Barbara Lubin Ambulance

Barbara Lubin is a lifelong activist who has fought for human rights and civil liberties on a number of diverse fronts. From antiwar work in the Vietnam War era to disability rights and human rights campaigns in the U.S. and abroad, Lubin has struggled on behalf of the oppressed from more than 40 years. In 1988, she cofounded the Middle East Children’s Alliance with journalist Howard Levine, and since then has shipped millions of dollars worth of food, medical supplies, and art supplies to children in war-torn Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. MECA is a 2012 Utne Visionary; below is our interview with Lubin from August 2012.   


Sam Ross-Brown: What was it about your experience in Palestine that prompted you to get involved? 

Barbara Lubin: I grew up in a very right wing Zionist home. We supported the policies of the State of Israel blindly. And it was only after I had been elected by the board of education in Berkeley, California, that a group of young Palestinian students from San Francisco State came to see me and said to me, “you go to El Salvador, you’re involved in Nicaragua, and in the anti-Apartheid movement in Berkeley around South Africa, and you say nothing about Palestine and Israel.”

I said I was Jewish, and they said, “What does that have to do with it?” And for me it had everything to do with it, but little by little, these guys from San Francisco State educated me and made me realize what was really happening and what the founding of Israel and Zionism really meant. And when the first intifada began I decided to take a delegation of locally elected officials from around the United States. One of us was a Catholic priest, two of us were Jewish, and were the first internationalists to be in Palestine after the intifada began a week later. And it was that trip and really those young students who really made me understand what was happening and changed the whole way I look at this issue.

When I came back we had a press conference at the San Francisco Press Club. Howard Levine—a friend of mine and the East Bay stringer for the San Francisco Examiner—covered it and we went out to lunch. He said, “What are you going to do now?” And I said, “I’m definitely going to do something on this issue. I’m just revolted by what I saw in Palestine and Israel.” And he said, “I’ll do it with you.” And two months later we opened our office, and since then, we’ve delivered over $13 million in food and medicine to the children in Palestine and Lebanon and Iraq. We’ve built playgrounds and preschools. We’ve been doing this work around the clock for 25 years.

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