Jewish groups oppose Clovis visit by author critical of Israel policies

Author Alison Weir, a critic of US-Israel policy will speak at Clovis Community College on Sept. 18, 2019. The event is being hosted by Fresno media website GV Wire and has gotten criticism from an international Jewish group.
Author Alison Weir, a critic of US-Israel policy will speak at Clovis Community College on Sept. 18, 2019. The event is being hosted by Fresno media website GV Wire and has gotten criticism from an international Jewish group. Alison Weir

Clovis Community College is distancing itself from an on-campus event sponsored by a local news website that will feature a vocal critic of Israeli policies.

Two Jewish groups spoke out Friday criticizing the visit Sept. 18 by Alison Weir.

Weir, a critic of U.S.-Israel policy and of media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, is scheduled to speak at an event hosted by If Americans Knew, an organization that calls itself an information hub for underreported issues. Weir founded the organization. Fresno-based GV Wire is sponsoring the visit.

The Anti-Defamation League, one of the Jewish groups criticizing the visit, called Weir an anti-Semite based on past comments she has made. Weir has been condemned by the ADL and others for having her writing appear on sites considered to be run by white supremacists.

In a statement issued by Clovis Community College, campus President Lori Bennett said Weir’s visit is not a college-sponsored event but that the college does not deny the use of facilities based on the content of speech.

Bennett added that the college “does not endorse hate speech or anti-Semitic remarks.”

Weir not backing down

In a telephone interview Friday, Weir said the criticism and claims are both concerning and not new, and she intends to appear at the event despite the objections.

“I’m always extremely happy to go speak in person. Unlike the people that attack me, I’m physically available,” Weir said. “I don’t hide.”

In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League describes Weir as a propagandist who “routinely employs classic anti-Semite tropes” and “likens Israeli policies to those of Nazis.”

Seth Brysk, ADL regional director, said, “People of conscience have a responsibility to use our rights to challenge and confront anti-Semitic and otherwise bigoted invective.”

Weir called ADL’s comments “standard practice.” She also said claims that she is a white supremacist could put her in danger.

“Whenever anyone, even when they’re Jewish, supports Palestinian human rights, they are called ‘anti-Semitic,’” Weir said.

In her one-hour lecture, Weir said she expects to discuss her trips to the Middle East as well as her writing, which she says informs the public about the Israeli influence on America.

“Many of us really just think of it as an issue on the other side of the world,” she said.

Weir, who said she appears on different types of media platforms and has a background in journalism, defended having her work appear on right-wing shows and websites as informing a segment of the public which otherwise wouldn’t hear her information. She said media plays a role in misinformation around the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. connections to Israel.

“I believe all Americans have the right and the obligation to learn about this issue,” she said.

One of the main arguments espoused by If Americans Knew is that Israel, empowered by American money, is occupying land that does not belong to it and is breaking international laws.

American Jewish Committee, another Jewish organization opposed to the event, said in a statement that it was shocked that GV Wire would sponsor Weir’s visit.

The acting chief of staff for the group’s Los Angeles office, Dganit Abramoff, said, “It is disturbing that someone with a blatantly anti-Semitic history would be given a platform by this media organization.”

Weir spoke in Fresno in May

But it’s not the first time Weir has appeared on a Fresno stage. She was the keynote speaker May 4 at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence 27th anniversary celebration held at the Community United Church of Christ.

GV Wire operations manager Randy Reed said that appearance by Weir encouraged GV Wire to schedule her Clovis talk. Reed said Weir is one of several speakers GV Wire has brought in to present lectures and more are planned.

Reed said GV Wire also heard directly from local residents concerned about Weir’s visit. Reed said the company respects the public’s views and appreciates the feedback.

The event, titled “Uncovered: Israel’s Occupation of Palestine,” is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Clovis Community College Forum Hall.

Fresno State, Fresno Pacific respond to media reports

On Saturday, a Fresno State spokesperson sent a message to The Bee stating that contrary to some reports by some media, the university is not supporting nor hosting Weir’s scheduled Clovis Community College appearance.

According to the statement, when asked if a venue at Fresno State was available for holding the event, staff looked into availability, consistent with the university’s Interim Time, Place and Manner policy.

“However, a venue was not available when we checked, and as such, the event is not being held on our campus,” the statement said.

Likewise, a spokesperson for Fresno Pacific University said FPU has no connection to the Weir visit.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a journalist at The Fresno Bee. He covers the people and places experiencing economic and social inequity for The California Divide media collaboration. He grew up in the southern San Joaquin Valley and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State.