Right-wing attack group caught fabricating quotes in effort to smear critics of Israel

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semitic may have cost Josh Block a perch at a Washington think tank, but right-wing groups continue to use the slur to attack those in solidarity with Palestinians. This time, though, the right-wing Zionist group Stand With Us (SWU) was caught pushing fabricated quotes in an effort to attack an upcoming boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) conference in Pennsylvania.

A celebratory press release applauding an official University of Pennsylvania statement on a BDS conference in February turned into a headache for SWU after quick examination of the press release made clear that SWU was making quotes up to undermine the conference. The quotes were attributed to well-known writers Helena Cobban and Ali Abunimah.

The press release reads:

We were extremely concerned because the line-up of scheduled speakers indicated that this event would be filled with age-old bigotry and prejudice to incite hatred against Israel and foment bitter divisions on campus. Our research has revealed that most of the scheduled speakers are extremists who oppose the existence of the Jewish state and irresponsibly spread propaganda, distort facts, whitewash or justify terrorism and the murder of Jews, and frequently lie about basic facts to demonize Israel and its supporters…

Another invited speaker, Helena Cobban, has claimed that Israelis are “incapable of empathy and compassion for other people.” (January 2009, Georgetown University) Keynote speaker Ali Abunimah has declared that “Ending the occupation does not solve the problem. The Jews do not view all human beings as equal. The 1948 borders were calculated to harm Christians, Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims.” (Chicago Sabeel Conference, October 7, 2005)

After I saw the press release due to an Israeli army spokesman tweeting a link to it, I immediately alerted Ali Abunimah on Twitter to the statement. Abunimah has more:

When I asked StandWithUs via Twitter to provide and publish the source for the quote, which is not included in the press release, they eventually provided a link to an article by one Alyssa Lappen on FrontPage Magazine, the website of Islamophobic agitator David Horowitz.

I challenged StandWithUs repeatedly (the tweet conversation between us is reproduced below) to publish a recording of my remarks. I asked them if they had even heard such a recording. They never answered whether they had and claimed that the “reporter” must have one and said I should ask her myself.

But the quote went out in a press release bearing the name of StandWithUs. It’s obvious from their statements that they don’t have any recording, they haven’t heard one, and made no effort to verify the alleged quotes.

StandWithUs claimed to have been present at my 2005 talk but hasn’t identified who was there, nor even claimed that the person or persons representing them had heard me utter the words that appear in their press release between quotation marks.

SWU also had their story wrong about Lappen. The group claimed that Lappen had attended the conference, but in an e-mail to me, she said that she obtained the quote from a “reliable source” who was there. Lappen said that there “currently seems to be no publicly available recording of the quotation.” Lappen insisted that she writes “non-fiction” and checks “everything thoroughly,” but it’s clear that Abunimah did not say what SWU and Lappen claim he said; eyewitnesses at the conference in 2005 confirm Abunimah’s story. Furthermore, SWU didn’t bother to link to any sources when attributing the made-up quotes to Abunimah and Cobban.

SWU also appears to have made up the Cobban quote. Cobban says she never said what is in the press release, and told me:

Throughout my 17-year career as a columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, pro-Israeli discourse-suppression groups made repeated attempts to smear my name with fabricated quotes and inaccurate claims. They always failed. I see that this organization ‘Stand With Us’ is now continuing that tradition. But they are as incapable of authenticating their current claim as any of their predecessors. My record of standing for the equal rights of all human persons, be they Palestinian or Israeli, and my opposition to all forms of violence, including the very harmful systemic violence embodied in the system of military rule that Israel’s government has maintained over the occupied territories for nearly 45 years now, speaks for itself.

The controversy clearly detracted from SWU’s efforts to undermine the upcoming BDS conference. What’s more is that, as Abunimah notes, their claimed “victory”–that the BDS conference “does not have the university’s imprimatur”–doesn’t mean anything:

@StandWithUs also claiming a fake victory that UPenn isn’t “endorsing” BDS conference. Since when do universities endorse all events?

The SWU press release is part of the group’s efforts to undermine BDS efforts around the US. Embarrassing episodes like this, though, should give grassroots BDS activists hope as they continue to fight deep-pocketed Israel lobby groups.

36 Responses

  1. kapok
    December 24, 2011, 3:15 pm

    Gawd! White doves! Only an idiot would look at that and not realize he was being manipulated.

  2. justicewillprevail
    December 24, 2011, 3:30 pm

    Really pathetic. As usual, they scrape the barrel, and are uninterested in open, on-the-record debate where the true picture of Israel’s numerous violations of international and human rights laws might be disseminated. In the gutter, all they can do is snipe and smear, and hurl the entirely predictable, baseless and cheap accusations of anti-semitism. They are making fools of themselves – the old smear tactics are not working any more. But they are stupid enough to assume they do.

  3. Dan Crowther
    December 24, 2011, 3:35 pm

    Great Post Alex.

    Not only should BDS supporters have hope that their efforts can fight against deep pocketed pro Israeli groups- they should also know that each time something like this happens, a lot of casual observers go, “hmmm…..”

    I call it the ‘scientology’ effect. People might have thought those people to maybe be a little strange, but were willing to let it slide- but then Tom Cruise declared Jihad on South Park, they sued Paul Haggis and Tommy Davis went full Dersh on a guy from the BBC – scientology went from “those people are a lil strange, huh?” to “these people need to be stopped, like yesterday” in a only a couple of years……

    So, my call is not only to BDS – but to their Zio counterparts….Keep up the Good Work!!

  4. ToivoS
    December 24, 2011, 4:01 pm

    The quote “Since when do universities endorse all events?”

    implies that universities endorse most events. Not at all. As someone who has spent his entire career in American universities, the few events, both political and academic, I have held were not endorsed by our college. Nor would I even ask. This is part of academic freedom — we do not ask the administration for permission to engage in the free exchange of ideas. Of course, there are a few times when those endorsements are solicited by event organizers especially when some significant funding is needed. But these are always clear academic conferences and not politically charged events.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    December 24, 2011, 4:06 pm

    RE: “the right-wing Zionist group Stand With Us (SWU) was caught pushing fabricated quotes” ~ Alex Kane

    MY COMMENT: Mendacity is endemic to extreme, right-wing Zionism. It is the preeminent modus operandi.
    Today’s GOP is almost as depraved.

    P.S. FROM Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958):

    Big Daddy: What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it, Brick? Didn’t you notice the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity?
    Brick: Yes, sir, I think I did.
    Big Daddy: Ain’t nothing more powerful than the odor of mendacity…..Didn’t you notice it, Gooper?
    Grooper: What, sir?
    Big Daddy (to Mae): What about you, Sister Woman? Didn’t you notice an unpleasant smell of mendacity in this room?
    Mae: I don’t even know what that is.
    Big Daddy: You can smell it. It smells like death.

    P.P.S. A SCENE PRECEDING THE ONE ABOVE:
    Mendacity – Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (VIDEO, 01:08) — link to youtube.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      December 24, 2011, 6:38 pm

      RE: “Mendacity is endemic to extreme, right-wing Zionism.” – me, above

      VIDEO (1:14:58) – The Zionist Story – Confronting The Zionist Deception (Documentary), YouTube.com, Uploaded by Alkindi90 on 10/16/11
      A documentary challenging the astonishing lies by Zionists (Jews and Christians).
      LINK – link to youtube.com
      P.S. I have not yet viewed much of this video, but Paul Woodward posted it at War in Context, so I feel confident that it is worthwhile. – link to warincontext.org

      • GalenSword
        December 25, 2011, 3:23 am

        RE: “Mendacity is endemic to extreme, right-wing Zionism.”

        I don’t understand the restriction to right-wing Zionism.

        Zionism is a giant structure, which is composed entirely of lies and which is built on a foundation of total dishonesty.

  6. American
    December 24, 2011, 4:28 pm

    “We were extremely concerned because the line-up of scheduled speakers indicated that this event would be filled with age-old bigotry against Gentiles and Arabs and prejudice to incite hatred against non Jewish Americans and foment bitter divisions on campus. Our research has revealed that most of the scheduled speakers are zionist extremists who oppose the US interest and irresponsibly spread propaganda, distort facts, whitewash or justify terrorism and the murder of Palestines and even of Americans by Jews in Israel and frequently lie about basic facts to demonize American citizens and America’s supporters”.

  7. Annie Robbins
    December 24, 2011, 5:03 pm

    kudos to you for cornering them alex!

    for anyone who has not read EI’s update it includes alex’s tweets.

    Alex Kane, staff reporter at Mondoweiss, has said he was in direct contact with Alyssa Lappen, the FrontPage Magazine contributor who quoted me allegedly making comments about “The Jews.” Lappen denied she was even present at the 2005 conference.

  8. The Hasbara Buster
    December 24, 2011, 5:15 pm

    As Abunimah says on his site, anyone who’s read his writings over the years is aware that such words as “the Jews do this or that” couldn’t have been uttered by him.

    However, I think SWU truly believes he did utter them. Those are the kinds of things that happen when you hate too much. You deny your rival’s humanity, and are prepared to believe anything about him.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 24, 2011, 5:22 pm

      and helena of course is clean as a whistle. they are seriously delusional if they think they can get anything to stick to her.

    • eGuard
      December 24, 2011, 6:27 pm

      The Hasbara Buster: … when you hate too much

      I don’t think they “hate” in this. SWU people are trained and payed to look at the world this way. Long term. They know exactly what they are doing (i.e. smearing, not discussing). It’s just, they got away with it, way too long. Just asking for the facts made them fade.

    • Hostage
      December 24, 2011, 7:54 pm

      “The Jews do not view all human beings as equal. ” . . . anyone who’s read his writings over the years is aware that such words as “the Jews do this or that” couldn’t have been uttered by him.

      No, but statements like that can be attributed to members of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee discussing their religious beliefs:

      Religious and secular MKs participating in a meeting of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee were at loggerheads Tuesday over the inclusion of the principle of equality in the draft of Israel’s constitution.

      During the meeting, members of the ultra-Orthodox parties and the National Religious Party reiterated their objection to the incorporation of the concept of equality into a constitution, as they say it contradicts their religious beliefs.

      “There cannot be a constitution in a Jewish and democratic state if it does not defend the unequal values of Judaism – and they are unequal,” MK Yitzhak Levy (NRP) said. “Equality in fact will close the rabbinical courts,” a contingency he was not prepared to allow for. “If you want equality in the constitution, it must be limited. We cannot write off the entire Jewish aspect of the country because, in the end, Judaism will be nothing more than eating a donut during Hanukkah.”

      MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said he was in favor of a constitution, on principle, but only on condition that equality is carefully defined.

      Human right activists who attended Tuesday’s meeting mostly agreed that a constitution that does not mention equality is a lame constitution. “I’m sorry to spoil to party,” Levy told them: “But if there’s no constitution and no equality, then that’s a good option.”

      link to haaretz.com

      Anyone who summarizes statements, like those of the MKs above or statements of the representatives of the Jewish Agency for Palestine contained in mandate era Royal commission reports, Cabinet Files, State Department documents, & etc. can’t avoid repeating offensive generalizations about “the Jews” or “the Arabs”. Are there some other Zionist officials, beside these people, that they had in mind when they adopted the name Stand With Us (SWU)?

  9. Chaos4700
    December 24, 2011, 5:32 pm

    Caught fabricating quotes? Oops! They got caught trying to pull a Witty!

  10. tree
    December 24, 2011, 6:41 pm

    The name Alyssa Lappen is familiar to me from several years ago reading Amazon reviews. Any book critical of Israel got a bad review from her, along with a polemic. In the same vein, anything promoting Islamophobia, Israel or Zionism got a top rating.

    She’s a Fellow at the American Center for Democracy:

    The Manhattan-based American Center for Democracy (ACD) says on its website that it “monitors and exposes the enemies of freedom and their modus operandi, and explores pragmatic ways to counteract their methods.” Its objective, says ACD, is to “supplement government efforts to defend democratic institutions from the global threat of radical Islam and terrorism.” The ACD was founded in 2003 by Rachel Ehrenfeld and includes the Center for the Study of Corruption and the Rule of Law (CSC), which Ehrenfeld founded in 2001. Ehrenfeld is a controversial writer associated with a number of neoconservative outfits like the American Enterprise Institute. Her work, which often focuses on terrorism financing, has been criticized for having an overt bias toward U.S. and Israeli interests and for being sensationalist (see, for example, Michael Massing Replies to Rachel Ehrenfeld, “Evil Money,” New York Review of Books, March 4, 1993).

    more at link

    link to rightweb.irc-online.org

    • tree
      December 24, 2011, 10:55 pm

      More on Lappen from Paul de Rooij in 2005:

      And another dubious operator

      A book review is a critical assessment of a book and a means of highlighting its importance to a wider audience. However, there is another type of book “reviewer” who uses the medium to denigrate books they don’t agree with, or to praise books they agree with; book reviews become a means to propagate their ideological stance. The Amazon book review sections have given rise to a breed of reviewers who use this resource for ideological ends. Alyssa A. Lappen, another FrontPage and Campus-Watch “journalist”, is a prolific Amazon book “reviewer”. Her reviews tend to have the following defining characteristics: if the book is favorable to Israel it is generally issued glowing remarks, if the book is critical of Israeli policies it is denigrated, and books that present the Palestinian narrative are similarly savaged. Books like Joan Peter’s From Time Immemorial are issued such glowing praise as “This monumental and fascinating book.” Note that Prof. Norman G. Finkelstein and Prof. Yehoshua Porath have demonstrated that this book is a “threadbare hoax”, a product of the shoddiest “scholarship”, and a book written for propaganda purposes [11]. Lappen issued glowing reviews of dubious texts published by Encounter Books, an enterprise run by Peter Collier, Horowitz’s longtime buddy [12]. Lappen’s activities undermine what could be a valuable resource of bona fide book reviews; instead her propaganda imperatives transforms the book review section to just another ideologically debased space. Amazon may well want to implement a more stringent policy to avoid dragging its website further into the mud.

      In her FrontPage articles, Lappen often demonstrates a similar lack of intellectual integrity to that found in her book “reviews”. Some of her articles deal with the professors of Middle East Studies at Columbia Univ. (MEALAC), a current Zionist pet hate. Another favored target for smearing is the ISM, the non-violent volunteer group opposing the Israeli occupation. To smear the ISM she quotes Walid Shoebat, a dubious “Zionist Palestinian” who broadcasts from a settler radio station and wears a kippa [13]. To score cheap propaganda points, Zionist organizations have put Shoebat on tour around the US, and Lappen quotes him extensively. Her technique amounts to the journalistic equivalent of quoting the village idiot. Shoebat often talks about the hateful nature of “jihad theology”, and Lappen uses this to smear the ISM and its founders:

      “Not surprisingly, Beit Sahour is also home to Ghasson [sic] Andoni and George Rishmawi, are the co-founders of the Rapprochement Center. They also co-founded the International Solidarity Movement with Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro. Both organizations appear to be driven by the malevolent jihad ideology that Walid Shoebat describes.”

      Now, even a group advocating non-violent resistance and dialog with the Israelis is smeared with Lappen’s favorite term of abuse. Never mind that most of the leading Palestinian activists of the ISM are Christians and that roughly a third of the overall ISM membership is Jewish (including one of the co-founders, Adam Shapiro) — they still deserve Lappen’s “jihadist” scurrilous smear. It is too much for Zionists to acknowledge that there are sensible and courageous Palestinians seeking to defend their rights using non-violent means. Lappen and her FrontPage ilk smear Palestinians in the ISM and all other Palestinians with wide brushstrokes, and in the process demonize and dehumanize all Palestinians.

      link to counterpunch.org

    • tree
      December 25, 2011, 2:51 am

      The group claimed that Lappen had attended the conference, but in an e-mail to me, she said that she obtained the quote from a “reliable source” who was there.

      So, in other words, Lappen wrote a critique of the 2005 conference a few days after it was held, implying that she was in attendance at the conference, but she now admits she was not there and simply scribbled down the dreck that some one else told her, without attribution I think you’ve caught Lappen just as much as you have caught Stand with Us.

      link to archive.frontpagemag.com

  11. thetumta
    December 24, 2011, 8:35 pm

    South Texas, Baptist Atheist. Yes, when I was a boy, Madelyn was one of my favorite voices and that was very dangerous at the time. I feel much more threatened posting on this site now because of Zionism and that should tell you something? I think it’s not going to go well for us(Americans). It’s very likely going to be our undoing. Sad, because we had so much promise, the amendments and all.
    Hej! Tumta

  12. thetumta
    December 24, 2011, 8:56 pm

    They’re heavily armed and their backed up politically, you should be aware of what’s coming. Law enforcement seems to be their current target and they have definitely had their successes. Are comments here, evidence of material support for whomever? Contrary opinions may have recently been criminalized. You don’t want to figure this out right after you’ve been detained.
    Hej!

    • dahoit
      December 27, 2011, 10:07 am

      Well,they better start building a hell of a lot of more jail cells because we are growing exponentially,and the thought of three hots and a cot might be tempting to US living under the overpasses.

  13. W.Jones
    December 24, 2011, 9:51 pm

    How is someone supposed to know “Tribe hummus” is part of the problem? It says it’s made in America I think on the label.

    • W.Jones
      December 24, 2011, 10:49 pm

      I was going to an event about people’s rights in the Holy Land and was looking for some Hummus to bring people. Something about the name threw me, so to speak, so I bought another brand. How ironic that would be, I thought.

  14. Oscar
    December 24, 2011, 10:07 pm

    The UPenn BDS conference is the flip side of the August 2011 Yale University three-day hatefest against Islam, which equated criticism of Israel with the “new anti-Semitism.” When Yale was criticized for hosting a conference that spewed so much hatred, a spokesman defended it, claiming it was protected under “academic freedom.”. link to sabbah.biz

    Of course, several months later, Yale quietly defunded the program, which led to squeals from The Dersh and many many others.

    UPenn can’t endorse such a program, nor could they cancel it as SWU so devoutly hoped . . . The academic freedom precedent was establish by Yale last summer and Penn can’t shut it down.

    Great post, Alex, and great catch.

  15. piotr
    December 24, 2011, 11:55 pm

    “monitors and exposes the enemies of freedom and their modus operandi, and explores pragmatic ways to counteract their methods.”

    When I read such words I feel nostalgia for older simpler times where the cause of freedom was defended with “exploring pragmatic ways”. Simplicity ruled.

    One great victory was the coup of Indonesian generals lead by Sukarno against president who was “flirting” with Communists. About half a million of enemies of freedom were killed and at least as much were sent to concentration camps were they were kept for at least a decade.

    And now we have to be satisfied with incarceration of “Irvine 11″. Not only we cannot kill enemies in satisfying numbers, the battle lines seems to be rotating. It used to be that we had a common cause with people of faith against Godless Marxism. Now we try to convince Communists of Ethiopia to make a better job fighting Islamists in Somalia. In the meantime, Russians were fighting pirates on Arabian see and we could not even help the pirates.

    What does freedom mean nowadays?

  16. iRevolt
    December 25, 2011, 12:51 am

    I was lucky enough too see the exchange between Ali and StandWithUs on Twitter; it was sad, to say the least. Ali wiped the floor with the person(s) behind the SWU handle.

    As someone who has read his work, followed his Twitter and gotten to know how his writing style/thought process is – he never blames the Jews; if anything he continuously highlights how Zionism is bad for the Jews.

    StandWithUS fell flat on their faces, once again. Good going Alex, Ali, et al!

  17. tree
    December 25, 2011, 2:44 am

    According to Sabeel’s website, our own Adam Horowitz, as well as Marc Ellis, Yigal Bronner, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, among others, were speakers at the 2005 Conference along with Abunimah.

    link to fosna.org

    link to fosna.org

  18. Basilio
    December 25, 2011, 5:44 am

    To be honest, and I really hate to say this, but this does not surprise me, Zionists in some cases believe in the Mossad motto “By deception thou shalt win wars”. They feel it’s fine if what is being said might not be true because they’re doing it all for Israel, and they worship Israel and Israel is more important to them than being honest people.
    I’ve seen those types lie way too many times to count. They’ve smeared so many people. I am not talking about all Zionists, but a certain type. They have no shame at all.

    • Hostage
      December 25, 2011, 10:08 am

      Zionists in some cases believe in the Mossad motto “By deception thou shalt win wars”.

      The former Mossad motto was simply Proverbs 24:6. The Judaica Press Tanach translated it as: “For you shall wage war for yourself with strategies, and the victory results from the superiority of the counselor.” The King James Version translated it as: “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.” None of the mainstream translations have ever rendered the verse as “By deception thou shalt win wars”. See for example the many parallel translations here: link to bible.cc

      The current motto is Proverbs 11:14: “Without strategy the people falls, but with many counselors there is victory.”

      In any event, volumes have been written about the founding myths of Israel and the efforts to deceive others through the auspices of The Information and Diaspora Minister of Israel, The International Hasbara Fellowship, & other Zionist entities.

      • dahoit
        December 27, 2011, 10:12 am

        Well,to be fair,all countries use deception,but they don’t publicize and celebrate it,like our government and Israel seem to.

  19. NickJOCW
    December 25, 2011, 5:58 am

    Off topic but I have been watching the series of short films running on Al Jazeera under the title Two Schools in Nablus. link to aljazeera.com It’s worth watching anyway but also encouraging that it is broadcast. The resilience of the caged Palestinians is impressive and heart warming; it reminded me of London in the blitz; I was only 6 in 1943 but I recall the same kindness, togetherness, and determination to get on with things. ¡Feliz Navidad!

  20. Talkback
    December 25, 2011, 7:30 am

    Intellectual honesty and Hasbara are like water and oil.

  21. talknic
    December 26, 2011, 2:00 pm

    Lies are standard fare for the promotion of ‘the land of Israel’. Over a century of practiced deceit makes for a lot of true believers in them

  22. mollistan
    December 27, 2011, 3:39 pm

    Alyssa Lappen is also an “activist reviewer” at amazon.com, giving all even slighty balanced books on the conflict a detailed negative review.

    • Cliff
      December 27, 2011, 3:50 pm

      That is a Zionist tactic.

      Years ago, JVP revealed something called the Hasbara Handbook, by the World Union of Jewish Students.

      Basically, it’s a way to build a consensus. The best example of how this happened was on Wikipedia when CAMERA or whatever Zio-group got caught coordinating to push a Zionist POV.

      Some of our trolls like eee cite Wikipedia regularly.

      And hophmi/jonah/et al. have made short comments that are very much like a Zionist adverstisement (hamas charter/withdrew from Gaza and got rockets/etc.) – basically a hodge-podge of Zionist memes that work on people who aren’t engaged enough and don’t know anything.

      So Lappen focuses on Amazon.com reviews because people might just look at the average star rating.

      No class, these people.

  23. Woody Tanaka
    December 27, 2011, 3:52 pm

    It is because of this kind of stuff happening repeatedly that no one should believe anything negative about Israel critics or anything positive about Israel or its supporters, without first verifying the information. Many among them are incapable of truth.

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