by Michael Phillips August 2005
This website has been changed. It was formerly a history of my estrangement from Fran Peavey, written after three years, with my explanation of the reasons for the estrangement. The earlier website focused on my distress at learning that Fran, a friend of twenty-five years, was anti-Semitic.
It is now more than four years of estrangement. Fran and I have had a chance to talk, with a mediator present, and many people have talked to me about my earlier website.
The reason for posting the earlier website and the reason for posting this one is to let people know that my association and affiliation with Fran came to an end because of her anti-Semitism. This needs to be public for reasons I discuss further on.
Two questions have been raised about my earlier website on Fran Peavey. One is, ‘Why do you care so strongly about the political views of one long-time friend?’ The other is ‘Where is your moral standing in making Fran’s anti-Semitism a public issue?’
I care about Fran’s anti-Semitism because Fran, like me, is a lifelong social activist. I believe that social activism is important in the scheme of things because it has the potential to make changes in our daily life and be far reaching. Fran is not an ordinary activist; she is a leader and a hard working activist. Fran’s views and politics have more consequence and more impact on the world than similar views and positions held by another friend who lives in the hills of Berkeley and spends most of her time watching television. The other friend’s opinions are of no consequence to me.
I care about Fran’s anti-Semitism because we were close friends and a clear public association exists between the two of us. With my estrangement from Fran, I publicly declare an end to that association.
There is also an historic element in this public declaration.
The world has changed in the past five years in a way that makes Fran’s anti-Semitism more odious. The level of anti-Semitism in the United States and in Europe was declining for fifty years until January 2000. When Israel faced hundreds of citizens murdered in buses and cafes, Israel acted to protect itself from Palestinian suicide murderers. Immediately, when Jews defended themselves from slaughter, anti-Semitism in the U.S. and Europe began to rise. That rising anti-Semitism has affected me, my friends and other Jews. The rising anti-Semitism has not abated.
I have a moral obligation and a solid moral position in making my views on Fran Peavey’s anti-Semitism public.
I am a public person. Hannah Arendt has made the argument that public people have a moral responsibility to admit mistakes and ask forgiveness for mistakes that are the consequences of their public action (The Human Condition and Between Past and Future). Public people are responsible for taking stands on vital issues of political importance. The public people, all over the world, who permitted Hitler, Stalin and other genocidal tyrants to rise up must accept their guilt and ask forgiveness.
My continued association with Fran would be a mistake. I publicly disassociate myself from Fran Peavey because her anti-Semitism is morally unacceptable; I cannot be associated with the consequences. I do not want anyone to mistake my views for her anti-Semitism.
I have referred to Fran’s anti-Semitism in several places in this piece. It is popular in New Age parlance to use phrases such as, ‘I personally believe that Fran holds anti-Semitic views and I personally believe that she acts on her views.’ These ‘I personally believe …’ statements are accurate and serve a useful function in therapy, mediation and direct one-on-one interactions. Such circumlocution is not needed in a public declaration.
I personally make all the statements in the website you are now reading. I expect a reasonable reader to know that these are my statements and do not represent the statements or views of any other specific person.
Further, Fran Peavey, to my knowledge, has not made a published statement about her views on Israel and the Palestinians to which I can refer interested readers. (Fran, since this website was written, has written a public piece.)
I am also not using a personal criterion for defining anti-Semitism. The OSCE, the European organization of democratic states, in April 2004 declared that singling out Israel and holding Israel to a higher moral standard than other nations is anti-Semitism. The OSCE publicly condemned this position… the same anti-Semitic position that Fran Peavey holds.
Footnote: I discovered the intensity of Fran Peavey's anti-Semitism in a newsletter that she and her pacifist organization, Crabgrass, published in Fall 2001. In the newsletter there was a report on the UN Racism Conference that Fran attended that Summer in Durban.
The newsletter explained that the official U.S. delegation left the conference when it was clear that "Zionism equals Racism" was to be the official statement of the conference. The report expresses the belief that the U.S. delegation would have had a hard time convincing the conference attendees to change their mind on "Zionism equals Racism" because: "... the current and continuing egregious violations of human rights being carried out day by unceasing day by the Israeli government against Palestinians inclined no one -- to use less inflammatory language."
The reference is to Israeli self-defense after 400 Israeli civilians had been blown-up on buses, in cafes and at pizza parlors since January 2000.