.
In 2006, Lubin, who refers to Israel’s creation in 1948 as a “Nakba”—i.e., “Catastrophe”—for the Palestinians, stated that the “people in Gaza have been suffering at the hands of the Israelis from the very beginning.” She accused Israel of: (a) trying to “mak[e] life so horrendous for [the Palestinians] that hopefully they’ll just leave”; (b) striving to make it “impossible … for the Palestinians to get any money to buy food for their families”; and (c) ultimately aiming to “starve them out.” “It’s the same kind of tactic,” Lubin elaborated, “that the United States used for many years against the people of Iraq—sanctions killing children…. Don’t forget that during the 13 years of … U.S.-led sanctions against the people of Iraq, over a million people died. And 500,000 of them were under the age of five.”
In 2006 as well, Lubin stated that because Israel’s government “has certain laws for one person based on their religion, and separate laws for others,” it is “not a democracy.” She also defended the terror group Hamas, claiming that “approximately 98 percent of all the money that Hamas has given and raised for Palestinians over the years has been for clinics and pre-schools and helping people financially when their homes are demolished, so that only a very small percentage of the money has gone into the armed struggle.”
In November 2012, Lubin appeared with Noam Chomsky at an MIT event discussing A Child’s View from Gaza, a book of Palestinian children’s artwork depicting Israelis as bloodthirsty killers who indiscriminately, and without provocation, bomb and murder innocent Palestinians. The event was co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (Boston), American Jews for a Just Peace, and the Middle East Education Project at First Parish in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Lubin, who wants the United States to “cut all aid to Israel,” is a stalwart supporter of the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that aims to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state. BDS “is very important,” says Lubin.
Over the years, dozens of schools, universities, religious institutions, community groups, and conference organizers have invited Lubin to lecture about Middle East politics and the suffering of children in that region.
Lubin’s activist ties are not limited to Israel-related affairs. Indeed, she has longstanding connections to a number of American leftists and communists:
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