Starting in June, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), an anti-Israel organization based in Washington, DC, is planning to launch a “three-year plan” to support “municipal-level campaigns across the country” which aim at ending U.S. support for Israel.

In rolling out this new plan to advance “exciting work” at the “street-level,” USCPR is hoping to capitalize on the recent success of its member groups in the city of Durham, NC.

The context of that “victory” was a resolution passed last month banning the Durham Police Department from taking part in trainings with Israeli law enforcement personnel which we described in detail, Demonization: Durham NC City Council bans police exchanges with Israel.

As we highlighted in this prior post, Durham’s City Council catered to a coalition of local left-wing radical groups and activists who alleged that training programs for American police officials in Israel, some of them funded by the Anti-Defamation League, are to blame for discriminatory racial profiling and even the killings of blacks by cops on the beat in American cities.

It’s a charge that many have described as akin to a modern day antisemitic blood libel in which “Jews are falsely blamed for outrageous crimes.”

USCPR Executive Director Yousef Munayyer explicitly mentions this “win” in the city of Durham, NC in his organization’s solicitation for tax-deductible donations (“In whatever amount works best for you”) so that “amazing, committed organizers” can have the resources that they need to run “even more municipal-level campaigns across the country.”

In our prior post, we anticipated that in the aftermath of the Durham City Council vote, anti-Israel activists would be “seriously considering” the next place to target. Now it’s clear that those efforts are already well underway and will be folded into “some big plans” to “inspire local organizing.”

As the USCPR mass-mailing of the request for funding notes, “This is just the beginning of our vision to invest more time and resources in local work that builds power upwards.”

Israel and its U.S. supporters should take note of this new effort to infuse anti-Israel messaging at the local level, and plan accordingly.

Building on the JVP-Initiated “Deadly Exchange” Victory in Durham, NC

As we highlighted in our prior post, on April 16th Durham became the first American city to align a municipal public policy with a “morally bankrupt” campaign spearheaded by the anti-Israel extremist hate group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” campaign falsely accuses Israel and American Jewish groups of complicity in institutionalized racism and societal ills in America’s inner-cities, including instances of police violence against blacks and domestic police militarization.

Capitulating to JVP’s malicious lies and distortions, Durham’s City Council passed a statement barring all life-saving law enforcement trainings between city police officials and their counterparts in Israel.

Basically, the City of Durham shamed itself by singling out Israel on the basis of falsehoods concocted by the radical and fringe JVP and, in so doing, allowed a lot of anti-Israel, pro-BDS and antisemitic voices to gain strength and claim victory.

We noted that the Durham City Council move was discriminatory because Israel was the only country singled out in the resolution. It was also a “very sly statement” because while it prohibits the Durham Police Department from participating in international police exchanges in other countries only if they involve “military-style training,” the statement imposes a total ban on any police exchanges with Israel, whether they involve military-style training or not:

The [Durham City] Council thus engaged in a sleight of hand that will now prevent Durham police officials from learning from their counterparts in Israel, who are internationally-recognized experts in terrorism prevention and response.”

We showed in our prior post how a set of features unique to Durham made it particularly ripe for exploitation by JVP and its far-left allies. But there are also generalizable lessons, among them the need for pro-Israel activists to be mobilized well in advance of the sophisticated grassroots campaigns launched by JVP and other anti-Israel groups.

We suggested too that hiring standards and vetting procedures will need to be revisited so that Jews who support BDS aren’t able to legitimize their fraudulent claims by presenting themselves as leaders within the local Jewish community:

In order to prevent Council hijacks in other American cities, Jewish Federations and pro-Zionist synagogues will need to do a better job of blocking JVP activists and sympathizers from gaining positions of power and influence which they can then abuse to provide ‘Jewish cover’ for pernicious anti-Israel statements.”

As USCPR rolls out its new plan to support even more anti-Israel campaigns at the local level, these lessons will need be learned and applied nation-wide.

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR): Funding and Mission

The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, formerly known as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is a leader and mobilizer of BDS activism in the United States. A 501(c)3 charitable organization founded in 2001, it self-describes as a “national coalition working to end all US support for Israel’s military occupation and apartheid policies toward Palestinians.”

According to NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog group, in 2016 USCPR had a budget of approximately $850,000. It claims that it receives the majority of its funding through “small individual donations.” However, it reportedly recently received $90,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which as we noted in several recent posts also funds JVP along with other virulently anti-Israel and pro-BDS groups:

USCPR works behind the scenes as an umbrella organization to organize and coordinate hundreds of groups supposedly “working to advocate for Palestinian rights.”

But for an organization which claims to be devoted to “Palestine advocacy and solidarity”, it spends very little effort as far as I can tell on alleviating the plight of Palestinians harmed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Hamas governing authority in Gaza, or other governments in the Middle East. There’s no USCPR campaign to support the Palestinians suffering in Syria, for instance.

https://www.facebook.com/uscpalrights/photos/a.10151373833869442.1073741825.108102704441/10155444560679442/?type=3&theater

[Women’s March organizers Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez stopped by the USCPR-Jewish Voice for Peace booth at the Women’s Convention, October 2017][via US Campaign Facebook]

In searching its social media feed for the last few months, I also couldn’t find any USCPR condemnation of the recently reported horrific abuse suffered by dozens of Palestinians jailed by the PA in the 1990s (by contrast, there’s plenty of coverage of Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teen charged with assaulting IDF officers who recently took a plea deal and was afforded legal representation and access to her family and the world).

So it’s important to understand that the USCPR’s focus isn’t really on improving Palestinian human and civil rights but on demonizing Israel and trying to shift U.S. policy against the Jewish state.

In its reports, conferences, and in the social media activity of its leadership, USCPR rhetoric includes constant accusations of Israeli apartheid, ‘war crimes’, ‘genocidal actions’ and ‘colonialism.’ USCPR also endorses a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel, which is in fact a rejection of self-determination for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland—a bigoted stance because USCPR doesn’t deny statehood rights to anybody else.

As documented by NGO Monitor, some of the groups that USCPR supports have ties to Palestinian terror organizations. One of its staff members, Director of Grassroots Organizing Ramah Kudaimi, has promoted incitement to violence against Israelis.

It’s worth noting too that Josh Ruebner, who serves as USCPR’s Policy Director, is an ADL-flagged activist who has publicly claimed that the IDF “studied what the Nazis did” during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in order to “attack and kill Palestinians” in Gaza.

We discussed in a prior post that Ruebner also has a nasty habit of smearing Jewish members of Congress as “Israel firster” traitors to America because of their support for Israel:

As for Executive Director Yousef Munayyer, he’s advocated on behalf of the unrepentant terrorist and U.S. immigration fraudster Rasmea Odeh:

In recent weeks he’s also served as an apologist for Hamas, insisting in one tweet after another that the efforts of its militants to breach the Gaza border and destroy the infrastructure for humanitarian aid there is “peaceful protest”. Here’s just a few of his tweets on the topic, but there are dozens more:

Munayyer has also been at the forefront of the ugly effort within U.S.-based anti-Israel circles to exploit the U.S. civil rights struggle for the Palestinian cause. Under Munayyer’s directorship, USCPR has preposterously cast Israeli policies toward the Palestinians as a discriminatory “matrix of control” with laws similar to those used against Black Americans during the Jim Crow era.

These days, Munayyer spends an inordinate amount of his time trying to racialize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making untenable connections between the experiences of black men in America’s inner cities and his own as an Israeli Palestinian and trying to sell the idea that Palestinians are people of color oppressed by privileged white Jews.

As we’ve highlighted in numerous posts, anti-Israel activists have long been engaged in an effort to hijack racial issues and tensions unrelated to Israel and redirect them against Israel.

Under the direction of Munayyer, USCPR has become a leading player in promoting such “intersectional hijackings”, as indicated by its “political educational curriculum” meant to simultaneously strengthen U.S. and Palestinian “liberation struggles”; its ardent support for JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” campaign; and its upcoming national conference focused on the “struggle for collective justice from the U.S. to Palestine”:

USCPR’s New Three-Year Plan for the Municipal-level

USCPR has recently alerted its members though a mass-mailed request for funding that their “vibrant solidarity movement” can be “proud” of the Durham City Council vote.

The organization is requesting funds from its supporters to “seed the growth” of new campaigns that can help its 330+ member groups to also “build and take action for Palestinian rights” in their local communities, as suggested by this excerpt from a recent gift-giving solicitation sent by email to supporters:

Starting in June, we’re launching a three-year plan to support even more municipal-level campaigns across the country. Many communities have amazing, committed organizers, but lack the resources needed to run their own campaigns. Imagine what we and they could do if the US Campaign could offer more support and help connect folks across the US.

That is why we are going to debut a brand new online portal for individuals and small groups who want to connect their local communities to the struggle for justice in Palestine. It will be complete with strategies, toolkits, and other support to make sure people have what it takes to not only fight, but win! And, Supporter, we need your help to do it.

  • For $25, you could be a part of making a city an Apartheid Free Zone
  • For $75, you could support organizers working to pass Right to Boycott resolutions in a city council
  • For $150, you could play a role in ending propaganda trips to Israel for local politicians

This is just the beginning of our vision to invest more time and resources in local work that builds power upwards, and we need your help to coordinate and support these budding campaigns.

Supporter, no movement is built in a vacuum, or by a single person. That’s why we need your support early on in this campaign to seed the growth these new campaigns are going to need, from all of us. Can you help us get started with a gift today?”

It’s pretty clear that USCPR plans to take advantage of the momentum generated by the “victory at Durham” to move beyond the “national stage” to softer targets at the local level.

But as we’ve noted in many prior posts, these are the arenas where pro-Israel groups have been the least visible and active. Considerable resources are being committed to address antisemitic forms of anti-Israel expression and activism on America’s colleges and universities. This effort should be continued, but not at the expense of engagement in other arenas where anti-Israel activism has already taken root, including in mainline churches, K-12 educational programming, and increasingly local government.

These spaces can’t be ignored because if local communities become rife with anti-Israel advocacy it’ll help to soften-up young people for an anti-Israel BDS pitch once they get to college.

Also not all Americans go to college, and even those who do leave after a few years, returning to local communities where anti-Israel activists may have already captured key political, cultural, and economic agencies and programs.

USCPR’s New Online Tool to Help Activists Engage with Local Politicians

As noted in its emailed call for support, USCPR’s roll-out of these new municipal-level campaigns won’t happen for another few weeks.

But the organization has already provided a preview of what’s likely to be in store.

Last week USCPR unveiled a “new tool” on its website that will help “activists engage with their lawmakers and local representatives about Israeli abuses against Palestinians.”

Specifically, it’s an interactive online map that’s geared to help local community activists to “pass local city council resolutions” calling for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel.

The map’s ‘click on’ features are designed to tell users how much their state is “paying for Israel’s weapons” used to “oppress Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

The premise is that at the local level, municipalities are struggling to meet the needs of residents, including in vital areas like roads and infrastructure, schooling, food security, healthcare and housing. So the tool can be used to demonstrate to local government officials what key programs could be supported in the community if the money going to Israel was “freed up for social services.”

For example, if a user in Oklahoma were to click on her state, she will find information about the dollar value that Oklahoma gives annually to Israel (nearly $35 million) and what those taxpayer dollars would support if Oklahoma lawmakers focused on “other priorities”: the hiring of 431 more school teachers; providing food assistance to 23,191 in-need Oklahomans; and giving access to healthcare for 14,720 uninsured children in the state.

Users can also use the map to drill down from the state-level to check the funds allocated to Israel broken down by congressional district, county and city along with the budgetary trade offs in terms of other programs that could be funded (a link to the tool’s methodology is provided, along with a downloadable Excel spreadsheet of the data set).

Just out of curiosity I clicked on my hometown, and the map gave me this:

This new “Military Aid to Israel” interactive tool is very slick, and its easy to see how local activists could use it to convince city councils to “reorient state and local budgetary priorities” and to encourage Americans to rethink the U.S. allocation of military aid to Israel.

As the USCPR’s Josh Ruebner describes it,

This map is a tool for local activists…Building political power from the municipal level upward is an important component to changing federal-level policies that sustain Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. This map will be a tool to help activists pass local city council resolutions to end US weapons to Israel and redirect that money to unmet community needs, thereby furthering the process.”

The whole concept is completely misleading and deceptive, but to see that lawmakers, local representatives and members of the public would have to know that Israel is required to spend the foreign aid money it gets from the U.S. by purchasing American military equipment—so most of the money doesn’t actually leave the U.S. and gets put right back into the U.S. economy, generating high-tech defense jobs.

Basically, U.S. aid to Israel is an “indirect American subsidy to U.S. arms manufacturers” and it’s those kinds of details that USCPR chooses not to disclose.

Nor does the map tell users just how much Americans are paying each year to protect other U.S. allies, like Japan. There, the cost burden to U.S. taxpayers is significantly higher (about $5.5 billion a year) because bases have to be maintained and troops deployed. In this regard, America’s military aid to Israel is “cheap at the price”—Israel “never has and never will” ask U.S. troops to protect it militarily.

People who use the map could also be taken in if they didn’t already have a rough idea of what aid to Israel actually buys America, especially in terms of tangible benefits like:

Bottom line: The USCPR’s new interactive mapping tool is a lot like the JVP-initiated “Deadly Exchange” campaign—it’s likely to make sense only to those who are completely unversed in U.S. security challenges. In Durham, city council members ignored input from police officials and organizations who described the immense value that training with Israeli law enforcement provides, especially in terms of how to manage major crisis situations. Like “Deadly Exchange”, the USCPR’s interactive map is also based on inaccurate and grossly distorted information—in this case about U.S. military aid to Israel. But those lacking security expertise (or those unwilling to seek out such expert opinion) won’t necessarily see that.

Conclusion

Ten days after the Durham City Council voted to endorse a resolution “insulting and demonizing of Israel and the Jewish people”, antisemitic flyers appeared on the Duke University campus and were strewn across the streets of Durham’s downtown.

http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2018/05/anti-semitic-posters-found-on-east-campus-wall-main-st-sidewalk

For the city’s Jewish community, they are “causes for deep concern.”

Jill Madsen, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill, whose viewpoint was conspicuously missing in the news coverage during the run-up to the April 16th City Council meeting, seems to have found her voice and is now speaking to media outlets about the “painful” actions of the council members and the damage that they’ve produced:

There is a great deal of tension. People have expressed feeling like they have lost their place within Durham, as these actions have changed the sphere of inclusion they previously felt. And with recent acts of anti-Semitism in town it begs the question of did the council’s work open the door for people to feel like their behaviors are acceptable.”

Bottom line: It’s important to understand that, from the perspective of the USCPR’s Executive Director, the city of Durham, NC voting to end police exchanges with Israel was a “groundbreaking accomplishment in the movement for Palestinian rights.” It’s not clear whether Yousef Munayyer has any idea that the Durham City Council vote has left the vast majority of that city’s Jews feeling unsafe, marginalized and threatened. If he knew, would he even care?

[Featured Image: US Campaign for Palestinian Rights staff bid farewell to convicted terrorist murderer Rasmea Odeh on the day of her deportation from the U.S. for immigration fraud, via US Campaign Facebook]

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman