|Headquarters||Los Angeles, CA|
StandWithUs is a non-profit pro-Israel education and advocacy organization based in Los Angeles. As of 2009, it has branches in Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Michigan, Chicago, Seattle, Orange County, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Boston, London and Jerusalem.
It describes itself as "an advocacy organization that promotes education and understanding that will bring a secure future for Israel and her neighbors." StandWithUs has an annual budget of about $4 million.
The executive director and founder of StandWithUs is Roz Rothstein.
- 1 History
- 2 Structure
- 3 Campaigns and activities
- 3.1 International student programs
- 3.2 Caterpillar protests (2005)
- 3.3 Ahmadinejad protests (2007)
- 3.4 New campus initiatives
- 3.5 Campus Post
- 3.6 Co-Op boycotts
- 3.7 Durban II protests (2009)
- 3.8 The Emerson Fellowship
- 3.9 The StandWithUs Fellowship
- 3.10 Taglit-Birthright Israel trip
- 3.11 Transit poster campaign
- 3.12 Megaphone desktop tool
- 3.13 Elvis Costello
- 3.14 J Street
- 3.15 Shagririm
- 4 Criticism
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
StandWithUs was founded in 2001 by Roz Rothstein, a family therapist in Los Angeles whose parents were Holocaust survivors. An article published in The Forward on 2 December 2011 explained that "during the height of the second intifada,” Rothstein "watched the news coming from Israel … with growing frustration. Feeling that Israel was not getting the backing it deserved in the United States, she and her husband, Jeremy, set up their own small group, with a stated mission of 'supporting people around the world who want to educate others about Israel.'"
The Rothsteins started StandWithUs to arrange a demonstration and secure a meeting with editors at the Los Angeles Times. Over the following decade, however, StandWithUs developed into a "major player," enjoying "close relations with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a constantly growing budget." It has an annual budget of over $4 million, most of which goes to fund student activities on U.S. campuses. The group is especially active in challenging the BDS ("boycott, divest and sanction") movement.
StandWithUs is based in Los Angeles, and has 16 chapters throughout the U.S., Europe, and Israel. In 2009, nearly 15% of the group's budget went to the Israeli office, which every year, in a program run in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, trains 150 university students to be advocates for Israel.
The newest chapter of StandWithUs was opened in Boston in September 2012.
StandWithUs Canada opened in December 2012 in Toronto, with Meryle Kates as executive director. Although seed money was provided by the Los Angeles chapter, StandWithUs Canada is responsible for raising its own funds.
StandWithUs Israel has an active partnership with the Zionist Federation of Australia. Over 6,000 Australians have taken part in StandWithUs events, including a June 2010 conference in Jerusalem and an August 2010 speaking tour of Australia by Michelle Rojas-Tal.
StandWithUs is also known as "Israel Emergency Alliance". It has several divisions.
Campaigns and activities
- An Israel informational created a group of Hebrew University of Jerusalem students taking part in the StandWithUs 2009 International Fellowship.
- Created to present a pro-Israel perspective on the internet for Operation Cast Lead.
- Israeli Soldiers' Stories
- A grassroots movement of Israelis who have served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and want to share their experiences. The website for the initiative features videos in which the soldiers tell their stories. In addition, StandWithUs has opposed a U.S. speaking tour for IDF soldiers who are against the occupation.
- Online for Israel
- StandWithUs sponsors a website, Online for Israel, that enables users to report on misrepresentations of Israel in the media.
- Once in a Lifetime
- Once in a Lifetime is a program whereby bloggers from around the world who win an online competition are sent on a ten-day trip to Israel.
- Ambassadors Club
- In collaboration with IDC Herzeliya International School, StandWithUs sponsors talks at Raphael Recanati International School by leading Israeli figures. Attended by more than 200 students from over 30 countries, the talks concern a wide range of topics, such as economy, history, and demography, that are important in Israel advocacy.
International student programs
StandWithUs sponsors programs designed to provide foreign students in Israel with the tools they need to represent Israel when they return home.
Caterpillar protests (2005)
Four Roman Catholic orders of nuns and the group Jewish Voice for Peace joined in 2005 to propose a resolution calling for an internal investigation of Caterpillar, whose bulldozers, they claimed, were used by Israel to destroy homes in the West Bank and Gaza. In response, StandWithUs members spoke out against the resolution at a Caterpillar shareholders meeting, while the organization urged its supporters to buy stock in Caterpillar and other firms that do business with Israel. StandWithUs and the other organizations opposed to the resolution expressed their concern that Israel was being unfairly singled out for blame in the ongoing regional conflict.
Ahmadinejad protests (2007)
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University in New York in September 2007, StandWithUs organized protests at the site. Dani Klein, the campus director for StandWithUs, told the New York Times that the organization felt that the protest went "above and beyond the issues of free speech" and said that Columbia, by giving an egregious violator of human rights, Ahmadinejad, a platform, was "honoring him."
New campus initiatives
In 2012, StandWithUs introduced or expanded three new campus initiatives. An expanded version of "Peace Takes Two," first unveiled in 2011, includes "Path to Peace," a 16-panel display that recounts the story of Israel and has been used to counter such anti-Israel campaigns as "Israel Apartheid Week." "Israel in the World" educates students about Israel's contributions to the world and its relations with other countries. And "I ♥ Israel" enables students to use social media and video to explain what Israel means to them.
In collaboration with the Jerusalem Post, StandWithUs began publishing a monthly newspaper, Campus Post, in 2008, to be distributed on university campuses. The short-lived paper included articles by Jerusalem Post writers on the topics of Israeli news, society, and culture, while students and others in North America contribute articles about pro-Israel activism. There were sections on Environment, Innovations, Sports, Campus Voice, Opinion, and Israeli Fashion and Trends. In a 2008 press release to announce the newly formed partnership, Amanda Borschel-Dan, editor of Campus Post explained, "The Jerusalem Post was seeking to expand its reach to college campuses and bring relevant, updated information to students," continuing, "StandWithUs has a proven track record of success both on and off campus and we are pleased to team with them." The first issue was funded by a grant from Evelyn and Dr. Shmuel Katz.
StandWithUs has helped members of Co-Ops around the U.S. to defeat attempts to institutionalize boycotts of Israeli products. For example, StandWithUs Northwest led the opposition to efforts to establish boycotts at four food co-ops across the Northwest.
When members of the Park Slope Co-Op in Brooklyn, New York, began campaigning for the Co-Op to boycott Israeli products, StandWithUs worked with other members to oppose the effort. On 27 March 2011, members of the Co-Op voted overwhelmingly against the boycott, 1005-653.
StandWithUs organized a protest campaign in 2012 against the boycott of Israeli products by The Co-operative Food, the fifth largest chain of supermarkets in the UK. The chain, which had refused to sell products from Jewish communities on the West Bank since 2009, had widened the boycott in 2012 to include four Israeli firms that export produce from Israeli settlements. In response to the boycott, StandWithUs mounted a campaign to encourage consumers to boycott Co-Op.
Durban II protests (2009)
In response to the controversial Durban II conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 2009, StandWithUs organized protests and rallies around the world against the various conference speakers and the UN. At a few events, some protesters donned clown costumes "because it illustrated the 'absurdity' of having human-rights violators such as Libya, Cuba, and Iran heading a human-rights event".
The Emerson Fellowship
The organization trains U.S. and Canadian student leaders, known as Emerson Fellows, to "act as campus emissaries of the Jewish state." The program is funded by Steve and Rita Emerson. In both 2007 and 2008, 38 students were chosen and trained for the program each year. By 2012, when the program was in its sixth year, the number had risen to 50. When Ariel Pollock of Columbia University was chosen a fellow in 2007, she said she planned to screen the film Turn Left at the End of the World, about Moroccan and Indian immigrants to Israel, and to arrange debates between Columbia faculty and pro-Israel professors invited to campus by her. When Danny Rende was chosen a fellow in 2009, he planned to collaborate on programs that would "go beyond the conflict and focus on what Israel has to offer culturally."
The StandWithUs Fellowship
The organization trains 150 fellows on Israeli campuses, who are "trained to work together for common goals that benefit Israel — within its borders and globally." Students chosen are located on the seven leading campuses throughout the country. They are judged on their linguistic abilities, community and campus activism, as well as knowledge of world affairs. In 2012, StandWithUs fellows were involved in several initiatives that were partly sponsored by StandWithUs, including a Learn Innovate Lead conference, a SEE Israel conference, and an archeological project called Dig Israel.
Taglit-Birthright Israel trip
StandWithUs runs a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip for Jewish young adults aged 18 to 26 from around the world. StandWithUs’s program is geared for students interested in adventure, politics, government, journalism, and diplomacy.
Transit poster campaign
In May 2007, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a pro-Palestinian organization, paid for a poster campaign in the Washington, D.C. subway system. In response, StandWithUs arranged for their own poster campaign, with some posters showing Palestinian children with military gear. "Teaching children to hate will never lead to peace," one ad reads.
Megaphone desktop tool
StandWithUs, following an appeal from the Foreign Ministry of Israel, promotes the Megaphone Desktop Tool, an on-line tool which allows users to easily send messages promoting their positions to online polls and blogs.
When it was reported in May 2010 that jazz performer Diana Krall was scheduled to perform in Israel in August of that year, StandWithUs offered her husband, Elvis Costello, who had recently cancelled performances in Tel Aviv as "a matter of instinct and conscience," a "five star VIP tour of Israel" if he accompanied Krall. Rothstein cited concerns about what she views as the widespread misinformation propagated by the press around the world, specifically naming the UK, where Costello resides, as a prime example. Rothstein went on to say, "Our mission is to correct this misinformation and educate the public so they can make informed decisions. We would like to do this for Costello, whose decision undermines instead of promotes peaceful co-existence."
StandWithUs campaigned in October 2009 against the inaugural conference of J Street, a rival Israel lobby group. StandWithUs argued that many of J Street's funders and advisers have "opposed Israel" or have ties with Arab governments that they regard as "consistently hostile to Israel". The campaign, which consisted of telephone calls and faxes, was not perceived to be effective in discouraging policymakers from attending, given the conference's greater-than-expected turnout. The attendees included many congressmen as well as National Security Advisor General James Jones.
In November 2011, the Jewish Student Union at the University of California, Berkeley, rejected involvement with J Street, which was described as "the latest in a handful of incidents in which the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace organization has been frozen out of local Jewish institutions." Rothstein suggested that J Street’s non-acceptance by large factions of the Jewish community was due to a disconnect between the group’s priorities and that of the community at large: "I don't hear them putting pressure on the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. They only blame Israel for the lack of peace." On a separate occasion, Rothstein explained that StandWithUs objects to J Street not because it criticizes Israel, "but rather because it furthers some efforts to demonize Israel, such as the notorious United Nations Goldstone Report."
J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami, who in 2009 accused StandWithUs of "thuggish smear tactics" for having accused J Street of "endors[ing] anti-Israel, anti-Jewish narratives," met Rothstein onstage in March 2013 at an event hosted by Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles. Ben-Ami and Rothstein discussed "Israel's Future and the Role of the American Jewish Community." At the event, Rothstein accused Ben-Ami of thinking he knows “better than the Israelis" vis-à-vis making peace with Mahmoud Abbas or Hamas. "I feel that position is presumptuous and I’m sorry to say, it’s insulting to the Israeli people,” she said. She also complained that J Street pressures and criticizes only Israel, not the Palestinian Authority.
Ben-Ami faulted her for taking an "us versus them, good versus evil, black versus white" approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and, in his final remarks, concluded that there was little common ground between him and Rothstein. Rothstein, for her part, concluded a detailed postmortem on the encounter by saying that "While we all wish for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, J Street's work only emboldens Palestinians to continue their history of rejectionism and incitement. J Street encourages Palestinian refusal to return to negotiations because it does not require any accountability from them and does not seek to change hateful attitudes towards Israel—both of which are prerequisites for a lasting peace."
Shagririm is a Hebrew word meaning "ambassadors". The program's stated goal is to bring together Israeli-Americans and their American-born children in the Southern California area in order to generate pro-Israel programs and initiatives. Founded in 2010 with 12 students from UCLA, USC, and CSU Northridge, it has since expanded to include 54 students from those institutions as well as Santa Monica College, Cal Poly Pomona, Chapman University, and UC Irvine. Brett Cohen, national program director of StandWithUs explained that while the organization is responsible for many of the same types of activities as StandWithUs Emerson Fellows, Shagririm is important to pro-Israel advocacy in the US because of the deeply personal connection that the involved Israeli-Americans have with the cause. Their deep connection and personal experience with the region, he explains, helps other non-Israeli American supporters to gain a more profound understanding of the situation in the region.
According to a report published in October 2009 by Inter Press Service, StandWithUs has received funds from a "web of funders who support organisations that have been accused of anti-Muslim propaganda and encouraging a militant Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East." The organization countered by stating, "Radical Islam has impacted the Middle East greatly. All this stuff comes from a very fundamentalist religious position and looking at it does not make you right- or left-wing."
In response to a December 2011 article in The Forward, Rothstein wrote a letter to the editor criticizing the newspaper's attempt “to discredit us as 'right wing.'” She stated that "StandWithUs does not and has never advocated specific policies for Israel” and that its work is “not contingent on which parties are in power"; rather, she wrote, its goal “has been to counter the vicious anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda campaign that was unleashed along with the intifada in September 2000" by helping "to educate the public about Israel and empower others to educate their communities." Rothstein stated that "Israel is the only modern state whose right to exist is still questioned. If you consider support for the existence of the Jewish state a right-wing position, then indeed we are right wing. Yet you repeatedly confused anti-Israel propaganda with 'reasonable criticism' of Israeli policies."
In response to an open letter in Billboard Magazine by the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) titled “200 Hollywood Heavyweights Support Israel”, some media and activists asked whether Hollywood stars like Ziggy Marley, Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman were aware that the “Creative Community for Peace” was “a sanitizing front for the right-wing, pro-settler organization StandWithUs, that has deep ties to the Israeli government”.
In January 2015, StandWithUs announced a partnership for a joint social media program with the National Information Directorate of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office focused on Israel education. Under the agreement, which included a government contribution of over NIS 1 million (over $250,000), StandWithUs would operate "interactive media war rooms" that will work to improve "Israeli hasbara on social media platforms."
- American Israel Public Affairs Committee
- Christians United for Israel
- Hasbara Fellowships
- The David Project
- AMCHA Initiative
- Israel On Campus Coalition
- Israel lobby in the United States
- StandWithUs takes anti-J Street stand
- Internal Revenue Service Form 990, "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax", for "Israel Emergency Alliance", 2004, part V, retrieved from 
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- StandWithUs.org disclaimer page
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- Knowlton, Brian (24 September 2007). "Tough questions and protests for Ahmadinejad in New York". New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
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- StandWithUs (7 May 2012). "Action Alert: Fifth-Largest UK Supermarket Chain Launches Anti-Israel Boycott". Retrieved 5 May 2013.
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- StandWithUs website
- StandWithUs Taglit Birthright Info page
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- "Middle East conflict spawns advertising battle in Washington subways". International Herald Tribune. May 30, 2007.
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- STANDWITHUS CONCERNED ABOUT J STREET (StandWithUs)
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- http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48946 POLITICS-US: Pro-Israel Group's Money Trail Veers Hard Right (IPS, Oct. 21 2009);
Max Blumenthal (2012-06-14). "The Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate". The Nation.
- Nathan Guttman (2011-11-27). "StandWithUs Draws Line on Israel". The Forward.
- Debra Kamin: Stars’ Use of Social Media Embroils Them in Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. In: Chicago Tribune, 11 September 2014;
Debra Kamin: To counter BDS, it’s who you know (in Hollywood), Times of Israel, 24 August 2014;
Nathan Guttman: Hollywood Insiders Form Group To Counter Celebrity BDS Campaigns, Forward, 22 October 2013;
JTA: 300 Hollywood Stars Slam Hamas for Conflict With Israel, Forward, 14 September 2014
- "Israeli Government, StandWithUs Partner on New ‘Social Media Ambassadors’ Program".
- להשמיע את הקול שלהם, the7theye, Jan 13, 2015.