If Americans Knew
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (January 2012)|
If Americans Knew is a nonprofit organization that focuses on the Arab–Israeli conflict and the foreign policy of the United States regarding the Middle East, offering analysis of American media coverage of these issues. Its mission, according to the group's website, is to provide "what every American needs to know about Israel/Palestine." The site is generally critical of U.S. financial and military support of Israel. It has accused The New York Times of being biased against Palestinians.
In addition to the freelance journalist and founder Alison Weir, board members include Paul Findley, a former United States Representative, and Andrew Killgore, a former ambassador of the United States to Qatar.
According to the organization's website, founder Alison Weir traveled independently throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2001 and found a situation she considered to be different from what was being reported by the American media. She stated that the U.S. press portrayal was significantly at odds with that reported by media throughout the rest of the world, and that American citizens were being misinformed and uninformed on one of the most significant issues affecting them today. Weir therefore founded an organization that would reflect what she considered to be a more objective viewpoint.
If Americans Knew states that it produces materials, assists in organizing public forums, and provides speakers and written materials to hundreds of events across the United States, including events hosted on the campuses of Harvard Law School, Stanford University, Columbia University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the University of California, Berkeley, Washington State University, Northwestern University, along with the Palestine Center, the National Press Club, the Naval Postgraduate School, and other university campuses, churches, libraries, and civic organizations. Its website carries information and allegations about "Israel and Palestine" from a wide variety of sources.
The organization's stated goal is "to inform and educate the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported in the American media," going on to say: "It is the goal of If Americans Knew to inform the American public accurately about [Israel-Palestine]. Most of all, it is to inform Americans about our enormous, and too often invisible, personal connection to it.".
If Americans Knew maintains that US media are consistently Israeli-centric in their reporting, finding that a great many of the journalists reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have family and personal ties to the Israeli military." The organization has conducted statistical studies on a variety of news organizations, finding that they reported on Israeli deaths at rates many times times greater than they reported on Palestinian deaths.
If Americans Knew holds that United States' support of Israel should be reduced on the grounds that it is not in American interest — that it interferes with American relations with the oil-producing nations, costs American taxpayers billions, is increasingly imperiling American lives, and prevents peace.
Executive Director Alison Weir writes that ending U.S. military aid to Israel would "help bring peace to the Middle East, build a safer world and alleviate massive misery." Another article concludes: "...US aid to Israel has destabilized the Middle East; propped up a national system based on ethnic and religious discrimination; enabled unchecked aggression that has, on occasion, been turned against Americans themselves; funded arms industries that compete with American companies; supported a pattern of brutal dispossession that has created hatred of the US; and resulted in continuing conflict that last year took the lives of 384 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, and that in the past seven and a half years has cost the lives of more than 982 Palestinian children and 119 Israeli children. By providing massive funding to Israel, no matter what it does, American aid is empowering Israeli supremacists who believe in a never-ending campaign of ethnic cleansing; while disempowering Israelis who recognize that policies of morality, justice, and rationality are the only road to peace."
The organization published a handout defending Helen Thomas’s comments when she contended that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to “Germany, Poland, America, and everywhere else.” When Israel partisans attacked Thomas, Weir wrote: "Many commentators evince particular anger at Thomas’s inclusion of Germany and Poland as places to which Israeli colonists should return, suggesting that Hitler is still in control and waiting to pounce.
"The happy fact is, however, that World War II and the Nazi holocaust ended well over half a century ago. In Poland today there is a vibrant Jewish revival with a 10-foot tall Menorah being lit in the center of Warsaw during Hanukah, and Germany has become, according to the New York Times, 'a country where Jews want to live.' In fact, in recent years more Jews have chosen to immigrate to Germany than to Israel." 
Weir also suggested that the outrage against Thomas was disproportionate, given the fact that so few of the writers had condemned Israel's far more serious actions, writing: "In Thomas’s lifetime Israel has ethnically cleansed over a million people, replaced them with colonists from around the world, committed dozens of massacres, tortured thousands of people, killed and maimed untold numbers of children, mangled limbs, and committed outrages on women, old people, the weak and the infirm.
"It has assassinated people throughout the world, invaded numerous countries, spied on the U.S., killed and injured 200 American servicemen (the anniversary is this week), and tortured and imprisoned Americans. All while receiving more American money than any other country on earth."
The site's homepage shows charts comparing the number of children killed from both sides since year 2000; it also shows the number of killed and injured people from both sides.
It asserts that U.S. support of Israel has long been driven by lobbying on behalf of a foreign government, often via AIPAC, over the objections of State Department and Pentagon experts, and in recent years by the efforts of a "growing number of individuals with close ties to Israel (known as neoconservatives)" in high-level U.S. Government positions.
If Americans Knew published a study critical of The New York Times coverage of Israeli and Palestinian deaths, and met with then New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent to discuss their study. In subsequent column Okrent mentioned the meeting and If Americans Knew's assertion that "The Times conscientiously reports on the deaths of Israeli children but ignores the deaths of Palestinian children", but dismissed If Americans Knew's conclusions, writing "The representatives of If Americans Knew earnestly believe that the information they presented to me about the killing of Palestinian children to be 'simple objective criteria.' But I don't think any of us can be objective about our own claimed objectivity." He also stated that "representatives of If Americans Knew expressed the belief that unless the paper assigned equal numbers of Muslim and Jewish reporters to cover the conflict, Jewish reporters should be kept off the beat" and said he found that "profoundly offensive." Weir denied this, indicating that If Americans Knew had suggested that The New York Times team of reporters and editors covering Israel-Palestine be as diverse as possible. If Americans Knew's study of The New York Times has also been criticized by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), for "selective and biased use and interpretation of information" and "flawed methodology".
The Anti-Defamation League has called If Americans Knew one of several "anti-Israel organization[s]", and further asserts that "Weir's criticism of Israel has, at times, crossed the line into anti-Semitism." They cited Weir's use of a quotation by Israel Shahak that characterized beliefs of certain Israelis as “such a ruthless and supremacist faith.” Weir herself stated that she considered this quoted characterization as not pertaining to the mainstream of Judaism, and has demanded that the ADL correct what she termed "defamatory and inaccurate statements." The ADL voiced concern about an article written by board member Paul Findley in which he blamed America's relationship with Israel for the September 11 Attacks.
Andy Newman, in an Op-ed in The Guardian, stated that "an article by Alison Weir... defends the unsubstantiated and implausible claims made by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet about Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinians in Gaza to harvest their organs. Weir implied, with no evidence, that Israel is at the centre of international organ smuggling. She then explicitly argued that the medieval "blood libel" – that Jews kill Christian children – has a basis in fact." The 'Aftonbladet claims' refer to Donald Boström's accusations of Israeli organ harvesting. Weir responded in a letter to the editor, stating: "I quoted a speech on international organ trafficking by Dr Nancy Scheper-Hughes – Chancellor's professor of medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, the founder of Organ Watch, and the world's foremost expert on organ trafficking – in which she stated: 'Israel is at the top. It has tentacles reaching out worldwide.'"
Her letter in the Guardian continued: "My article contains considerable additional information on Israeli organ trafficking and its subsidy by the Israeli government, many of its 37 citations from Israeli media. Perhaps for Mr Newman this constitutes 'no evidence'." She added that, at the end of one of her two articles on Israeli organ trafficking she had included a short section in which she quoted Israeli media reports that a prominent Israeli professor of medieval Jewish history had published a book on the subject, referring to Ariel Toaff's book, which had argued that the medieval blood libel may have had a basis in purported medieval Jewish ritual murders.
Weir was given honorary membership in the Phi Alpha Literary Society at Illinois College in 2004, the award citing her as "Courageous journalist-lecturer on behalf of human rights. The first woman to receive an honorary membership in Phi Alpha history."
The New York Times reported about a speech given by Weir to approximately 300 people in Greenwich, Connecticut: "When the speech ended, Ms. Weir was met with thunderous applause, and across the room there was a widespread sense of satisfaction that someone was saying what needed to be said."
- Alison Weir
- Paul Findley, former United States Representative from Illinois.
- Andrew Killgore, former United States Ambassador to Qatar.
- American Task Force on Palestine
- Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
- The Link
- American Palestine Public Affairs Forum
- Middle East Media Research Institute
- Palestine Media Watch
- U.S. Interests and Israel/Palestine (If Americans Knew)
- "Off the Charts - NY Times Coverage of Israeli & Palestinian Deaths". Ifamericansknew.org. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
- If Americans Knew - Who We Are
- American Educational Trust: Andrew I. Killgore
- If Americans Knew website. Retrieved August 2011
- Deadly Distortion: U.S. Press Coverage of Israel and Palestine, Expert Alison Weir to speak by Jennifer Grosvenor (Portland Indymedia). Retrieved August 2011
- Mission Statement
- Media Reporting on Israel: All in the Family, CounterPunch, February 26-28, 2010
- Media Report Cards
- U.S. Interests and Israel/Palestine. Retrieved August 2011
- Saving Americans by Saving Money, The Gilmer Mirror, June 21, 2009
- Should the U.S. End Aid to Israel?
- The History of US-Israel Relations, Part I
- Weir, Alison. "New York Times Distortion Up Close and Personal", April 24, 2005
- The New York Times > Week in Review > The Public Editor: The Hottest Button: How The Times Covers Israel and Palestine
- "Study of New York Times Coverage Severely Flawed" CAMERA. May 13, 2005
- "Wheels of Justice: A Biased View of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict" December 29, 2006
- ADL on Alison Weir
- Alison Weir Greenwich Citizen April 4, 2008 (2008-04-04). "What Our Taxes to Israel are Funding". Ifamericansknew.org. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
- Weir, Alison (2009-02-13). "Journal - Anti-Defamation League Defames Me - My Letter to the ADL". AlisonWeir.org. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
- "Backgrounder: The Council for the National Interest (CNI)". Anti Defamation League. July 8, 2010.
- Gilad Atzmon, antisemitism and the left, The Guardian
- Letter: Antisemitism and the left – some facts Alison Weir, Letter to The Guardian, Monday 26 September 2011
- Weir, Alison. "Israeli Organ Harvesting: The New "Blood Libel"?", August 28–30, 2009
- Are 'The New York Times' Book Reviews Fair? August 20, 2010, NPR
- FAIR, Media Views, December 1, 2006
- Juneau World Affairs Council to host author Alison Weir to speak, Sept. 26, 1009
- Speech on the Mideast Brings Opinions to a Boil, New York Times, Peter Applebome, Feb. 17, 2008