Phyllis Bennis

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Phyllis Bennis

Phyllis a prominent US anti - Israeli activist.[1]

She runs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

In 2001 she helped found the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation. She advises several leading United Nations officials on Palestine, and in 2013 was in the running to become the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories.[2]

Phyllis Bennis is the granddaughter of Clara Lemlich, leader of the NY shirtwaist strike of 1909 and co-founder of Communist Party USA.[3],[4]


Bennis grew up in a Jewish family in West Los Angeles. She was very active in the Zionist youth movement.[5]


Bennis went to the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1968. radicalized by the Vietnam war she joined Students for a Democratic Society and became a student activist. She brought Angela Davis and the Chicago 7 to campus.

After college Bennis returned to Los Angeles, but remained an activist. She worked two years with Joan Fonda and Tom Hayden in the Indochina Peace Campaign.[6]


In the mid 1970s Bennis went to New York for a year to work with the National Lawyers Guild. While working for the NLG, a delegation was sent to Israel, the West Bank to investigate Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Bennis worked with the Palestine Liberation Organization delegation at the United nations to organize the tour. The report they issued was the beginning of Bennis' anti Israel activity. She joined Jews and Arabs Against Zionism.[7]

Line of March

During the 1980s, Phyllis Bennis was involved in the Maoist leaning Line of March organization[8].

Frontline staffer

Line of March's new biweekly formatted Frontline, Volume 1, No. 1, June 27, 1983, listed staff included Phyllis Bennis.



In 1986 Frontline reporter Phyllis Bennis and Frontline Neal Cassidy traveled to Gaza.

Frontline correspondent

As at Nov. 13, 1989, the listed correspondents of Line of March's Frontline included Phyllis Bennis, United Nations.

Los Angeles District LOM Groups?



In a circa 1980 report "Consolidated rectification forces", in the Los Angeles area were named as Bruce Embrey, Joe Hicks, Michael Downing, Francoise Spaulding, Virgie Sanchez, William Bollinger, Dan Lund, Laurie Mayeno, Mike Silverberg, Ceci Kahn, Jaime Geaga, Cyrus Keller, Marilyn Taylor.


All participants in DG#! except Sarah Shuldiner, Max Shuldiner, Nancy Parsons, Ken Cloke.

Additional consolidated rectification forces, Phyllis Bennis

"Forces working directly under the guidance of the rectification line/unity with line" Joan Andersson, Sylvia Castillo, Danny Estrada.

Socialist Scholars Conference 1990

The Socialist Scholars Conference 1990, held September 6-8, at the Hotel Commodore, New York, included panels such as:[9]

Developments in the USSR and Eastern Europe and their Significance for Western Europe and the US Left

War Times

In January 2002, a group of San Francisco leftists, mainly involved with STORM or Committees of Correspondence, founded a national anti-Iraq War newspaper[10] War Times.

Endorsers of the project included Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Iraq activism

Phyllis Bennis and Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., at the December 7, 2002, "Don't Attack Iraq" forum in Minneapolis

Based at the United Nations, Phyllis Bennis began working on U.S. domination of the UN at the time of the run-up to the Gulf War, and has stayed involved in work on Iraq sanctions, disarmament and U.S. policy towards Iraq. In 1999 Bennis accompanied a group of congressional aides to Iraq to examine the impact of U.S.-led economic sanctions on the humanitarian conditions there, and joined former UN Assistant secretary General Denis Halliday, who resigned his position as Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq to protest the impact of sanctions, for a speaking tour.

In November 2003, Phyllis Bennis was interviewed by Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures about alternatives to the empire-building and war-mongering of the Bush regime. "What the world needs to keep the peace is not an empire lording over the rest of the world, but a democratic international system based on law, global institutions, and the UN Charter," says Bennis. "The vast disparities of income within countries and between North and South, the disempowerment of peoples around the world whose repressive governments rely on US financial, political, and military backing--these are the real threats to the peace, and a US empire does not make any of us safer. A world without an empire would not be a utopia; it would simply allow nations around the world a chance to build better lives for their people and allow people around the world a chance at gaining human rights.

United for Peace and Justice

In Dec 2008 Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies was voted onto the Steering Committee for United for Peace and Justice[11]

Disarm Now! conference

In June 2010, Phyllis Bennis addressed the Disarm Now! Conference, Riverside Church, New York. (Workshop: Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East), is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC and of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She has written widely on Middle East and UN-related issues and her books include: Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy U.S. Power, and the just-released Ending the US War in Afghanistan: a Primer..[12]

Iraq: The Legacy of the 7-Year U.S. Occupation

On Sunday, August 29th 2010. at Busboys and Poets, 5th and K Sts. NW, Washington, D.C., an event "Iraq: The Legacy of the 7-Year U.S. Occupation" was held;

Is the U.S. military really leaving Iraq or just rebranding? What is the toll of seven years of occupation on Iraqis, U.S. soldiers and our economies? What is the status of Iraqi refugees around the world? Is it still possible to hold accountable those who dragged us into the war or committed crimes such as torture? What role did Congress and the media play in facilitating the invasion/occupation? We'll also look at the role of the peace movement -- its strengths and weaknesses -- and draw key lessons to make our work for peace, including in Afghanistan, more effective.

Speakers/performers included:

The event was sponsored by: CODEPINK, Peace Action, Institute for Policy Studies, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Exchange, Just Foreign Policy, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), U.S. Labor Against the War, ANSWER, World Can’t Wait, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, War is a Crime, Rivera Project, Washington Peace Center.[13]

Damu "Connecting the Dots" conference

Makani Themba February 27, 2011:


Tha panel kicks off the discussion featuring Ron Daniels, Phyllis Bennis, Felicia Eaves, Rick Hinds, Kenny Barnes and Acie Byrd.

Peace Action Advisory Board

Peace Action Advisory Board as of 2014;

Amy Goodman interview

In July 2015, Amy Goodman interviewed several commentators on the resumption of US-Cuba diplomatic relations.

Hundreds of dignitaries from Cuba and the United States gathered in Washington on Monday to mark the reopening of the Cuban Embassy after being closed for more than five decades. We speak to Congressmembers Raúl Grijalva and Barbara Lee; actor Danny Glover; former U.S. diplomat Wayne Smith; attorneys Michael Smith and Michael Ratner, who co-authored "Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder"; Phyllis Bennis and James Early of the Institute for Policy Studies; and others.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: My name is Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies. This is an amazing first step. It’s only a first step, but it’s hugely important symbolically to see the Cuban flag finally flying over their embassy, like a normal embassy, here in Washington. I’m not much of a flag waver, not my country, not anybody’s country, but to finally see this as a normal embassy, this is huge. For half a century, for five decades, we have seen the U.S. trying over and over again to overthrow the regime. "Regime change in Cuba" has been the mantra of one U.S. government after another, one U.S. president after another. Finally, that’s beginning to change.

For decades, we have seen Cuban terrorists in this country, anti-Castro terrorists, who, among other things, assassinated my colleagues in 1976, Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, just a few blocks from here on Sheridan Circle, with a car bomb, in what was then the worst act of international terrorism here in the United States—approved by the United States, allowed by the United States. And it was at the behest of the U.S.-backed junta in Chile. The first time I went to our annual memorial at the spot where they were killed, just a few blocks from here, on Embassy Row, Sheridan Circle—you could walk from here in 10 minutes—and I looked at the plaque right at the spot where they were killed, and it had their birth dates and the date of their death. I was exactly Ronni Moffitt’s age. We were nine days apart. And I realized that Ronni and I were like the same person. So, it’s a very powerful thing for me to see that—knowing that it’s not going to happen again.

This is the beginning of the U.S. normalizing relations with Cuba, so that anti-Castro Cubans, whatever they want to do, will no longer have the support of the United States State Department, the United States government, in carrying out their terrorist acts. When Cuban exiles shot down a plane over the Bahamas, a plane that had taken off from Venezuela, with—killing 73 people, including the entire Cuban youth fencing team, a nine-year-old child—it was all civilians—it was an act of global terror that was—and the guy who was responsible for it still is living in Miami without any accountability. This is the beginning of ending that. It’s not the end, but it’s the beginning of ending that.[15]

"Where Do We Go From Here?"

Institute for Policy Studies' Phyllis Bennis joined a line up of special guests for an inter-generational teach-In on the triple evils of militarism, economic exploitation, racism, January 18 2016, 5th and K Busboys & Poets. Washington DC.

At this tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the discussion will tease out the role of popular culture: 60s vs. now, the international implications of Dr. King’s Vision, and the links between economic exploitation and racism.

Participants included: Dr. Clarence Lusane, Joni Eisenberg, Rev. Graylan Hagler, Medea Benjamin, Phyllis Bennis, Dr. Vanessa Wills, Jeremiah Lowery, Dr. Maurice Jackson, Frank Smith, Dave Zirin, Jay Mills, Ayanna Gregory, In Process, and Live Audience Participation from Busboys!

Co-Moderators: Youth Activist Princess Black and Dr. Greg Carr, Howard University.[16]

IPS panel


Institute for Policy Studies panel with Cora Weiss, Phyllis Bennis, John Conyers and Peter Certo.

Cuban Embassy soiree

It was remarkable how many non-Cubans knew the Cuban national anthem well enough to sing along July 2015 as the flag was raised over the newly re-established embassy on 16th Street NW. Then they joined in the delirious shouts of "Viva Cuba!"

"It's an amazing moment," said Phyllis Bennis, a fellow with the progressive think-tank, Institute for Policy Studies. "In the decades-long effort to normalise relations with Cuba, to stop the US attacks and hostility toward Cuba, we have not had so many victories. Suddenly we have a victory. The flag going up - that's huge."

"For those of us who were committed to the values and the aspirations of the Cuban revolution, the flag, as Fidel said in April 1959 when he was in this building, was a reflection of Operation Truth," said James Early, a Cuba specialist who recently retired from the Smithsonian. Raising that flag again "is a recognition of Cuba's right to sovereignty and self-determination... and to more freely deal with its own internal self-criticism, its failures, its errors, in the context of its extraordinary achievements."

Peter Kornbluh, who runs the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, was carrying around a book he co-authored, Back Channel to Cuba, about the twisted secret history of outreach between the nations. "I wouldn't miss this for the world," he said. "It's a flag flying in the winds of change."

Not that there wasn't plenty of unfiltered emotion. Standing near Bennis was Valerie Landau, daughter of the late documentary film-maker and activist Saul Landau. The elder Landau spent the better part of his life working towards this moment, before cancer cut his work short in the middle of another documentary on Cuba, in 2013. Travelling with Castro through Cuba in the late 1960s, he memorably filmed the revolutionary leader shedding his uniform and playing baseball, shirtless, with peasants.

"We're continuing his work in our own way," said Valerie Landau, who leads tours to Cuba and also works with the Cuban Health Ministry on education programmes. "I think this is a real crossroads, and there's going to be a lot of change in Cuba. Some of it at their own speed and choice, and some of it as a result of an avalanche of interest on the part of Americans who're hungry to know and see Cuba."

The limestone and marble mansion opened as the Cuban Embassy in 1919 and quickly established itself as a delightful society-party venue. Diplomatic relations were broken in 1961, two years after Castro took power. The mansion was shuttered. It reopened in 1977 as the Cuban Interests Section, parallel with a US Interests Section in Havana. The move to have fully fledged embassies again came after President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro resolved in December to normalise relations.

Code Pink provided entertainment|with chants and signs that said "Salsa se­! Embargo no!"

"I didn't know if I'd live to see this day," said Code Pink organiser Medea Benjamin, who lived in Cuba from 1979 to 1983. She said she was deported for being so outspoken - hence her "love-hate relationship" with Cuba. Lately it has been more love. She leads large tours of activists to the island and is planning an upcoming teach-in in the city of Guantanamo against continued US control of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

Inside the embassy, actor Danny Glover drifted from room to room. A regular visitor, his ties to Cuba run so deep that when the remaining Cuban Five prisoners were released by the US in December, one of the first phone calls made by their informal leader, Gerardo Hernandez, as a free man was to Glover.

Glover found his way over to celebrated Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez, who was one of the bold-faced names from the island included in the Cuban delegation.

The reception was liberally sprinkled with Democratic senators and members of Congress, some of whom have been toiling at reaching out to Cuba for as long and as hard as the activists and the policy experts.

"I've spent 25 years in Congress trying to change this policy," said Democrat Jose Serrano, who hosted Castro in the Bronx in 1995, and was criticised for it by some. "We gave him a party at a place called Jimmy's Bronx Cafe. People who went to that event are texting me now saying 'Don't you feel vindicated?'"

"There was a war for 56 years, and|the war is over," said Philip Brenner, a professor in the School of International Service at American University.[17]



  1. Youtube, The Real News, From Zionist to Anti-Zionist Activist - Phyllis Bennis on Reality Asserts Itself pt1
  2. Youtube, The Real News, From Zionist to Anti-Zionist Activist - Phyllis Bennis on Reality Asserts Itself pt1
  4. Lemlich, Clara (1888–1982) accessed June 13 2019
  5. Youtube, The Real News, From Zionist to Anti-Zionist Activist - Phyllis Bennis on Reality Asserts Itself pt1
  6. Youtube, The Real News, From Zionist to Anti-Zionist Activist - Phyllis Bennis on Reality Asserts Itself pt1
  7. Youtube, The Real News, From Zionist to Anti-Zionist Activist - Phyllis Bennis on Reality Asserts Itself pt1
  9. Second Annual Socialist Scholars Conference program.
  10. WAR TIMES January 29, 2002
  12. [1] conference speaker bios, accessed, July 18, 2010
  13. [ Withdraw the Last Combat Politicians from Washington by David Swanson, pacific free Press, Aug 29, 2010]
  14. Peace Action Advisory Board
  15. Democracy Now!, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, Is the Era of U.S.-Backed Anti-Castro Terrorism Over? Reflections on Restored Ties Between Nations
  16. IPS Where Do We Go From Here
  17. - The Washington PostJuly 23, 2015 Thursday E1 Edition Now, at long last, they can disagree respectfully; To the sounds of salsa and minty mojito toasts, American advocates hailed the Cuban flag over the new embassy in Washington as a victory, writes David Montgomery]