Please help us overcome the accusations against If Americans Knew
By Alison Weir
I personally, and If Americans Knew as an organization, are among those who have periodically been targeted by whispering campaigns. Please help us prevent these false accusations from impeding our important work.
“Examining the founding of Israel, discussing the history of pro-Israel efforts, critiquing Israeli policy, championing the Palestinian right of return, investigating Israel’s victimization of others, opposing U.S. aid to Israel, and exposing Israeli war crimes are not anti-Semitic actions.
“Nor is exposing the Israel lobby in all its ramifications, examining Israel partisans’ role in the invasion of Iraq, or divulging information known to Israelis but hidden to non-Israelis.
“If someone disagrees with the facts, analysis or judgments, so be it – let’s talk. But discussing facts and examining information is not bigoted, but rather necessary. I believe that suppressing facts and debate is ultimately harmful for all.”
May 20, 2015
Since the founding of Israel, proponents of justice for Palestinians and critics of Israeli policy have experienced accusations of anti-Semitism. While some accusations may be made spontaneously and individually, this accusation is often made cynically in order to silence criticism of Israeli actions and policies. As one former Israeli lawmaker explained on Democracy Now, “It’s a trick – we always use it…”
Usually pro-Israel groups and individuals make the accusations, generally publicly and often virulently. But in other cases, they arise within apparently pro-Palestinian groups and settings. In these cases, the charges are often whispered and then repeated by other activists who may not have examined them skeptically.These accusations sometimes even draw on misinformation perpetrated by Israel partisans, though this is usually unknown to those hearing such accusations, and to many of those repeating them.
Sadly, a diverse assortment of extremely committed people working for justice in Palestine have suffered such “insider” accusations, sometimes having their speaking events sabotaged by allegedly pro-Palestine organizations and individuals. Some of these attacks have been public; others remain in the realm of whispering campaigns.
I personally, and If Americans Knew as an organization, are among those who have been periodically targeted. The attacks against us have been whispering campaigns rather than public attacks.
I’ve been working for justice in Palestine ever since traveling as a freelance reporter to Gaza and the West Bank in early 2001. Shocked and moved by what I learned there, I founded If Americans Knew to give people the facts on this issue. I’ve been writing articles; creating media studies and videos; and speaking widely on this issue ever since. (You can see a 2006 video about me here.)
From the first, I have focused on reaching beyond the “choir” of people who already know about and sympathize with the Palestinian plight. I have sought ways to reach a broad audience, connect with Americans across the political spectrum and present the most factual, well-cited information possible – all with the goal of truly bringing an end to the ongoing Mideast tragedy, by affecting American policies that enable Israel’s actions. Effectiveness has always been my watchword. The tragedy is far too great for anything less.
When I first began my work, I was immediately accused of anti-Semitism by Israel partisans, despite the fact that I have a life history of working against bigotry and racism of all kinds. I participated in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and was arrested for civil disobedience in that activism. One of my very first articles on Israel-Palestine was “Choosing to Act: Anti-Semitism is Wrong.” We have made this into a handout and include it in virtually all the orders for materials that we send out.
Such unfounded attacks, I soon learned, were to be expected when one works on this issue. What surprised me more was that a few individuals who seemed to be working for peace in Palestine (though perhaps not necessarily justice) also took up this refrain. Their accusations, however, were never made publicly, nor did they address my actions or positions. Instead, they were whispered behind my back. (As If Americans Knew has become more effective, this campaign has escalated.)
Opposition by those who dislike our positions
The charges I heard about were leveled by a small number of activists and groups who disagreed with some of my positions:
Then, as now, I supported Palestinians’ right of return and ending US money to Israel. I considered the Israel lobby significant, and I refused to focus only on “the occupation” that began in 1967, ignoring the one that began in 1948 (and before). When the U.S. invaded Iraq, I also observed that neocons with close ties to Israel had played a significant role in pushing the U.S. to attack Iraq.
Some of those working on this issue at that time did not share these positions. While some were no doubt willing to simply disagree, some called me anti-Semitic for talking about these aspects of the issue.
In some cases, no doubt, this was genuine human error; in other cases, I suspect, it was to prevent my views, and the information supporting them, from becoming more widely known and shared. (Today, of course, these views are most likely shared by the large majority of activists on this issue – even some of those who previously opposed them now, I hope, endorse them.)
Despite these behind-the-scenes attempts to impede our work, If Americans Knew began to make more and more of an impact. Increasing numbers of people began to use our website, and people all over the country began to use our informational materials, which we have always striven to make especially professional, accurate, well-sourced and effective.
Various individuals made attempts to curb our increasing impact, and the whispering campaigns escalated. These behind-the-scenes, secretive attacks have been both painful and extremely difficult to confront. Should I defend myself, and thus call attention to the accusations and cause destructive disruption and dissension in this movement? Or ignore them, thus allowing them to continue?
Through the years I’ve chosen to do the latter. Now, however, I find that attempts to block my talks and the dissemination of our materials continue and have possibly grown even greater. And so I feel compelled to speak out and give a few examples of what has been occurring, in the hope of curtailing these sometimes successful efforts to prevent people from learning our information, which I believe is the purpose of this stealth campaign.
I suspect that the publication of my book and its extremely positive reception (we’ve already sold over 17,000 copies) has played a role in these increased efforts to prevent my talks.
I travel all over the U.S. and abroad to speak about the Palestine-Israel issue and the U.S. connection, If Americans Knew ships hundreds of thousands of informational materials (written by excellent diverse authors and researchers) to events and individuals, and I give media interviews to anyone who’s willing to consider the information I address. My goal is to reach every single person possible with essential facts to counter the misinformation so often being disseminated to Americans. I go to great pains to be accurate, transparent, and respectful of all people. I do not filter or censor who may post or share our materials or interview me, expecting my words and our materials to speak for themselves.
We believe all people are endowed with inalienable human rights regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality. We believe in justice, fairness, and compassion and in treating all human beings with respect, empathy, and in the manner in which we would wish to be treated.
Disseminating Our Information
Our materials and information are available to all. We feel it is essential that these facts be learned by every possible person.
The positions of If Americans Knew are represented in our statements and writings alone, and the views of those who distribute our materials, articles, or interviews do not necessarily represent those of If Americans Knew.
You can see our statements on our guiding principles to the right (also published in our mission statement and a similar statement is in a sidebar on this page).
Among this multitude of events and materials dissemination, I periodically hear of cases where one, a few, or sometimes even a group of “Palestine solidarity” activists have attempted to get my talks canceled or our materials blocked.
These are not public censorship attempts by pro-Israel zealots (though there are plenty of those). These are quiet actions to discredit me and If Americans Knew and to prevent our information from getting out, by small groups of individuals who raise their accusations behind my back; I only hear about them, generally, through private acquaintances or after the fact and am rarely given an opportunity to respond.
Some of those who spread such defamatory accusations may simply confuse the dissemination of facts they dislike with anti-Semitism. At times we all may not like some facts, we may wish they weren’t so, we may wish for people not to know about them, but discussing them is not bigotry.
Examining the founding of Israel, researching history, discussing the details of pro-Israel efforts, critiquing Israeli policy, championing the Palestinian right of return, investigating Israel’s victimization of others, opposing U.S. aid to Israel, and exposing Israeli war crimes are not anti-Semitic actions. Nor is exposing the Israel lobby in all its ramifications, examining Israel partisans’ role in the invasion of Iraq, or divulging information known to Israelis but hidden to non-Israelis.
If someone disagrees with the facts, analysis or judgments, so be it – let’s talk. But discussing facts and examining information is not bigoted, but rather necessary. I believe that suppressing facts and debate is ultimately harmful for all. And I believe that truth and justice is the only way to achieve a secure peace for all people.
Happily, despite attempts to undermine IAK and spread misinformation about us, there are vastly more activists and individuals who share our mission and are extremely supportive of our work than there are people who attack us. We frequently hear from individuals all over the country that our website and materials have been central to their work to reach Americans with the facts.
I was deeply moved when a recent talk I gave before a large, mainstream audience received a standing ovation. Organizers who go forward with my events consistently tell us how happy they are with my presentation. They describe my work as accurate, fair, reasoned, and compelling, and many have even told us my talk was the best presentation on Palestine they have heard.
My view is that the movement for justice in Palestine benefits from the participation of as many diverse groups and individuals as possible. We will not agree on everything, and at times we will have heated disagreements. But we’re all necessary, I believe, and important.
It is critical that we not allow internal (often, I suspect, initially planted) accusations to create destructive division, causing many people to focus on internal disputes, taking time away from the essential work we’re all doing to oppose Israeli oppression.
A few examples of attempts to block our information:
Below are a few examples of the feeble evidence given for these accusations. In many cases, and when accusations often initially arise online, it is difficult or even impossible for me to ascertain whether the individuals planting them are real people, or whether they are false identities created by Israel propagandists, given that Israel partisans, soldiers, students, and various trolls are known to have infiltrated the Internet in order to counter and discredit pro-Palestinian activism.
- One person was able to prevent a group from using any of our very popular, effective, and well-researched materials by claiming that one contained an author who was “anti-Semitic.” I have yet to learn who this supposedly “anti-Semitic” author was, though I’m guessing the reference was to an author named in a list of 21 suggested books on our particularly popular fact sheet called “The Catastrophe, How Palestine Became Israel.” That author is Israel Shahak, an Israeli professor who was praised by Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and numerous others. (If the group had asked us about this we could have clarified it for them.)
- Another time an event was postponed indefinitely because one member of the group “didn’t feel comfortable” with the topic – the history of US-Israel relations. Working for justice is not always comfortable, and in fact it is often very uncomfortable. Learning facts about this history – particularly about the ways organizations claiming to represent all Jewish Americans helped create the US policy of unconditional support for Israel – can be upsetting. When we face them head on, however, we are able to see ways to start changing these policies. As my Jewish-American allies know, those organizations never really represented all American Jews and have actually pursued policies that endanger the very people they claim to represent.
- Occasionally, self-identified “solidarity activists” object to telling information about the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Some accused me (again, not to my face) of being a “militarist” and/or “anti-Semitic” for supporting the right of survivors and family members abandoned by the US government and attacked by Israel to a full, public investigation of Israel’s ruthless assault, and for exposing the cover up on this incident by both the media, U.S. government, and the American Legion management. However, many people feel that informing the American public about the Liberty is one of the most effective ways to open newcomers’ eyes (particularly mainstream ones, who are, by definition, the majority of voters) to the truth about Israel and the U.S.
- Sometimes a preposterous effort is made to connect me to David Duke, because ten years ago his website re-posted (without permission, as is frankly common online) an article of mine originally published by the very progressive website CounterPunch. What these accusers don’t tell people is that the Duke website also has reposted articles by Robert Fisk, Philip Weiss, Chris Hedges, JJ Goldberg, Juan Cole, Stephen Lendman, James Petras, the Times of Israel, JTA,The Forward, Ha’aretz, etc.
- Some accuse me of racism, or right- or left-wing extremism, for accepting interview requests, as though I should only share my message with people who already agree with it. I give interviews whenever possible to whoever requests it, within my capabilities and availability. These accusers claim that me giving an interview indicates that I endorse the views of my interviewers. It certainly does not. In fact, I believe that the people who most need to hear my message are those who do not agree with me, whether because they support Israeli aggression, Islamophobia, or any other forms of supremacism or injustice. This bizarre line of reasoning holds that appearances or interviews constitute“associations” or “affiliations” with the interviewing groups or individuals. This would mean that Professor George Bisharat’s appearance on Fox News indicated his endorsement of Fox, that the Corries’ “exclusive interview” by the American Free Press demonstrated that they worked with AFP, and that Ray McGovern’s interview with the same publication meant that he, too, was associated with AFP. This is both absurd and harmful.To reiterate, because this is important: I have a policy of appearing, within time constraints, on any show that invites me (as, apparently, do many other committed individuals), because I believe the information I have to share should be heard by everyone. Similarly, I do not attempt to police who reposts my writings and am happy for my articles and our materials to be shared far and wide, in the belief that they speak for themselves. The posting of my work doesn’t indicate my endorsement, nor does it indicate that the poster speaks for me or IAK – only our statements do that. I have appeared on radio programs across the political spectrum from the far left to the far right, and some years ago even went on a right-wing Israeli talk show. I knew ahead of time that this show would be unpleasant, and, indeed the host frequently turned off my microphone while another individual attacked me on air with false claims that I was left unable to defend against. But I felt it was important to even try to reach Israeli listeners, including conservative ones.In the U.S., Israel partisans are working to inject fear and hatred of Palestinians, Muslims, Arabs, and Islam into every sector of U.S. society and are particularly targeting conservative portions of the U.S. with this poison. This makes it especial important that I and others work to give the real facts to every portion of our population – without exception. (There are a multitude of important facts that I try to remember to give all audiences, including the fact that Zionism does not represent all Jews and that there are many Israelis who oppose governmental policies. When I once forgot to include enough of this type of information, I went on the show again to clarify it.)
- These behind-the-scenes accusers claim that I have “worked with racist groups.” In reality, I have given talks and workshops at events hosted by respected pro-justice organizations, including Sabeel, Al-Awda, Code Pink, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, American Muslims for Palestine, Tree of Life, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Birzeit Club, CAIR, Veterans for Peace, Fourteen Friends of Palestine, Rebuilding Alliance, Alternate Focus, Palestine American Bridge, the Jerusalem Fund, etc. (Ironically, some of the accusers who attempt to smear me with the “racism” slur, despite its falseness, have a history of working with Zionists, despite the fact that many people throughout the world find Zionism a racist, genocidal ideology.)
My speaking events have been in numerous respected and diverse venues: college campuses (throughout the word), libraries, community centers, World Affairs Councils, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, churches, mosques, peace and justice venues, Media Summits, retirement communities, high schools, bookstores, the National Press Club, etc. Speeches I’ve given have twice been broadcast by C-Span. None of my multitudes of talks and articles have ever been called racist, even by those who attempt to defame me through alleged guilt through association. Our published policy has always been:“We are happy to provide information and speakers on Israel-Palestine to individuals and groups of all religious, ethnic, racial, and political backgrounds. If Americans Knew supports justice, truth, equal rights and respect for all human beings; and we oppose racism, supremacism, and discrimination of any and all forms.”
As I mentioned above, these strange insider attacks sometimes draw from attacks on me by the pro-Israel establishment.
As multitudes of others working on this issue have experienced, the standard method of attack by Israel apologists is to defame anyone speaking critically of Israel. The more public a person is, the more effort will go into defaming him or her. I receive death threats and offensive and obscene emails and phone calls. The Internet is also rife with venomous statements against me and If Americans Knew.
There are entire websites and blogs attacking me and If Americans Knew. I am sometimes called a Nazi, or a communist, or a right-winger, etc. – whichever conflicting claim is most negative to the target audience. Fourteen years’ worth of my writings, talks, comments, statements, interviews on obscure radio programs, videos by international media, etc. are scoured for the inevitable random error, poorly articulated response, stumbling statement, or careless mistake that anyone at some point will make, myself included.
My actions and philosophy are misrepresented, statements are invented or taken out of context, “transcripts” of some interviews are posted while related ones are left out, etc.
Judge me and our organization by our body of work, not by whatever else may have been posted on a site featuring my work, or said by a different interviewee on the same radio program, or shared by a person who’s disseminated our materials, nor by an imperfect response I may have given in the moment to my myriad interviewers, many of whom are difficult to hear via Internet phone connections. And please judge us as gently and fairly in any case of imperfection as you would like to be judged yourselves.
As we see the carnage in Palestine continue, children maimed and killed, the entire population of Gaza imprisoned, people continually rounded up by Israeli forces, individuals routinely detained, humiliated and oppressed, we feel an urgent need to disseminate the compelling facts about Palestine even more widely to the American public, whose tax dollars and government are enabling these intolerable actions.
Our small, hardworking staff of committed, principled individuals is doing everything possible to bring about the change that is so desperately needed, often at personal inconvenience and even personal pain. That is why it is so deeply troubling to continue to learn of false accusations used to impede our work and block our information – attacks that surely would spur many people to simply give up and stay silent.
If you hear negative things about me or If Americans Knew, we hope you’ll contact us to discuss them. In some cases we may correct misinformation, clarify context, or explain our thinking. In other cases we may benefit from your constructive ideas and criticism and improve our work. In still other cases we may simply have to agree to disagree, but at least we can do this in a friendly, informed, and non-destructive way.
We have decided it is now time to speak about this publicly in order to stop these destructive whispering attacks. We hope others will help us.