The fight against anti-Semitism has been waged for a long time. Established Jewish organizations have been active in this field for decades. Some are international such as the World Jewish Congress, which created a European associate, the European Jewish Congress a number of years ago. Nowadays the two seem to operate rather independently of each other.
Another one is B’nai B’rith International. Yet others are American organizations that are also active internationally. The two major ones that go back well before prewar days are the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. The Simon Wiesenthal Center joined them a few decades ago. Much information on the activities of these well-known organizations can be found on their websites.1
Many other organizations fighting and exposing anti-Semitism have a national character. An important example is the Community Security Trust, the defense organization of British Jewry. Such organizations exist in several countries. Sometimes the fight against anti-Semitism is dealt with by an umbrella body of the national Jewish community or its associates.
The rapid increase in anti-Israelism and the recognition of its major anti-Semitic aspects has led to many organizations having added this issue to their activities. Sometimes the reverse has also taken place. In the Netherlands, CIDI was founded to serve as an Israel defense and information organization. With the increase of anti-Semitic incidents in the country over the past decade, the fight against anti-Semitism has become an important activity for it.
Of a different nature yet important in the exposure of Arab hate-mongering by documenting it, is the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), founded in 1998. Its focus is global and not confined to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It translates media material from the Arab world into English, and occasionally from other Muslim countries as well. MEMRI also deals with the two Palestinian entities. One also finds case studies at MEMRI on specific issues in several Arab and Muslim countries. Its website provides much informative material.
The rapid growth in anti-Israeli activity has led over the past decades to the emergence of grassroots organizations that fight this trend. Most of them have specific targets. They mainly combat one type of anti-Israelism in their specific country.
It is impossible to give an overview of all the organizations in the various fields. A few examples will illustrate how such organizations function. This can best be done by analyzing them according to categories of perpetrators of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism.
Several grassroots organizations view spreading information about Israel as a major task. One example is StandWithUs, an international nonprofit organization that was founded in 2001 and says it believes that “education is the road to peace.”
It writes about itself:
StandWithUs is dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues. We believe that knowledge of the facts will correct common prejudices about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and will promote discussions and policies that can help promote peace in the region. Through print materials, speakers, pro- grams, conferences, missions to Israel, campaigns, and internet resources, we ensure that the story of Israel’s achievements and ongoing challenges is told on campuses and in communities, the media, libraries, and churches around the world.
Based in Los Angeles, StandWithUs has offices across the United States and in various countries abroad, including Israel.
To those who want to combat anti-Israeli activity in their own communities, StandWithUs offers the services of its professional staff members and volunteers. It says that it will work with students on college and university campuses throughout North American to provide them with training and education, resources, and funding for events.2
As biased anti-Israeli media hold such a prominent place in the demonization of Israel, the monitoring of media bias has acquired a prominent place in the fight against anti-Israelism. The more general organizations fighting anti- Israelism and anti-Semitism frequently criticize the media, but they often do not do so systematically.
Currently, several organizations monitor the foreign media’s reporting on Israel-related matters systematically. Most pro-Israeli media watchers write in English and mainly deal with media in that language. There are also some in other languages. Already in the mid-1970s Si Kenen, editor of the AIPAC-affiliated, Washington-based Near East Report, initiated a media-monitoring column titled “The Monitor.”3
Pro-Israeli media monitors typically have several of the following characteristics:
- They focus on the Arab-Israeli
- They supply otherwise inaccessible information—for instance, from Arabic sources
—to policymakers and stimulate activists to react to the media concerned. Their ultimate aim is to remove the media bias.
- They have websites where their material is published
- They regularly publish their findings, either on their website or via emails to their
- Media watchers may speak behind the scenes to a media organization that has published biased material and seek to reach an agreement.
- Some also lobby foreign governments and authorities.4
These monitors have also become a counterweight to pro-Palestinian media watchers who claim that the media is biased against the Palestinians.
Among the major pro-Israeli media watchers are CAMERA and HonestReporting. Both organizations search for inaccurate information in coverage of Israel, or doctored photos incorrectly portraying Israelis—particularly the IDF.
CAMERA also operates a second website, Camera on Campus, and a blog called In Focus. Both of these sites focus on correcting falsified information demonizing Israel that is disseminated on college campuses. These internet resources also offer students one-on-one assistance in directly combating anti- Israeli bias on campus. CAMERA covers a wide range of media in the United States and is also active to some extent outside of it. It methodically monitors TV, radio, and newspapers and obtains part of its “media raw material” by subscribing to databases. CAMERA places advertisements in newspapers and frequently issues requests to its email lists of thousands of activists to send letters and op-eds to the media.
HonestReporting grew out of a private British initiative after the second Palestinian uprising began. In 2001, it became an independent foundation. It has defined seven categories of media bias: misleading definitions and terminology, unbalanced reporting, opinions disguised as news, lack of context, selective omission, using true facts to draw untrue conclusions, and distortion of facts. Because of the anti-Israel campaigns, pro-Israeli media watching has also become an example for general media watching. As so many media are biased, there is a need for systematic media watching in many places on multiple issues, unrelated to the Arab world. Thus this pro-Israeli media watching can serve as a model for other monitoring groups that are unrelated to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or to Jews.
Individual Media Watchers
There have been and still are individual media watchers as well. One of the early ones was the late David Bar-Illan, former editor of The Jerusalem Post.5 Nowadays Tom Gross regularly informs about the media.6 Individual studies have also been undertaken on specific media. A prominent example is Asserson’s multiple studies on the BBC’s manifold biases. Others include analyses of the Australian daily The Age,7 the Philadelphia Inquirer,8 and the French press agency L’Agence France Presse.9
Over the past decades various individuals have made important contribu- tions to pro-Israeli media watching. Sergio Minerbi, former Israeli ambassador to the European Community, analyzed six documentaries focusing on the Middle East of the French-speaking Belgian TV station RTBF from 1979 to 1982. In 1985, his findings were published in a book.10
In 1987, Henry Weinberg devoted an entire chapter of his book The Myth of the Jew in France to the anti-Israeli bias of the French leftwing daily Le Monde.11
In 1980 this leading French paper had published an article by the academic M.L. Snoussi, titled “Double Nationality, Double Allegiance,” which “openly leveled the charge of treason against French Jewry.” Weinberg remarked that the article “contained phrases which in other democratic countries would be considered as incitement to racial violence.”
After terrorists bombed a synagogue on Rue Copernic in Paris in October 1980, Le Monde published an article by Jean-Marie Paupert on its front page. Weinberg noted that it was full of anti-Semitic clichés. Le Monde at the time already used several of the techniques that have become so familiar today. Much of its coverage of the Middle East was assigned to pro-Arab Jewish journalists. Frequently when citing Israeli “sources,” they quoted Israeli extremists such as Felicia Langer, Uri Avneri, and Matityahu Peled without mentioning their isolation from the Israeli mainstream.
Weinberg summed this up by saying that the paper expressed “consistently unfair and excessive criticism of the Jewish state and made for the acceptance of anti-Semitic expression as a legitimate means of public debate.”12
NGO Monitor analyzes the international NGO community. The organization’s primary goals, as postulated in its mission statement, are to provide information and analysis, promote accountability, and support discussion of the reports and activities of NGOs claiming to advance human rights and humanitarian agendas.
NGO Monitor achieves these goals by producing reports and analyses of NGO bias. In particular, it exposes NGOs working in the Middle East that often distort “universal human rights” to promote partisan and ideological agendas not included in their mission statements.13
The organization also states that it aims to “end the practice used by certain self-declared ‘humanitarian NGOs’ of exploiting the label ‘universal human rights values’ to promote politically and ideologically motivated agendas.”14
NGO Monitor’s monograph series, which is not only devoted to issues concerning Israel, includes titles such as: Second Class Rights: How Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch Fail Women in the Middle East; NGO Malpractice: The Political Abuse of Medicine, Morality, and Science; Spanish Gov– ernment Funding for NGOs: 2009-2011—Assessing Transparency, Accountability, and Impact on Israel; NGO “Lawfare”: Exploitation of Courts in the Israeli-Arab Conflict; The Politics of Canadian Government Funding for Advocacy NGOs.15
A number of organizations watch and expose negative developments in the world of Islam. They usually do not focus on matters concerning Israel specifically, though they may mention hate attacks against Israel or Jews.
One organization that specifically addresses Palestinian hate-mongering is Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). It was established in 1996. PMW monitors the Palestinian Arabic-language media and scrutinizes the Palestinian Authority’s culture and society from many perspectives, including studies on summer camps, poetry, schoolbooks, religious ideology, crossword puzzles, and much else. As it is so common in Palestinian and other Arab societies to make radically different statements in Arabic and, to foreign audiences, in English, PMW sees documenting these disparities as an important task.
PMW has exposed the fact that, although the PA appears to recognize Israel’s existence to foreign media, it does not do so in its domestic media or school systems. Another example of PMW’s activities is that it has exposed internationally a video of a song that was taught on children’s shows aired on PA state TV on eight different occasions. This song names Israeli cities as being part of “greater Palestine.”16 In addition, PMW has translated Palestinian schoolbooks that call all of Israel “Palestine” and make no mention of Israel’s right to exist.17
The main international group acting against academic demonization of Israel is Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). It was founded in 2002. SPME strives to counter the anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism that now pervade college campuses globally, especially in “intellectual debate” and in the classroom. SPME strives for academic discourse on the Middle East in which Israel is acknowledged as a sovereign Jewish state that needs secure borders. In addition to fighting distortions about Israel in classrooms, SPME also tries to stop anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli events on campuses.18
Its cofounder and first president, Edward Beck, considered that one of SPME’s major achievements was the signing by more than ten thousand academics from over one thousand institutions worldwide of a statement written by Professor Alan Dershowitz and Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg, which expressed solidarity with Israeli academics. Among the signatories were thirty-three Nobel Laureates and fifty-eight college and university presidents. Its essence was: “if one boycotts Israeli academics and professionals, one boy- cotts us.”19
Later, SPME played a major role with the same approach in the fight against the proposed boycott of Israeli academia by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. On this issue it also mobilized thousands of academics and a number of Nobel Prize winners who made a similar statement.
The Fight Against Academic Bias
For a few years in the past decade, Bar-Ilan University was active in fighting foreign boycott attempts against Israeli universities. It also had a Bar-Ilan University-based International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB). In 2007, a full-page ad sponsored by the American Jewish Committee was published in The New York Times in which close to three hundred American university and college presidents stated that they would not work with institutions that were boycotting Israeli academics. The ad said, “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too.”20 Later the number of signatories rose to over 150. Over twenty Canadian universities came out against the boycott as well. Another organization that advocates for the Jewish people and Israel, particularly on university campuses in North America, is the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Following in the first Jewish Supreme Court justice’s legacy, this center says about its mission and values that it “will provide the research resources, public policy education, and legal advocacy needed to fight this battle within the broader context of the pursuit of universal principles of justice.”21 Some of the Center’s publications include a Best Practices Guide for Combating Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism and the Campus Left. It also created law-student chapters at select American law schools.22
Israel Academia Monitor (IAM) monitors Israeli academics, exposing Israeli academics at Israeli universities who abuse their positions by condemning Israeli actions or defaming their own universities. IAM states that it “publicizes the actions of these individuals through their website and the advocate measures [sic] that will harm Israel in general and their universities in particular by using unbalanced prejudiced arguments that fail to live up to the scholarship standards expected of the universities they represent.”23
Fighting Bias in Schoolbooks
IMPACT-SE, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, is an Israeli organization that “endeavors to present a clear picture of how different countries instruct and educate their youth with regard to different religions, societies, cultures, democratic values and the ‘other.’”24
Their work primarily focuses on counteracting and publicizing fallacious information about Israel published in Middle Eastern textbooks. For example, IMPACT-SE publicized that a Palestinian textbook teaches students that Hitler was a role model.25
The Institute for Curriculum Services is a small American initiative that promotes accuracy on Jews, Judaism, and Israel in American primary and secondary schools. To do this, they focus on textbooks and teachers. Their website says: “ICS is dedicated to promoting accurate instructional material and instruction on Jews, Judaism, and Israel for American K-12 students. Its work impacts the millions of public and private school students who learn about Jews, Judaism, and Israel in social studies classes each year.”26
The Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) is a grassroots organization that initiates legal actions on behalf of Israel and others. It was established in 2003. Shurat HaDin says that it combats hatred toward Israel by exposing and financially weakening global terrorists, many of whom are intent on destroying Israel. It sees itself as an Israeli-based civil rights organization and legal-aid fund that tries to fight terror.
The organization assists in the “War on Terror” by pursuing legal action against terror organizations and representing the victims of terror on a global scale. In addition, they also pursue legal action against banks and other organizations that may be assisting terror groups financially. Shurat HaDin also works to educate the public about terror funding through educational speaker series, publications, and missions that it sponsors.
Part of Shurat HaDin’s mission statement reads:
We tend to think of the fight against terrorism as a burden that falls mainly on the shoulders of government—our military, diplomatic, homeland security, and law-enforcement agencies. Yet there is one area where private citizens can play a leading role: In stopping the flow of funds to terror organizations. Beginning in the 1990s, Western countries, and especially the United States, passed laws making it possible for victims of terror to sue the regimes that sponsor terror, banks that transfer funds to terror groups, front organizations that pretend to serve charitable causes, and even the terrorists themselves. For the first time, terror victims and their families have a chance to fight back through the courts.
The organization claims that it has attained over $1 billion in judgments against terrorist organizations and state sponsors, the freezing of $600 million in terror assets, and $120 million in recoveries on behalf of victims or their families.27
Exposing Christian Hate-Mongering
In several other important areas of the anti-Israeli propaganda war, no orga- nizations are active systematically. CAMERA has activities in the fight against Christian hate-mongers and anti-Israeli boycotters. Its analyst Dexter van Zile is an expert in this field. While his expertise mainly concerns the United States, he has also published on anti-Israelism in the World Council of Churches and the Sabeel organization.28
An expert in the field at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, also exposes Christian anti-Semitism mainly in the United States.29 NGO Monitor’s expert Yitzhak Santis has also published analyses of various Christian Israel-hate NGOs, including several Catholic ones.30
In view of the major role of Christians in hate propaganda against Israel, this is one of the areas where the absence of a more systematic pro-Israeli monitoring body is heavily felt. Other areas where this is the case are trade- union anti-Israeli incitement and the systematic monitoring of high schools, a domain where the anti-Semites and Israel-haters of the future may be educated.
1 http://www.worldjewishcongress.org, http://www.eurojewcong.org, http://www. bnaibrith.org, http://www.adl.org, http://www.ajc.org, http://www.wiesenthal. com/site/pp.asp?c=lsKWLbPJLnF&b=6212365#.Uvorr2KSyKA.
3 I. L. Kenen, Israel’s Defense Line (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1981), 320.
4 Manfred Gerstenfeld and Ben Green, “Watching the Pro-Israeli Media Watchers,” Jewish Political Studies Review 16, 3-4 (Fall 2004): 33-58.
5 David Bar-Illan, Eye on the Media (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Post, 1993).
7 Tzvi Fleischer, “Israel in the Australian Media,” Jewish Political Studies Review
3, 4 (Fall 2005): 133-146.
8 Gerstenfeld and Green, “Watching the Pro-Israeli Media Watchers.”
9 “L’AFP, agence indépendante ou gouvernementale?,” Observatoire du Monde Juif, 2, March 2002. (French)
10 Sergio I. Minerbi, Mentir Avec Les Images (Brussels: Louis Musin, 1985). (French)
11 Henry H. Weinberg, The Myth of the Jew in France 1967-1982 (Oakville, ON: Mosaic Press, 1987).
13 “About NGO Monitor,” NGO Monitor, 2011.
15 Ibid., http://www.ngo-monitor.org/index.php.
16 Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “PA TV teaches children all Israel is ‘Palestine,’” Palestinian Media Watch, January 5, 2014.
17 “PA Depicts a World without Israel,” Palestinian Media Watch.
18 “About SPME,” Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, 2010, 2011.
19 Edward S. Beck, “Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME): Fighting Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism on the University Campuses Worldwide,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed., Academics against Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2007), 137.
20 Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed., Academics against Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2007), 61.
21 “Mission and Values,” Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.
22 “Brandeis Center Announces Formation of Law Student Chapters,” Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, October 31, 2013.
23 “Board and Mission Statement,” Israel Academia Monitor.
24 “IMPACT-SE’s Mission Statement,” IMPACT-SE, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
25 “Impact-SE’s Articles and Papers,” IMPACT-SE, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education.
26 “About ICS,” Institute for Curriculum Services, 2012.
28 Dexter van Zile, “Updating the Ancient Infrastructure of Christian Contempt: Sabeel,” Jewish Political Studies Review 23, 1-2 (Spring 2011); Dexter van Zile, “Broadcasting a Lethal Narrative: The World Council of Churches and Israel,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 109, August 1, 2011.
29 Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, “Mainline American Christians Against Israel,” Israel National News, July 8, 2013.
30 Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Yitzhak Santis, “Catholic Aid Societies Pro- mote Hatred of Israel,” Israel National News, December 20, 2013.