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April 15, 2013

Anti-Israel Organizations Attack Israel with Tax Day-Themed Campaigns

Today, April 15, is “Tax Day,” the date by which all Americans are required to submit their tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While it is an appropriate day to spend a few minutes thinking about what our government spends our tax dollars on, there are several anti-Israel organizations that are capitalizing on today’s deadline to initiate campaigns about what the U.S. government should not spend its money on: aid to Israel.

In the past week, two prominent anti-Israel organizations have launched a new website and a new report calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel. Although a priority that has long been at the forefront of the domestic anti-Israel movement’s agenda, it has picked up steam in recent years due to economic concerns caused by the Great Recession, sequestration and budget deficits.

The first campaign, titled “Demand a Refund,” was initiated by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation in coordination with American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and CODEPINK. The campaign’s website features a petition from taxpayers to President Obama which reads, in part, “As a taxpayer, I am outraged that your administration is reportedly opening negotiations to give Israel up to $40 billion in U.S. taxpayer-financed weapons,” an apparent reference to defense weaponry and technology that the U.S. sells to Israel.

The petition claims that Israel uses American weapons to “commit systematic human rights abuses” and “oppress Palestinians.” It also criticizes President Obama for increasing the amount of aid to Israel during his administration. The organizers of the petition hoped to gain 10,000 signatures by today (the campaign was launched last week). At present there are a little more than 3,000 signatories.

And just last week, the anti-Israel organization If Americans Knew (IAK) released a new report titled “The Staggering Cost of Israel to Americans” to coincide with Tax Day. Originally published in 1998, the new version of the report was written by Pamela Olson, a new analyst for IAK.

Although the report makes similar allegations to the anti-aid petition highlighted above – noting, for example, that “it is critical to examine why we lavish so much aid on Israel” – the language cited in this report is far more egregious. It claims that U.S. aid to Israel is a result of the “Israel lobby” and insists that the U.S.-Israel relationship harms the U.S. because Israel causes “rage and resentment among billions of people… and sells America’s military secrets to its enemies.”

In its mention of the “Israel lobby,” the report goes so far as to allege that the U.S. and Israel do not enjoy a strong relationship because of shared values or interests but because “Congressmen receive payments and support from the lobby in exchange for their loyalty.” The report also asserts that U.S. aid to Israel makes the possibility for peace between Israel and the Palestinians “even more distant.”

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September 24, 2012

Anti-Israel Teach-in Held During Occupy Wall Street “Free University Week”

A working group affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement held a teach-in over the weekend on advocating for and supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel. The group, known as the “Global Justice Working Group,” used the session to demonize Israel and to demonstrate how the pro-BDS agenda goes hand-in-hand with the goals of OWS.

A sign at the Occupy BDS teach-in New York

The event was held on Saturday, September 22, as part of an OWS-organized weeklong program in New York called “Free University Week.”

Speakers during the event condemned Israel as a “European settler movement” and Israeli policy as extremely oppressive. Riham Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and activist with Adalah-NY, a local pro-boycott group, described the situation for Palestinians as a “struggle of indigenous people against colonizing settler tactics.” Another speaker accused Israel of having “violated every article in the 4th Geneva Convention.” The speakers represented a variety of domestic anti-Israel groups, including Adalah-NY, Punks against Apartheid, New Yorkers against the Cornell-Technion Partnership and CODEPINK’s “Stolen Beauty” campaign, which calls for a boycott of AHAVA products.

The activists also repeatedly sought to demonstrate that  the goals of OWS and the BDS movement are interconnected. One OWS speaker, for example, warned the participants that Israel trains American law enforcement and equips police with weaponry and riot control tools. A representative of the Occupy Oakland movement then deliberately “connected the dots,” alleging that the “same type of tear gas being used against them [Occupy Oakland] is being used against the Palestinians.”

Saturday’s event represents the latest effort by anti-Israel activists to inject their cause into the now year-old OWS social protest movement. Up until now, these efforts – which included waving anti-Israel signs and chanting anti-Israel slogans at OWS demonstrations – were not officially sanctioned by OWS or any of its affiliated groups. In what could be a possible shift, the teach-in was sponsored by a group formally tied to OWS and was promoted on the official New York General Assembly website, which hosts content from “dozens of groups working together to organize and set the vision for the #occupywallstreet movement.

While one might imagine that a group called “Global Justice Working Group” would focus on a variety of issues of global injustice, the group seems to maintain a singular focus on criticizing Israel. Indeed, its Facebook page and website are regularly updated with anti-Israel content, including claims that Israeli checkpoints are a “tool of suppression” and calls for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to refuse to perform in Israel. [The concert was held as planned on September 10.]

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March 7, 2012

Upcoming Conferences to Promote Anti-Israel Initiatives

Two upcoming left-wing antiwar conferences, one taking place at Pace University in New York next weekend and the second taking place in Stamford, Connecticut the weekend after that, will have a significant Israel angle. These conferences are scheduled to include sessions on a one-state solution, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel, opposition to a U.S. or Israel attack against Iran, and more.

The antiwar and anti-Israel movements have long sought to create common cause and unite their objectives. In recent years, many of the larger anti-Israel rallies and gatherings have been co-organized by local and national antiwar organizations like ANSWER. In turn, antiwar events are often marked by anti-Israel slogans and claims that Israel is responsible for pressuring the U.S. into wars in the Middle East.

The following are some details about the planned anti-Israel sessions at the two upcoming conferences:

Left Forum:
Every year, left-wing activists participate in a major gathering called “Left Forum.” The conference, which in the past has attracted several thousand attendees, is titled “Occupy the System: Confronting Global Capitalism.” It will take place at Pace from March 16-18, 2012. 

The conference appears to have an anti-Israel agenda that goes beyond Israel’s alleged role in U.S. foreign policy. It will include sessions on Israeli “pinkwashing” (the claim that Israel showcases its progressive record on LGBT issues to cover up its policies toward Palestinians); a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; “resisting” a U.S.-Israel war against Iran; Israel as representative of the global 1%; and BDS as a form of “corporate resistance.”

A description for the 1% session, titled “Israel: Strategic Asset to the Global 1%,” reads:

“We will analyze the impact of Zionist strategies in the US including the increased violation and erosion of civil rights, attacks on our movements, and the escalated targeting of Arab, South East Asian, and Muslim communities and communities of color.”

United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) Conference:
UNAC, a newly formed coalition comprised of two dozen antiwar groups, will hold its first annual conference in Stamford, Connecticut from March 23-25.

Conference attendees will vote on two major agenda items during the conference, one of which is a proposal on ending U.S. aid to Israel. The conference will also include a session on BDS as tool of “nonviolent resistance” featuring Nancy Kricorian, an activist with CODEPINK, and Ethan Heitner, an anti-Israel cartoonist.

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