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Since when is the Southern Poverty Law Center a pro-Israel organization?

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Here’s an item for the PEP file: Progressive Except Palestine, that malady of liberal politics in the United States.

Today 60 members of the Republican National Committee are flying off to Israel and occupied Palestine at the behest of a rightwing Christian organization called the American Family Association. The trip is said to cost $400,000. Reince Priebus, the head of the RNC, and party secretary Susie Hudson are reported to be on the junket.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has urged the RNC to cancel the trip because the American Family Association is bigoted against minorities in the United States.

As a result, the American Family Association fired an official who had made repugnant statements about the US being a Christian country.

Then Rachel Maddow covered the hullabaloo on MSNBC. She too focused on the AFA’s bigoted record (video doesn’t load or I’d quote it verbatim). As Nadia Saah wrote on the MSNBC site:

Rachel, I appreciate that you’re troubled by the AFA’s position that America was ‘established as a Christian nation in the name of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith’ – But how do you feel about Israel as a Jewish State, created at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians who were driven out from their homes in 1948 in order to make Israel more purely Jewish? And about the 600k+ illegal Jewish settlers in the West bank who, with the full support of the Israeli government, are stealing what is left of Palestinian land ?– About Israel’s law of return for Jews only, and the 50+ discriminatory laws that undermine the rights of non-Jews inside Israel?

Good luck, Ms. Saah; but I’ve never heard Rachel Maddow talk about Palestinian human rights.

As for the Southern Poverty Law Center, it is a leading organization in the U.S. civil rights movement, founded in Montgomery, Alabama, 44 years ago. Its letter of complaint to the Republican National Committee praises Israel as the refuge for Jews worldwide, without any reference to Palestinians. Writes Richard Cohen, the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

“Given that the disease of anti-Semitism is flaring throughout the world, we certainly understand your desire to show your commitment to Israel at this time. But accepting funding from an extremist group like the AFA would make a mockery of that commitment and legitimize its extremism.”

The SPLC regards the AFA as a “hate group… due to its persistent use of falsehoods to demonize the LGBT community,” Jews, and other minorities, including statements by the fired official, Bryan Fischer, suggesting that “Jews are second-class citizens” and “we are a Christian nation, and not a Jewish or Muslim one.”

But Palestinians are second-class citizens, and Israel has created Jim Crow, apartheid conditions and worse across the occupation.

Then there’s People for the American Way, the group founded by Norman Lear. It has also come out against the trip. Its letter also has no problem with visiting Israel.

Although we have no objection to RNC members travelling to Israel, we urge you not to collaborate with those who are funding and coordinating this trip. The American Family Association and Mr. [David] Lane have made it clear that they view the Republican Party as a vehicle for ensuring that the U.S. government is operated by and for conservative Christians, at the expense of those of other faiths and no faith, and those Christians who do not share their particular beliefs.

But the trip isn’t just to Israel. It’s also to the occupied territories, according to Haaretz:

Participants will travel from the Galilee and Golan Heights to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, [organizer David Lane] told Haaretz, with Jewish tour guides and two evangelical pastors in tow.

Haaretz also quotes an SPLC official praising Israel:

“Our issue is not with these folks going to Israel, which is an important ally and important for international policy,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project of the SPLC. “Our issue is that one of our mainstream political parties and a group with these heinous beliefs is sponsoring it.”

But as I already wrote this morning, The core constituents of the Democratic Party are increasingly alienated by U.S. policy on Israel, according to Shibley Telhami: Hispanics, blacks, the young, and women want more balance in our policy.
When will liberal groups, from SPLC to People for the American Way to Rachel Maddow’s show, begin to reflect progressive public opinion? Till they do, they’re PEP.
Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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26 Responses

  1. Susie Kneedler on January 31, 2015, 12:09 pm
    • John Salisbury on February 2, 2015, 4:17 pm

      Yes Phil sees these things so clearly. Very refreshing.It is like the Gettysburg address is imprinted on his brain.

  2. David Doppler on January 31, 2015, 12:38 pm

    It seems our “elites” require excessive toadying upon approach, with deference shown in every imaginable other direction, before any hint of criticism is voiced with respect to any particular issue. Otherwise, the criticism is certain to be dismissed without response and the critic smeared as suffering from any number of contrived personal failings. Especially, our media “elites,” who treat stories critical of their favored members of our power elites with the same protocols.

    In this way, the straightforward storyline that our elites are abusing power and avoiding accountability, with example after example marshaled as straightforward proof, is verboten, proof of the reporter’s bias, immaturity, stupidity, fringiness, and justification for his or her never working again.

    • on February 2, 2015, 5:11 pm

      So you get fired for saying the USA is a Christian nation but also if you refuse to say Israel is a Jewish nation?

      Just how long do they think they can keep these obvious double standards in place?

      One thing we know, when this all blows up on them, it will not be their fault, it will be the anti-semites again.

      • American on February 2, 2015, 6:03 pm

        Giles February 2, 2015, 5:11 pm

        ” One thing we know, when this all blows up on them, it will not be their fault, it will be the anti-semites again ”>>>>

        Not if we take down their politicians with them.
        The politicians will be too busy trying to disclaim/account for their own treasonous acts and defending themselves to offer any protection to the Zionist.
        I have said it a thousand times..traitor trumps anti semite in every country on earth, always has, always will, a hatred of being ‘betrayed’ and particulary by those you have put in positions of trust, comes right after the survial instinct in humans.

  3. Keith on January 31, 2015, 3:45 pm

    PHIL- “As for the Southern Poverty Law Center, it is a leading organization in the U.S. civil rights movement, founded in Montgomery, Alabama, 44 years ago.”

    At one time the SPLC was arguably an effective civil rights organization. It would appear that this is no longer true. Like many progressive organizations which start out pure at heart, the SPLC nowadays seems more concerned with fund raising than civil rights. As such, it naturally follows that it is a friend to Israel. To appear otherwise would be to jeopardize its funding. A couple of quotes and links follow.

    “… during its earlier years when its co-founder, Atlanta civil rights activist Julian Bond, was still involved, the SPLC achieved an admirable record in helping bring to justice those accused of racially based murders, lynchings, and beatings.

    Forty years later the SPLC has evolved into the cash cow of the civil rights movement and behaves as though it were the left-wing equivalent of the John Birch Society, a right-wing, 1950’s anticommunist group which was certain that behind every bush was a card-carrying communist. Today anyone with whom the SPLC happens to disagree is assumed to be either a racist or guilty of a hate crime.” (Thomas Naylor)

    “As of October 2008 the net assets of the SPLC were $170,240,129, The merchant of hate himself, Mr. Dees, was paid an annual $273,132 as chief trial counsel, and the SPLC’s president and CEO, Richard Cohen, $290,193. Total revenue in 2007 was $44,727,257 and program expenses $20,804,536. In other words, the Southern Poverty Law Center was raising twice as much as it was spending on its proclaimed mission. Fund-raising and administrative expenses accounted for $9 million, leaving $14 million to be put in the center’s vast asset portfolio.” (Alexander Cockburn)

    • Richard Keefe on February 1, 2015, 6:29 am

      There is a lot of good information here, but I’d like to offer a clarification and an update.

      1. Mr. Naylor is mistaken in calling Julian Bond a co-founder of the SPLC. Morris Dees and his law partner Joe Levin founded the SPLC in 1971. Dees describes how he crafted the Center’s first fundraising letter on page 132 his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice.

      “Before we could ask for money, we had to establish credibility. We needed a prominent figure whose presence would announce the center’s values and promise. Julian Bond seemed the perfect choice.”

      “I had never met Julian Bond. My friend Chuck Morgan… working for the ACLU… arranged a meeting in Atlanta. When I told [Bond] about our hopes and plans, he agreed to serve as president of the Law Center, a largely honorary position.”

      Julian Bond had returned to college in 1971 and lived three hours away in Atlanta. It’s doubtful the “honorary president” made the six-hour commute on a regular basis.

      Also, since Bond had never heard of Dees before, it seems unlikely that he would lend his hard-earned reputation to a completely unknown entity for free. Mr. Bond’s participation in the founding of the SPLC was strictly as a (presumably paid) celebrity endorsement.

      Julian Bond had no more to do with running the SPLC than Michael Jordan has with running Hanes.

      2. As for “bringing to justice those accused of racially based murders, lynchings, and beatings,” that’s a debatable point. The SPLC has launched several high profile civil suits against people who were already tried, convicted and incarcerated by the legal system, but they’ve never brought criminal proceedings against anyone.

      It should be mentioned that, unlike criminal trials, where defendants “have the right to a court appointed attorney,” in civil cases they must provide legal defense out of their own pockets. Considering that most of them have been in prison for years, making 13 cents an hour, before the SPLC steps in, they are pretty much facing a multimillion dollar law firm on their own.

      The usual script reads like this: The SPLC brings a civil suit against an incarcerated felon, sends out uncounted fundraising letters asking for support, wins damages in the millions of dollars of which the plaintiffs will see little or nothing, sends out uncounted fundraising letters and press releases praising their legal acumen and asking for support.

      These are little more than very lucrative show trials.

      3. To update Mr. Cockburn’s numbers, in 2013, Morris Dees was paying himself $354,727 a year, which does not include the $10,000 to $20,000 a pop he charges in “honoraria” for his frequent speaking engagements. Richard Cohen made $349,843.

      In short, in the depths of the Great Recession, Morris Dees, who made his first million in 1964, gave himself a 30% pay hike, while Cohen, a largely silent partner, settled for a mere 21%.

      Donors sent Mr. Dees more than $37 million tax-free dollars that year, on top of the $36 million in tax-free interest generated by the SPLC’s bloated $281 million-dollar “Morris Dees Legacy Fund.”

      Financial figures for 2014 will be out in March and we’ll be there to review them.

  4. joemowrey on January 31, 2015, 4:30 pm

    Here is a link to a video in which Maddow gives us the stock, Zionist propaganda line on Israel. Don’t watch it on a full stomach.

    One can’t, of course, account for what goes through a person’s mind, but given the depth of her knowledge of foreign policy issues overall and her extreme level of intelligence (as I understand it, she has a genius level IQ) my personal opinion is that she is purposefully misinforming her viewers, as she does on so many subjects. It would be difficult to imagine she is unaware of the actually history behind the lies and spin she regurgitates here.

    Like so many talking heads, she is a millionaire propagandist first and foremost, serving up just the necessary amount of infotainment mixed with the occasional factoid to keep her willfully ignorant audience enthralled without ever risking offending her corporate sponsors and pay masters.

    It’s sad. At one point during the Bush administration, her radio show actually provided a modicum of truth and resistance to the power elite. She was staunchly antiwar. But that was before the Dems got into office and Rachel got the big promotion to prime time and the huge seven figure salary. Now she is little more than a shill for the Corporate Dems and a huge apologist for the war-mongering Assassinator in Chief who occupies the White House. Clearly she knows who signs her paycheck.

  5. Krauss on January 31, 2015, 4:32 pm

    Cohen is a good example of a racial hypocrite. He is obssessed with the marginal Ku Klux Klan but is giving a total pass to the Apartheid rulers in Israel.

    He is not just PEP, he is not liberal at all. He is from the same cloth as Abe Foxman.

  6. American on January 31, 2015, 4:56 pm

    This is actually funny. And perfect example of how tangled and corrupt the whole Isr-Zio-Christian thing is.

    Bryan Fischer, the AFA big wig, whose statements about Jews, gays and etc. caused it to be listed as a hate group by the SPLC was fired from the American Family Association and has now reverted to his pre christianity jewish roots and hired himself out to Zionist fanatics.

    Really you cant make this shit up—at least half the bloviating pigs in the Religo Cult Con bizness will hate Jews or either demand the world worship Jews, depending on where they can get a pay check or who crosses their palms with some silver.

    Here is the different tune Mr Fischer is singing as of this past Thursday:

    The U.S. Should Support Israel Because God Does
    by Bryan Fischer


    ”But beyond all these quite sound reasons to stand unapologetically with Israel against its adversaries, there is one additional, overriding reason.

    We should stand with Israel because God does.

    God made a profound promise to the father of the Jewish people, a promise which he has never revoked and which is still in effect today. “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse” (Genesis 12:3).
    God here declares one simple, abiding truth: he will deal with the nations of the world as they deal with Israel.

    A nation which stands with Israel will receive a blessing from God. A nation which stands against the Jewish people (Nazi Germany comes to mind) will rest under a curse.

    You can argue all day if you’d like about whether the United States is a Christian nation. The evidence is indisputable that it is, but one thing no one can dispute is that the United States has been kind to the biological and spiritual offspring of Abraham.
    It has been the friendliest place on earth for the followers of Christ, who according to the apostle are also
    “sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). And the United States has historically provided a safe place, a haven, for the physical descendants of Abraham (the Jewish people), who have been able to freely practice their faith here and enjoy the prosperity and possibilities this Christian nation affords to all people of good will.
    So if someone is looking for a reason for America’s security and success, he needs look no further: God has blessed America because America has blessed the sons of Abraham.
    And there is yet one more reason to support Israel. America owes the Jewish people a lasting debt for preserving for us the “oracles of God,” as Paul describes them in Romans 3:2.

    Paul says quite plainly that the Gentile world owes Israel a debt which it is morally bound to repay. Speaking of the Jews, he says, “For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings” (Romans 15:27). Indeed, Paul says we owe it to them. Hard to get much clearer than that”

  7. PeaceThroughJustice on January 31, 2015, 5:16 pm

    “When will liberal groups, from SPLC to People for the American Way to Rachel Maddow’s show, begin to reflect progressive public opinion?”

    Not until your long-awaited revolution in the American Jewish community finally gets here. Or until the gentiles are finally allowed to talk about the extent of Jewish power in the society.

    • Mooser on February 1, 2015, 1:04 pm

      “Or until the gentiles are finally allowed to talk about the extent of Jewish power in the society.”

      Look, I don’t want to hassle you, but you guys have got to speak up, okay? I mean every time a Gentile screws his courage to the sticking point, and is about to let me have it concerning the “extent of Jewish power in the society”, all I have to do is give him one of my looks, or make a few clucking noises and shake my head, and they go down, rhetorically, like a poleaxed calf.
      So try speaking up!

  8. KarlRKaiser on January 31, 2015, 6:14 pm

    I was an avid MSNBC viewer until the Gaza War, when the otherwise balanced network showed it would deliberately skew its own coverage to suit Israel. Since then I cut my viewing in half and turned to Al Jazeera, which is (surprise) much more balanced and has better international coverage.

    To see MSNBCs pro-Israel bias, look into how top-level Jewish executives at the network stepped down to micromanage the Gaza coverage, and the firing of Jabreal when she pointed out its imbalance, and Chris Hayes’ embarrassingly obsequious “exit interview” of her.

    Also, EVERY major US network was bizarrely silent for the nearly two weeks at the onset of Israel’s Gaza attack, which I learned about from Facebook posts by friends in Gaza. Then suddenly, on the very day the kidnapped victims were “found” (…known to have been a staged lie), and Israel’s attack was well underway, the networks finally began reporting on it. This coordinated non-coverage was a stark indicator of the influence of the Israel lobby and its insider supporters on the MSM U.S. media.

    Soon after, when Chris Hayes was interviewing Amin Mohyeldin about the Israel crisis they both had nervous looks like they were walking on egg shells, and couldn’t square being responsible journalists with kissing up to the Israel. Such self-censorship is a striking contrast to the open discussions about Israel you’ll find on AJ or RT, for example.

    • Chu on January 31, 2015, 9:02 pm

      Thanks Karl for your insight -be advised, the more you peel back the layers, the more unsavory it becomes. – and many people who you explain your perspective to, could care less – even if they are supposed liberals.

      Read the other papers, Al Jazeera, RT, etc. – compare and contrast. Only way to change ideas, but most people can’t afford the time to do so.

      • Pippilin on February 1, 2015, 11:09 am

        Al Jazeera online seems a bit more candid in its news coverage than it does on TV. RT can be found on DISH TV 24-hours/day (it’s my preferred source of world news) and at “Democracy Now” can be found online, or on FreeSpeech TV twice a day. Most people NEED to take the time to investigate these alternative media.

      • Chu on February 2, 2015, 10:28 am

        Al Jazeera is producing some documentaries that wouldn’t be able to be produced in the USA. The main one being ‘the Day Israel Attacked America’ (the USS liberty bombing by Israel Air Force) and another one “World War One Through Arab Eyes” gave a good understanding of the Arab world, slowly losing it’s power beginning last century.

      • Richard Keefe on February 3, 2015, 7:49 am

        Just for the record, the SPLC’s Public Relations Chief, Mark Potok, is a regular guest on “Democracy Now.”

        Despite her long record of top-notch independent journalism, Amy Goodman is as guilty as any of giving Potok a free pass without ever once vetting his claims or performing even the most rudimentary factchecking. Potok is Goodman’s “go-to expert on hate.”

        Actually, as a seasoned, professional journalist, Amy Goodman is even more culpable than her bubble-headed-bleach-blonde colleagues in the news-for-profit industry. She should know better.

  9. Richard Keefe on January 31, 2015, 6:40 pm

    “the Southern Poverty Law Center, it is a leading organization in the U.S. civil rights movement”

    Ironically, the SPLC has a number of racial issues of its own. As this article mentions, the SPLC was founded 44 years ago in Montgomery, Alabama, birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement. Its headquarters are located literally in the backyard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s own Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Only the church parking lot separates the two buildings.

    Despite this proximity to so much civil rights history, the SPLC did not designate its first anti-LGBT “hate group” until 2011, some 40 years after opening the company for business. Forty years of silence until Chief Fundraiser Mark Potok discovered that the LGBT community was often younger than his traditional donor base, often Progressive, and most importantly, often affluent.

    The perfect SPLC donor demographic. Forty years of looking the other way and suddenly the SPLC became “experts” on LGBT issues overnight.

    It also seems that 95% of the SPLC’s 20-member Senior Program Staff in Montgomery are white, which seems a bit incongruous for a “leading civil rights organization” in Dr. King’s own back yard.

    As dismal as that record is, it’s better than the SPLC’s Executive Suite, which is composed entirely of whites, just as it has been since the doors opened in 1971. Even the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” arm, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom has been led by “whites only” since it opened in 1991.

    Despite these glaring inconsistencies, the SPLC enjoys a solid reputation because nobody in the media will vet its claims or perform even the most rudimentary fact checks. Almost all of the information can be found on the SPLC’s own web site.

    There’s a real story there if ever a professional journalist could be convinced to look into it.

  10. traintosiberia on January 31, 2015, 9:22 pm

    There is reason SPLC agrees with the recently created canard of rising antisemitism . Its foil a polemical ruse they can use to divert and distract from the ongoing Israeli criminalities across the globe and within its undisclosed unmarked borders.
    It tries to reach a moral high position by blaming some wing nut for
    doling out money or this junket when the junket itself be severely criticizeed and investigated and names joining on this ” pilgrimage” should be made public particularly to expose their sources of campaign money and their ‘s voting behaviors.

  11. Pixel on February 1, 2015, 2:49 am

    “Since when is the Southern Poverty Law Center a pro-Israel organization?”
    For a long time.

    Search terms “Southern Poverty Law Center” and “Jewish”.
    About 380,000 results (0.17 seconds)
    Search terms “Southern Poverty Law Center” and “Jewish”.
    About 112,000 results (0.29 seconds)

    • Pixel on February 1, 2015, 3:02 am

      2nd should be:

      “Search terms Southern Poverty Law Center” and “Zionism”.

      About 112,000 results (0.29 seconds)

    • Pixel on February 1, 2015, 3:33 am

      I stopped watching RM about 6 months in.
      If I heard, “Wash, Rinse, Repeat,” one more time, I was going to pull my hair out.

      I agree with the many reasons cited above by fellow commenters but I also imagine she tells herself that she’s allowed to take a pass on these issues because, instead, she shoulders LGBTQI&?-ing concerns.

      However, to me, those are the very reasons she SHOULD take them on (human rights, civil rights, justice, minority, et al) but life most often doesn’t seem to work that way.

      …and there ARE those other powerful forces that come to bear.

  12. just on February 1, 2015, 3:22 am

    “When will liberal groups, from SPLC to People for the American Way to Rachel Maddow’s show, begin to reflect progressive public opinion? Till they do, they’re PEP.”

    That’s MW truth. Thank you Philip.

  13. Marnie on February 1, 2015, 8:08 am

    It’s got to be difficult keeping all of the hypocrisy straight and the cuckoo way things are. Thank you again Phil and MW for reporting so clearly on issues that are incredibly convoluted. The SPLC is corrupted by the interests of a foreign government. These revelations are very depressing.

  14. Philip Munger on February 1, 2015, 3:16 pm

    I’ve never regarded Rachel Maddow as genuine.

    This episode from the despicable Bill Maher from almost five years ago is telling. Beginning at 6:48, Maher and Oliver Stone start getting at each other. Maddow, who up to this point has been contributing to the segment, sits on her thumbs.

  15. Neil Schipper on February 2, 2015, 11:38 am

    But how do you feel about Israel as a Jewish State, created at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians who were driven out from their homes in 1948

    Looking at the “Arab World” in the broad sense — all 22 countries in the Arab League, including Palestinian territories — and including Israel in that super-region:

    by area, 99.84% is “Arab” (actually, “Arab and other”), 0.16% is (green line) Israel
    by population, the corresponding percentages are 97.8% “Arab” (not-Israeli), and 2.2% Israeli (of which 80% are Jewish)

    These numbers tell us something about the world as it really is.

    (My argument is not about religion, but as an aside, a comparison that included all Muslim majority countries would include Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia and others, and would result in a more dramatic disproportion, easily more than 99.9% to 0.1% by area.)

    Now, the “Arab League region” is very broad (and non-contiguous). Some member states (Comoros, Djibouti and others) are far from Israel-Palestine. Also, not all member states consist of Arab peoples. (It *excludes* (Persian) Iran and Turkey, significant Muslim geopolitical actors).

    Consider a much more focused comparison, a region consisting of Israel and key neighbouring “frontline” countries that warred with Israel in ’48 and ’67. This would exclude (powerhouse) Saudi Arabia, plus, Yemen, Oman, gulf states, and again, (powerhouse) Iran.

    This region includes, along with Israel, only Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine (as conceived by the conventional two-state solution).

    (Passing comment about the religions in this region: the population of this region is 96.3% gentile, 3.7% Jewish.)

    If there were a Palestinian state:
    – by area, the region would be 98.8% Arab and 1.2% Israel ===> the most important statistic of this comment
    – by population, 95.1% would have majority-Arab nationality, and 4.9% Israeli

    If Israel annexed Palestinian territories:
    – by area, the region would be 98.4% “Arab” and 1.6% Israel
    – by population, 92.2% would have majority-Arab nationality, and 7.8% Israeli

    Rejectionists consider a solution where Arabs control more than 98% of the region for 92% – 95% of the people unacceptable.

    (We pause to fantasize about U.S., Canadian or Australian “two-state solutions” in which indigenous peoples controlled more than 98% of the land, the Europeans less than 2%.)

    The rejectionist strain was dominant in Arab politics going back decades prior to 1947. That year, a proposal even more favorable to Arabs than 98.8% to 1.2% was suggested by the nations of the world, a proposal accepted (through gritted teeth) by the Zionists. This proposal had no requirement for the displacement of a single family from home, farm, or business.

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