Revealed: Right-wing group StandWithUs’ strategy to combat Israel Apartheid Week

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They have grants of $200 to dish out, Israeli soldiers to promote and events to suggest, like a “Hummus not Hamas” party.  StandWithUs, the right-wing pro-Israel group, is gearing up to combat the annual “Israel Apartheid Week,”  when college campuses host speakers and put on events highlighting Israeli violations of human rights.

A document Mondoweiss obtained reveals details of the strategy StandWithUs, which works closely with the Israeli government, plans to employ to fight back against “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW).  In addition to giving out money and suggesting events, StandWithUs is also concerned about how Israel’s treatment of African migrants will be portrayed by Palestine solidarity groups on campus, and how IAW plans to promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

In an e-mail I received addressed to “Israel Advocates,” Lihi Benisty, the New England Campus Coordinator for StandWithUs, encourages recipients to “go through” the attached document, which details the “many resources for you that StandWithUs has to offer.”

“This is a confidential document, so please do not distribute it,” writes Benisty. “If you think this could help another student leader or Hillel staff, please put me in touch with them and I’ll be happy to share it.”

Attached to Benisty’s e-mail is a PDF document (read the whole thing below) authored by Brett Cohen, the national campus program director for the group. 

“Israel Apartheid Week will be taking place from February 24th to March 2nd this year and may be coming to your campus. IAW is celebrating their tenth anniversary and recent BDS ‘victories’ at academic conferences, so if the campaign is coming to your campus, don’t be surprised to see a larger IAW effort this year than in years past,” the document says.

StandWithUs suggestions for events to combat IAW include running an “I Heart Israel Campaign” and “hosting fun events” like a “Buy Israeli Goods” action day.  And if students take video footage of buying a bunch of Israeli goods, StandWithUs wants to help them edit it–and make it go viral. The group also recommends “writing op-eds to your school paper, which StandWithUs can help you write and/or edit for publication.”

One part of the StandWithUs document focuses on African refugees in Israel.  “A hot issue right now, for example, is the African refugee issue in Israel,” the group states.  “SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] is using this issue to make Israel look awful, but Israel was the only country in the region to take in people fleeing genocide in Sudan, while Egypt was shooting at them while trying to get to freedom in Israel. Now that there is relative peace in their home countries, Israel would like to send them back, but many want to stay in Israel for economic opportunity.”

There’s also a section where the right-wing group shows pro-Israel organizations the money. In addition to the $200 in “microgrants” it offers to combat IAW, StandWithUs also offers “higher levels of funding for special circumstances, so make sure to keep open lines of communication with your campus coordinator and let them know what you are planning.”

Over half of the money StandWithUs receives from donors goes to programming on college campuses, the Jewish Daily Forward’s Nathan Guttman reported in 2011.  And as the journalist Eli Clifton reported for Inter Press Service in 2009, the group’s donations come from “a web of funders who support organisations that have been accused of anti-Muslim propaganda and encouraging a militant Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.”

The group also coordinates with the Israeli government, as the Forward’s Nathan Guttman reported.  In July 2011, they released a video featuring Danny Ayalon, then Israel’s deputy foreign minister, saying that the words “occupied territories” are incorrect.  In March 2011, an Israeli consul general met with StandWithUs in Olympia, Washington in the aftermath of a food co-op voting to boycott Israeli products.  Ayalon told Israel’s Channel 10 that “we are using…StandWithUs for leverage” in the fight against the Olympic Food Co-Op.

In November 2010, StandWithUs members disrupted a Jewish Voice for Peace meeting in California and pepper sprayed two people.

Here’s the full StandWithUs document:

Israel Apartheid Week 2014-1

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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