On July 7-9, 2019, the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States, Christians United For Israel (CUFI), will hold its annual Summit in Washington, D.C.  Thousands of CUFI attendees will gather inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to hear from speakers such as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In this post we will describe the preparations by leading anti-Israel groups to protest outside the venue, and cause a disruption inside the venue, as laid out at a planning meeting recently held in Maryland.

Table of Contents

1. Why Target CUFI?
2. Disturbance Inside The Venue Planned
3. Sunday, July 7 – Training and Panel, featuring Linda Sarsour
4. Monday, July 8 – Training and Protest
5. Groups Behind the Anti-CUFI Protest

A. Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)
B. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
C. American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
D. U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)

6. Conclusion – A Who’s Who of Israel Haters Desperate for Attention

http://support.cufi.org/site/PageServer?pagename=2019Summit_Register

[CUFI Summit 2019 keynote speakers]

1. Why Target CUFI?

CUFI, which now counts over 5 million members, has been a major force driving American Christian grassroots activism and support for Israel for more than 10 years

For anti-Israel groups, CUFI has become a white whale of sorts; with its ever-burgeoning membership and its popularity among America’s sizable Evangelical community, CUFI is a problem for those who seek to turn American Christians away from Israel.

This explains why a handful of the most aggressive anti-Israel groups, including (the inappropriately named) Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), have been planning a joint protest of CUFI’s upcoming convention. [See discussion of each group later in this post.] They’re calling it, “Rise Against Racism: Counter CUFI!”

https://www.fosna.org/countercufi

[Joint protest objecting to CUFI’s annual summit.]

It this were just a protest outside the venue, it would not be unusual. Almost every major pro-Israel conference attracts fringe Israeli-haters like Code Pink and various Hezbollah supporters.

[#ShutDownAIPAC, March 2015]

Based on our investigation, however, it appears that the anti-CUFI demonstrators are planning to take the protest inside the venue, and thereby to disrupt the summit. These plans were discussed by organizers at a June 22 planning meeting, which was promoted by the Tree of Life Educational Fund (TOLEF).

https://mailchi.mp/101d311e798f/tolef-rise-against-racism?e=ca9f625c04

[The email announcing the CUFI protest planning meeting]

TOLEF is a 501(c)3, founded by a Connecticut-based church called The First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. TOLEF claims to “provide cross-cultural and transnational travel experiences, interfaith conferences and educational opportunities to help participants to become more enlightened and more engaged in making this a more just and peaceful world in which to live.”

But TOLEF’s benevolent-sounding mission is belied by its activities and speakers—which have included the notorious Roger Waters, BDS supporter and former Pink Floyd musician who infamously displayed a large inflatable pig emblazoned with a Jewish star during a 2013 concert in Belgium.

https://tolef.org/

[A screenshot from TOLEF’s website, showing Roger Waters participating in a TOLEF panel. Waters is second from the right.]

2. Disturbance Inside The Venue Planned

FOSNA Executive Director Tarek Abuata helped lead the discussion at the planning meeting. Among the agenda items discussed was that the protests would take place not only outside the venue, but also inside the convention.

For unspecified “safety reasons,” the planners did not disclose when the disturbance would take place, or how many people would be involved.

[Tarek Abuata of FOSNA speaks to FOSNA’s Counter CUFI planning meeting.]

Abuata claimed that 160 people have so far registered for the joint action. He hopes to have a total of 200 people show up, but it’s unclear how many people will be protesting inside the venue. “Civil disobedience” is the heart of the anti-CUFI protest, as the registration form asks registrants for their comfort level:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc6jIvUrjuG7TSbai3l1NVsuwNTGKudHDGaGQWOxdjyeTNMAA/viewform

Ironically, gaining access to the heavily guarded CUFI conference necessitates buying tickets—each of which costs about $400—so it appears that anti-Israel organizers may have donated hundreds of dollars to an organization they oppose, all for the opportunity to yell at a speaker or two.

This would not be the first time. At CUFI’s 2014 summit, there was a disruption orchestrated by Code Pink:

3. Sunday, July 7 – Training and Panel, featuring Linda Sarsour

https://www.facebook.com/fosnalive/photos/a.262926283736138/2666826570012752/?type=3&theater

[The announcement for the anti-CUFI panel featuring Linda Sarsour.]

On Sunday, July 7, starting at 2 p.m., there will be “nonviolent direct action training and preparation,” followed by a panel discussion featuring Linda Sarsour. Other speakers will include Lesley Williams, Lara Kiswani, and Rev. Dr. Neichelle Guidry. The four of them will speak about “Countering Christian Zionism: Interfaith Visions of Liberation.”

Kiswani is the Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC); we have reported on her before, when she aggressively protested a 2017 vigil to honor the two Jewish victims of Arab terrorist Rasmea Odeh’s 1969 Jerusalem bombing. At Kiswani’s protest, several vigil-goers reported being assaulted by anti-Israel detractors who ripped up images of Odeh’s victims.

[AROC’s Lara Kiswani parading with torn-up sign at Vigil to honor Rasmea Odeh’s Victims | July 8, 2017]

Williams, for her part, is an activist with Jewish Voice for Peace, while Guidry currently serves as a religious leader at Spelman College in Atlanta. You probably are already familiar with Sarsour, one of the most toxic anti-Israel activists.

[Linda Sarsour embraces convicted terrorist killer and immigration fraudster Rasmea Odeh at 2017 Jewish Voice for Peace National Meeting]

4. Monday, July 8 – Training and Protest

In addition to the secretive plans for a disruption inside the venue and “direct action” training, there will be organized protest training the morning of the protest. At the planning meeting, Steve France, a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s “Palestine Israel Network” emphasized that the July 8 action will be the first organized challenge to a CUFI summit. Multiple protest organizers emphasized that, of all the actions over the course of the CUFI summit, the 9 a.m. protest and a 7 a.m. pre-action meeting on Monday are the most important.

There was a preview of the messaging the protesters will use, including claiming that CUFI indoctrinates its followers to believe that by being pro-Israel, they are avoiding damnation, and that CUFI intimidates those who want recognition for Palestinian rights. France noted that a good way to convince other Christians of these ideas is to tie Israel to right-wing fundamentalism, because nearly everyone opposes far-right movements.

https://palestinesquare.com/author/steve-france/

[Steve France’s bio at Palestine Square.]

Similarly, Abuata claimed that CUFI provides moral and religious cover to encourage Christians to support Israel’s ethnic cleansing, violation of Palestinian rights, and violence. CUFI operates from a place of white supremacism, Abuata insisted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIY14O-8BCU

[A screenshot from a video of Tarek Abuata speaking about “Palestinian Liberation Theology” at the Palestine Center.]

There were written materials available to make sure people stayed on the message the Anti-CUFI protest is pushing:

For too long, Palestinians have been calling for freedom, justice, and equality. As organizations that share these values, we urge you to join us in confronting Christians United for Israel (CUFI). CUFI has quietly become the largest organization in the United States driving support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. With over five million members, CUFI uses its political leverage to ensure ongoing U.S. support for Israel’s colonization and military occupation of Palestine, including imprisoning Palestinian children; bombing homes, schools, and hospitals in Gaza; massacring peaceful protestors; and confiscating Palestinian land. By its own admission, CUFI “led the charge to have the U.S. recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” and it continues to push for unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation and illegal settlement expansion.

CUFI is a Christian Zionist organization: Its ideology and politics are deeply entrenched in white nationalism, anti-Muslim racism, anti-Semitism, and other systems of oppression. In spite of its strong political influence on the Hill, CUFI has operated largely under the radar and received little attention in comparison with groups like AIPAC. Until now. This is the moment to act: This July, many of your Congressional representatives will be attending CUFI’s annual summit as invited guests. We cannot allow CUFI’s influence to go unchallenged. Come to Washington, D.C. on July 7 and 8 to tell the world to #CounterCUFI! It will take each and every one of us to rise against racism, to reclaim and protect our communities, and to uphold the liberation of all people in the vision of justice, equality, and freedom.

5. Groups Behind the Anti-CUFI Protest

The organizers of the anti-CUFI protest and possible disruption are among the most aggressive anti-Israel groups in the United States, with long histories of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel, stoking and exploiting anti-Semitism, and in some cases, expressing open support for convicted terrorists.

A. Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)

https://www.fosna.org/

In the Spring 2011 edition of the journal Jewish Political Studies Review, Christian Media Analyst Dexter Van Zile described Sabeel:

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, headquartered in Jerusalem, has been a persistent source of anti-Zionist agitation in mainline Protestant churches in the United States since its founding in 1994. The organization subjects Israel, Jews, and Judaism to intense scrutiny while remaining nearly silent about Arab and Muslim extremism in the Middle East. In addition to publicizing the writings of its founder, Anglican priest Naim Ateek, Sabeel broadcasts its message via regional conferences in the United States and regular study missions to Israel. Far-Left American and Israeli Jews are given prominent display at Sabeel conferences, where Israel is held up to a strict biblical standard of conduct while its adversaries are held to no standard at all. By giving its followers the sense that they are engaging in a showdown with the forces of evil embodied by Israel and its U.S supporters, Sabeel reenacts the church-synagogue rivalry documented in early Christian writings.

Sabeel’s sister organization, Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), spreads Sabeel’s messaging in the United States, and as we have previously reported, is behind or involved in virtually every divestment resolution pending before various Christian denominations. FOSNA often teams up with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

In her of her analyses of FOSNA, our contributor Professor Miriam Elman elaborated:

According to its promotional materials, Sabeel serves as the “voice for Palestinian Christians” of the “indigenous Church”.

Founded in 1989, it defines itself as “working for a just and durable peace” and as a “refuge for dialogue”.

Sabeel’s bucolic name—Arabic for “the way” and a “spring of water”—is meant to convey a “message of love”. And its founder, the Rev. Naim Ateek, often speaks of the “Christian responsibility to respect the dignity of every human being”.

But according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) the organization uses “Holocaust-related language to demonize Israel and Israelis.

Critics say that instead of promoting faith-based understanding and reconciliation, Sabeel “actually seems to be a political organization promoting anti-Israel propaganda while driving Church policy toward destroying Israel through BDS”.

Furthermore, FOSNA’s social media and events calendar reveal its habit of hosting anti-Semitic speakers (and excusing terrorism against Israeli Jews)—including disgraced ex-UN official Richard Falk, who was “officially denounced by the United Kingdom on at least three separate occasions for anti-Semitism, and whose glorification of the Hamas terrorist group was so severe that the Palestinian Authority sought to expel him from the UN.”

https://www.facebook.com/fosnalive/photos/a.262926283736138/2575121682516575/?type=3&theater

[A May 2019 FOSNA event featuring disgraced ex-UN official, Richard Falk, who is an avid apologist for Hamas.]

FOSNA also frequently defends the terrorist group Hamas, and portrays its leadership as legitimately seeking peace.

[Sabeel takes Hamas leaders’ claims at face value.]

B. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/

As one of the most visible anti-Israel groups in the United States, JVP is a group that, as LI contributor Professor Miriam Elman writes,

manages to dupe far too many well-meaning people into thinking that it endorses non-violence and is merely against the ‘occupation’.

Despite its name, JVP is not a Jewish group. Accordingly, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calls JVP a major source of support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel—a campaign recently ruled as anti-Semitic by the German government. The ADL’s JVP backgrounder also discusses JVP’s belief in the “intersectionality” doctrine:

JVP considers supporters of Israel, or even critics of Israel who do not hew to JVP’s own extreme views, to be complicit in Israel’s purported acts of racist oppression of Palestinians. JVP leaders believe that expressing support for Israel, or not challenging mainstream Jewish organizations that support Israel, must also be viewed as an implicit attack on people of color and all marginalized groups in the United States.

JVP’s dedication to intersectionality helps to explain the group’s habit of working with anti-Israel (and often anti-Semitic) special interest groups such as American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

http://jvp-boston.org/social-justice-organizations-condemn-islamophobic-attacks-on-cair-and-state-representatives/

[JVP Boston defends its frequent partner, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)]

At LI, we’ve covered a wide range of JVP activity, including:

[Jewish Voice for Peace 2017 National Meeting, honoring convicted terrorist murderer and immigration fraudster Rasmea Odeh]

We also covered JVP’s involvement in and support for the Chicago and D.C. Dyke Marches, when March leaders tried to eject queer Jews carrying Jewish Pride Flags. As I wrote last week,

In fact, [JVP activist Yael Horowitz] is known for helping to lead the puerile 2014 charge by radical group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to rid her alma mater, Wesleyan, of the Israeli hummus brand, Sabra. She was quoted in the ardently anti-Israel blog The Electronic Intifada, gloating that Wesleyan had caved to SJP demands. She was subsequently embarrassed when the college corrected the record and the brand remained on campus.

Horowitz is also credited with helping to found a chapter of the extreme anti-Israel group, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) at Wesleyan. JVP has a “long history of distorting Judaism to support its own political causes” and has regularly hosted and honored convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh. (Odeh helped to plan and perpetrate a 1969 bombing in Jerusalem that murdered Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner.)

 

[Jewish Voice for Peace internet advertisement supporting Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned terrorist mastermind behind numerous murders]

C. American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)

https://www.ampalestine.org/

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is an Islamist group whose goal is Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state. As a main driving force behind the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel, AMP frequently collaborates with groups such as FOSNA and JVP.

Like other anti-Israel groups, AMP couches its positions in a language of human rights and pluralism. It claims that its purpose is simply to “educate the public about the just cause of Palestine and the rights of self-determination, liberty and justice,” and it has thus won itself a degree of legitimacy within the American left. But even a cursory look at AMP’s employees reveals its bigotry and extremism.

AMP was founded in 2006 by the notorious UC Berkeley lecturer, Hatem Bazian. Bazian, a self-identified Palestinian who teaches in the Near Eastern Studies department, is well-known for calling for an Intifada (a violent uprising) in the United States.

This desire for an uprising in the U.S. is just the tip of the Bazian iceberg. In 2011, the International Jabotinsky Center reported that, during Bazian’s time as an undergraduate at San Francisco State University, he

“participated in an assault on the offices of the Golden Gater student newspaper accusing it of being full of Jewish spies. Jewish students had complained about anti-Semitic behavior by Bazian, in his role as student body president, and his campaign against Hillel, the leading Jewish campus organization, was a direct attempt to disenfranchise Jewish students.

When a controversial mural of Malcolm X containing dollar signs surrounded by Jewish Stars was painted on the student union building at San Francisco State, Bazian was an organizer of and a featured speaker at a press conference in support of the mural. According to the campus newspaper, The Golden Gater, Jewish students were forcibly excluded from this press conference despite it being held in the public Student Union building. A former SFSU student has also alleged that Bazian prevented his appointment to the Student Judicial Council on the grounds that he supported the state of Israel and was therefore a racist.”

More recently, Bazian was scolded by UC Berkeley for retweeting two anti-Semitic memes. Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported,

“One cartoon showed a Jewish man with his arms raised, juxtaposed with the caption, ‘Mom, look! I is chosen! I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians.’ Another included in the retweet was an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un with the title, in caps, ‘I just converted all of North Korea to Judaism.’”

https://twitter.com/wherepond/status/892079717880344577?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E892079717880344577&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.haaretz.com%2Fus-news%2Fpalestinian-uc-berkeley-professor-apologizes-for-retweeting-anti-semitic-cartoons-1.5626988

[The original tweet that Hatem Bazian retweeted and then deleted.]

https://twitter.com/wherepond/status/892079717880344577?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E892079717880344577&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.haaretz.com%2Fus-news%2Fpalestinian-uc-berkeley-professor-apologizes-for-retweeting-anti-semitic-cartoons-1.5626988

[Screenshot of Bazian’s retweet]

The rest of AMP staff is no better than Bazian. In 2018, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) revealed that the president of AMP’s New Jersey chapter, Sayel Kayed, expressed several anti-Semitic sentiments in a lecture at the Muslim Center of Middlesex County. As I wrote in an article for the Middle East Forum, MEMRI’s video shows Kayed endorsing the periods of Arab violence against Jews in Israel known as the Intifadas. Kayed also agreed with an audience member who repeated the previously debunked anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Ashkenazi Jews are not really Jews, but ethnic Russians, descended from “Khazars.”

https://www.memri.org/reports/muslim-center-middlesex-county-nj-hosts-pro-bds-event-speakers-encourage-boycotting-j-street

[MEMRI screenshots of Sayel Kayed on video.]

And, at a December 2017 anti-Israel rally in New York City, Kayed took the opportunity to proclaim, “Death to the peace accords!”

At another AMP event, its National Policy Director Osama Abu Irshaid echoed Sayel Kayed’s “Khazar” sentiments, claiming that most modern Jews are “not [real] Jews.” His anti-Semitism is not surprising; as the Middle East Forum documented earlier this year, Irshaid has written that Hamas is “an army for liberation” whose fighters “rise up for the blood of martyrs.” Irshaid has also praised Hamas’s “steadfastness and sacrifice,” and asserted that, “Gaza is victorious…The descendants of the Muslim David are rubbing the dust with the nose of the descendants of the Jewish Goliath.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUhkULRg2DE

[Osama Abu Irshaid speaking at an Islamist conference in 2015.]

D. U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)

Founded in 2001, and formerly known as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, USCPR is an umbrella organization whose membership comprises dozens of anti-Israel groups—including Counter CUFI’s other three main organizers.

The Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor notes that

  • USCPR rhetoric includes accusations of “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide,” “war crimes,” and “colonialism,” as well as supporting a Palestinian “right of return.”

  • Exploits the US civil rights struggle by accusing Israel of maintaining a “matrix of control” over the Palestinian population and enacting “laws that discriminate against [Palestinians], much as Black Americans had been treated during the Jim Crow era.”

Further, as we have explained,

USCPR’s role [among similar pro-BDS groups] is to try to make inroads in Congress, but it is so toxic that it could not even find a congressman willing to sponsor an event on Capitol Hill once the true nature of USCPR was revealed. Among other things, one of the leaders of USCPR, Josh Ruebner, accused Senator Chuck Schumer of being an “Israel Firster,” a charge of dual loyalty.

We’ve also shown:

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 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.

Meanwhile, USCPR executive director Yousef Munayyer is a dedicated Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions advocate who gave a 2014 lecture in which he claimed that peace would come “only when the Israeli state is alienated” by “international isolation”—a “service in pursuit of peace.” This is par for the course with Munayyer; even his twitter handle reveals his anti-Semitism. In it, he uses the “triple parentheses”, a symbol whose origin has been traced to

the right-wing extremists at The Daily Shoah, a white supremacist podcast with a virulently anti-Semitic bent. The ((())) symbol, which symbolizes how the corruption and decay of Western society at the hands of the Jews “echoes” through the years, first appeared in a 2014 episode.

Then, there’s Anna Baltzer, until recently USCPR Director of Organizing and Advocacy. In a critique of the group’s activity, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) analyst Steve Stotsky describes Baltzer’s M.O.:

Baltzer is an acolyte of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a group that recruits naive Westerners to interfere with Israeli anti-terror operations. Its founders have spoken approvingly of suicide bombings. Baltzer boasts a busy schedule of speaking engagements at churches, universities and even an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Her message consists mostly of  rehashed accusations against Israel made by Palestinian speakers. But Baltzer uses her Jewish heritage to accrue credibility before predominantly non-Jewish audiences who often fail to see through her deception.

https://www.facebook.com/uscpalrights/photos/a.10150467482724442.366598.108102704441/10155339374354442/?type=3&theater

[A screenshot of USCPR showing support for convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh. Munayyer third from left top row. Baltzer appears on the far right in the bottom row.]

6. Conclusion – A Who’s Who of Israel Haters Desperate for Attention

The groups organizing the Counter CUFI action are part and parcel of the continuing proliferation of anti-Semitism in the United States and beyond, masquerading as anti-Zionism. That they are secretively planning a disruption of the CUFI Summit is not a sign of strength, but of desperation for attention.

We’ll continue to report on this story as it develops.

———–

Samantha Mandeles is Senior Researcher and Outreach Director at the Legal Insurrection Foundation.