It may be a classic “David and Goliath” story, but people without a vested interest in the Muslim-Jewish conflict may not be sure which player is which. After all, the propaganda machine keeps on spinning, and various forms of media throughout the world keep on reporting about the so-called victimization of one party by the other.
According to Camie Davis in an article called “The Organization of the Islamic Conference Propaganda Machine” (American Thinker, July 6, 2011), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the largest voting bloc at the UN, has an agenda to make it politically incorrect to say anything negative about Islam and to “blame all of the world’s problems on Israel, specifically the Jewish communities called ‘settlements.’” The United Nations and President Barack Obama are happy to cooperate, according to the article, and people who lack the facts to correct the spin are buying it too.
“The spinners are running everything in reverse,” said Roz Rothstein, who created StandWithUs 10 years ago to fill a niche of giving people tools to tell the truth about Israel. Now opening its 15th office “to bring these tools to bear locally,” StandWithUs is arming students and community activists the information and artifacts to inform communities about the real truth concerning human rights abuses, religious apartheid and sexual apartheid. The international organization with offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Santa Cruz, Davis, Seattle, Denver, Detroit, Chicago, Wisconsin, France and the United Kingdom is dedicated to bringing peace to the Middle East by educating about Israel and challenging the misinformation that often surrounds the Middle East conflict.
“People need this kind of information to stand up to the accusations,” Rothstein, who serves as the organization’s CEO, said. “Mountains of work need to be done, so you don’t lose your narrative.”
Rothstein wants everyone to understand the math and the history in the Middle East. There are 56 Islamic countries that refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. As stated by Ruth Wisse in an article called “How Much Land Is Enough?” (Harvard Crimson, December 3, 2007), “From Morocco to Afghanistan, from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Aden, the territory covering 5.25 million miles belongs to states of the Arab League — 18 independent Arab states and three part-Arab Muslim states, Mauritania, Somalia and Djibouti… Along the Mediterranean, south of Lebanon, east of Egypt, and west of Jordan, is the 8,000 square mile Jewish state of Israel — the only Jewish homeland that ever was and ever will be. The population of Israel, 7 million, is 20 percent Arab. The ratio of Arab to Jewish land is 640:1.”
There are other facts, according to Rothstein. Israel is a democratic country with a value system shared by freedom-loving people worldwide. Jewish civilization and national identity were formed over 3,000 years ago in the land of Israel. Some leaders in Israel’s neighborhood do not share the same “value system.” They are attempting to dominate people worldwide by imposing their own value system.
“By presenting the Muslim-Jewish conflict in context, we can brand the other side as they have been branding us for years,” explained Howard Charlop, Orange County coordinator for StandWithUs. “We can carry the message to the UN, media, human rights organizations and other religious and ethnic groups. In context, Israel will become the Palestinians!”
Additionally, according to Charlop, “StandWithUs is widening the lens and connecting the dots, going straight to the brain to connect with people. You have to convince people that when Israel is threatened, everyone is threatened. Unless you show how other people are threatened, they’re not going to care.”
He explained, “Israel is like the canary in the mine shaft. What’s happening to the Jews of Israel can happen to Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and others. Success in dominating the Jews would be a great victory for Muslim extremists. It would give them the confidence and strength to seek domination over others. Freedom-loving people must learn the lesson from history about the consequences of appeasement and stand with Israel. In 1938 Hitler demanded that Czechoslavakia cede to Germany the Sudetenland in a ‘land for peace deal.’ Britain and France complied. As a consequence more than 50 million people may have been killed in World War II.”
Economic wealth, oil and gas, religion and hatred of “Western Colonialists” are used by Muslim Extremists to remain in power, according to Charlop. Middle East regimes have Sovereign Wealth Funds (similar to mutual funds) gained from oil revenues totaling more than $1.5 trillion. Rulers lead lavish life styles. For example, a prince from Saudi Arabia owns a $500 million flying palace. Yasser Arafat’s wife lives in Paris on a pension of $20 million per year. During his lifetime Arafat is reported to have accumulated personal wealth of $6 billion by leveraging his position as leader of the Palestinian people.
Others in the Middle East are not doing so well. In 2009 the UN reported that 2 of 5 people living in the Middle East live on $2 per day.
As Charlop explained, in 1947, Arab leaders rejected a UN plan to form an Arab state alongside Israel and went to war. Encouraged by their leaders to leave Israel, some 600,000 Palestinians became refugees in Arab nations that have denied them citizenship and basic civil rights, including the right to own property, get an education or take out loans. In many cases, Palestinian refugees in Arab countries live in squalid refugee camps without basic services. By maintaining these conditions, Arab leaders maintain the Palestinians’ perpetual status as refugees and preserve their Palestinian identity.
“If every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine,” Charlop said. “A combination of human suffering, hate speech and incitement has led to violence throughout much of the world. The threats of being labeled a racist against Muslims, energy shortages, terrorism and war have prevented many in the media, world governments and humanitarian groups from speaking out and has led to appeasement and acceptance of Muslim extremists.”
“To counteract these misconceptions, we tell Israel’s side of the story,” said Charlotte Korchak, West Coast Campus Coordinator for StandWithUs. “We show people how small Israel is. That’s the biggest wake up call to tell people the truth against the revisionist version.”
One exhibit, developed by Charlop, shows the journey of the Jewish people from its early history until now. The series of panels connects Abraham and Moses to everything that has happened in Jewish history since then in a set of 8-foot by 3-foot panels. The visual exhibit, on display at the Orange County Israel Expo with students from the Bureau of Jewish Education dressed in costume for “Israel Time Travel,” makes it “easier for people to put things together, rather than memorizing facts,” according to Charlop, who said that the exhibit is now at Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’a lot and available to other organizations for use.
StandWithUs has “created materials on every topic imaginable to alleviate the misunderstandings and information vacuum, Rothstein said. There are banners, pamphlets and websites about the delegitimization of Israel. Particularly striking are the map of Israel surrounded by Muslim countries, the banners about excesses in Muslim countries in the face of extreme poverty of ordinary people living on $2 per day and the banners about human rights violations in those countries.
The organization keeps meeting challenges with new materials “to be responsive to current challenges that Israel faces,” Rothstein added. For instance, flotillafacts.com is designed for people all over the world “to show that the flotilla is a nuisance and a provocation, rather than a humanitarian effort. The world came out in favor of Israel when they saw that it was a hokey stunt.”
To combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement launched by Palestinian sympathizers, StandWithUs has come up with Buy Israeli Goods (BIG) twice a year. “We come up with the agenda instead, and people and organizations made it their own,” Rothstein said. “It was positive, fun and infectious. It drowned them out and basically silenced a heavy, negative, anti-peace movement.”
A brand-new campaign on campuses for the 2011-2012 academic year is an initiative called “Peace Takes Two.” It highlights the fact that peace will come only when Israelis and Palestinians sit down together to resolve the issues dividing them. Israel is actively seeking a lasting peace, and this campaign`s goal is to show that, if the Palestinians return to the negotiating table, together they can build a future of peace for both their children. The campaign will be launched at the beginning of the Fall 2011 semester. The StandWithUs Campus staff will provide more details about the campaign in the coming months.
“We found a niche that was not filled, and the enormity of it surprised all of us,” Rothstein said. “Now we’re leveraging our ability to get the message out quickly, build bridges with more than 100 organizations and providing the tools to galvanize those who want to let the world know what is really happening in the Middle East. We’re showing why Israel matters to everyone.”