Activism

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

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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.

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

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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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,… Read more »

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… Read more »