Israel lobby group compiles secret dossiers on pro-Palestinian speakers

ActivismIsrael/Palestine
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(Photo: Facebook.com/StandWithUs)

(Photo: Facebook.com/StandWithUs)

The day before Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, gave a speech on Palestine in Port Townsend, Washington in 2010, he exposed a dossier circulated about him.  Authored by the right-wing pro-Israel group StandWithUs, it was a blueprint for what local activists should do when questioning Abunimah.

“When Ali Abunimah comes to your campus, be prepared for a sophisticated, smooth advocate of radical Palestinian positions,” the dossier circulated by Rob Jacobs, Northwest Regional Director of StandWithUs, said.

Screenshot of Stand4Facts' dossier on Abunimah

Screenshot of Stand4Facts’ dossier on Abunimah

But Abunimah is not the only public figure to get the StandWithUs treatment.  A whole website, accessed only by those with usernames and passwords given by StandWithUs, is filled with information on dozens of people who speak out for Palestinian human rights (though it also includes anti-Semites like Kevin MacDonald).  Mondoweiss obtained access to the website through a source.

Stand4Facts.org is meant to help “Israel advocates respond to and counter anti-Israel speakers who come to your campus.”  The site announces it was “made possible by generous funding from the Newton D. and Rochelle Becker Foundation in partnership with the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.”  The repository of information on speakers and groups is one part of StandWithUs’ efforts to boost Israel’s image on college campuses, where the group spends more than half of its money. (I previously revealed StandWithUs’ internal strategy for combatting Israel Apartheid Week, which began yesterday in the U.S.)

Through the website, you learn that the Israeli soldiers group Breaking the Silence, which documents human rights abuses, is “fringe” and helps “the cause of extremist organizations which oppose Israel’s existence”; that Palestinian-Israeli human rights group Adalah has a “far-reaching [agenda of] delegitimizing and defaming the Jewish State”; and that Human Rights Watch has become “an anti-Israel lobby.”

Far more material is devoted to individual Palestine solidarity activists.  In total, Stand4Facts.org has compiled material on about 101 speakers who frequent college campuses.  For each speaker, there’s an “overview”; biographical information; quotes that are critical of Israel followed by rejoinders; questions to ask the speaker and more.

The human rights attorney Noura Erakat, for instance, is described as a “young, attractive and inflammatory American-Palestinian” who “cloaks her attacks on Israel and defense of Palestinians in post-modern human rights, feminist jargon.”  (The listings on many of the female speakers contain comments on their attractiveness.)  Here’s a sampling of the questions they suggest StandWithUs activists ask Erakat when she speaks.

Screenshot of Stand4Facts' page on Noura Erakat.

Screenshot of Stand4Facts’ page on Noura Erakat.

You wrote that your family worked very hard to maintain your Palestinian identity and to keep you from becoming ‘Americanized.’ Can you please explain what aspects of Americanization were most offensive to you and what aspects of Palestinian political and cultural life should be introduced into the US?

As a lawyer, you must be acutely aware of the difference between South Africa whose laws set up apartheid and Israel whose laws strive to ensure equal human and civil rights for all. Are you intentionally deceiving this audience by claiming Israel has an apartheid system or do you really not understand the difference?

In order to have peace, there must be mutual understanding and even respect for each other’s narratives and history. Which aspects of Israel’s history and situation do you and other Palestinians find most persuasive and legitimate?

Stand4Facts.org describes Craig and Cindy Corrie, the parents of American activist Rachel Corrie, as “a pleasant, soft-spoken middle-aged couple” who nonetheless “travel in deeply anti-Israel circles.” The website adds:

Their daughter died while working with the Palestinian-allied International Solidarity Movement, and neither Cindy nor Craig publicly have distanced themselves from the ISM’s militant record. In fact, the Corries continue to work with the ISM in spite of the fact that the organization played a leading role in Rachel’s death.

The site encourages Israel advocates to ask the Corries questions like:

Since Israel’s withdrawal, Gaza has turned into an anarchic, violent place of armed clans fighting one another for power and money, and more Palestinians have been killed this year by Palestinian violence than by Israelis. Did your daughter have any knowledge of these power struggles and competing clans? If not, how come she wasn’t more aware of the realities around her?

Another speaker profiled is Josh Ruebner, author of Shattered Hopes: The Failure of Obama’s Middle East Peace Process.  Described as “well educated, articulate, and young,” Stand4Facts states that Ruebner is “a Jew willing to concede that the Palestinians have been wronged and that it is appropriate to publicly criticize Israel.”

Other speakers on the website include: Asad Abu’Khalil; Anna Baltzer; Dalit Baum; Phyllis Bennis; Norman Finkelstein; and Nadia Hijab.

In addition to the information on speakers and activist groups, StandWithUs provides campus activists with “lies and distortions” about Israel that they can challenge. According to the right-wing group:

The Deir Yassin massacre was no massacre.  It was “a military Arab-Jewish battle with unfortunate civilian casualties.” Israel did not create Palestinian refugees–”The Zionists frequently urged Palestinians not to flee the areas they secured and encouraged them to stay in their homes and communities.” The Israeli military hardly killed any civilians during Operation Cast Lead.  “75% to 85% of casualties were terrorist operatives, according to the IDF, the U.N., and other sources.”

When the Electronic Intifada’s Abunimah revealed the existence of the dossier on him, activist Emma Rosenthal took to Twitter to say that StandWithUs had a dossier on her. In response, the group told her, “Happy to assure you, you aren’t that important.”

But there is a dossier on Rosenthal–and many, many more people.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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