.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Stand With Us' response to the Forward - that The Forward didn't publish

I wrote about hit piece in the Forward last week, written by former Ha'aretz reporter Nathan Guttman, that painted the pro-Israel organization Stand With Us as an unethical right-wing group that should be, according to Guttman, registered as a foreign agent.

Stand With Us was understandably not happy with the article and asked The Forward to publish their response.

It will surprise few that a left-wing anti-Zionist newspaper that pretends to support free speech refused.

So here is SWU's letter to the Forward that was not published:

To The Forward,
StandWithUs appreciates your recent coverage of our dynamic growth, and of our multiple educational and advocacy efforts in cities around the world.
However, we were disturbed by the bizarre angle of your article, which tried to discredit us as “right wing,” and absurdly asked whether StandWithUs should register as an agent of a foreign government even though your own sources emphatically rejected this notion. You even tried to imply that there is something suspect about our funding sources though the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and Birthright Israel can hardly be considered suspect.
Your readers deserve to know the facts.
StandWithUs does not and has never advocated specific policies for Israel.  Our work and our respect for Israel’s democratically elected government is not contingent on which parties are in power.  Instead, since our founding, our mission has been to counter the vicious anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda campaign that was unleashed along with the Intifada in September, 2000.  Our goal is to educate the public about Israel—and empower others to educate their communities—to counter the demonizing propaganda and to make it possible to have reasonable, informed conversations about Israel’s policies on campuses and in communities.  
Your readers should be informed about the virulence of the anti-Israel propaganda campaign.  Israel is the only modern state whose right to exist is still questioned.  If you consider support for the existence of the Jewish State a right wing position, then indeed we are right wing. Yet you repeatedly confused anti-Israel propaganda with “reasonable criticism” of Israeli policies.  But the boycott  movement against Israel is not just critical of Israel’s occupation and settlements as you claimed.  The movement opposes the very existence of the Jewish state.  Read their literature and their websites which are biased screeds that ignore ongoing terrorism and falsify facts.  We objected to the Israeli soldiers’ group speaking on campuses not because they are critical of the Israeli government  but because they misrepresent the IDF to vilify it and contribute to the malicious misinformation about Israel on American campuses.
Similarly, your article misrepresented why we object to J Street. It is not because J Street “criticizes” Israel's government policies, but rather because it attempts to get the American government to strong arm Israel into adopting specific policies that Israeli voters clearly rejected in their democratic elections. It is an effort to bypass Israel’s democracy. Furthermore, J Street has often supported blatant demonization of Israel, as when it tried to facilitate bringing Richard Goldstone and the infamous UN Goldstone Report to Congressional members.  Even Goldstone himself has admitted the inaccuracy and bias of that report.
Indeed, it seems you had to search hard to find some evidence that would justify your criticism of StandWithUs.  Though you claimed that StandWithUs has many critics, the only one you cited by name is well-known for his extremist  views.  Your criticism of some specific facts in our educational materials is simply erroneous .  Despite your claim, Israel’s founding in May, 1948, did not cause the Palestinian refugee problem.  Indeed, no responsible historian, including Benny Morris, disputes the fact that had Palestinian leaders accepted the UN Partition plan instead of launching a war to destroy the newly declared state, there would have been no refugees and a Palestinian Arab state would exist today.   The Danny Ayalon video simply laid out the historical facts about the West Bank. It is disputed territory, and both Palestinians and Israelis have legitimate claims to it.  What policies Israel and the Palestinians choose in light of these facts is a political question that will hopefully be hammered out in negotiations.  StandWithUs does not recommend any specific policies, but rather elucidates the facts and history so there can be reasonable discussions about different policy options.
It is a shame that The Forwardwhile seeming to congratulate our growth and achievements during the last ten years,  nonetheless chose to malign our efforts. 
These are difficult times for Israel.  The Arab spring has created instability in the region and allowed the rise of Islamist forces that oppose Israel’s existence.  Iran is racing to develop nuclear weapons and constantly reiterates that it wants to wipe Israel off the map.  Hezbollah and Hamas continue amassing arms. The anti-Israel propaganda campaign, often called the “new anti-Semitism,” (for good reason)  persistently tries to make inroads in liberal Western democracies.  StandWithUs alerts and educates the public about these challenges, while the Forward minimizes them, doing a disservice to its readers.
Roz Rothstein, CEO
      StandWithUs
_________________________________________

If you find the original Forward piece to be offensive and (as I had written) smarmy, feel free to go there and comment.

Again, a disclaimer: I have done some work with SWU.

UPDATE: On December 7, the Forward published a condensed and edited version of the response.