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If Americans Knew: Profile

By Stand4Facts.org


Overview

The organization, If Americans Knew, is indistinguishable from its founder, free-lance journalist Alison Weir. Weir became a self-styled expert on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict when she visited the Territories for the first time in the summer of 2001. Struck by the fact that she “found a situation largely the reverse of what was being reported by the American media,”[1] she formed her non-profit corporation to expose the media bias against the Palestinians, what she considered a “cover-up of appalling proportions.”[2] Weir began producing and distributing educational materials and has lectured widely throughout the US, at campuses, churches, libraries, and on Capitol Hill.[3] If Americans Knew seems to be Weir’s one-person operation, but her daughter Sarah, a recent college graduate, now also works with her.

Be prepared when she comes to your campus. She claims to be exposing media bias but in fact, she peddles an unusually virulent anti-Israel message. Even she admits that “It is hard not to sound fanatic, over-wrought, biased. The lie is too big, the repression too complete, the Palestinians’ lives too horrible to write about reasonably.”[4]

When Weir lectures, she makes inflammatory assertions in a sad, almost monotone voice that makes them seem like incontrovertible facts. She also packs a strong emotional punch through anecdotes and photographs about Palestinian Arab suffering. As one student reported, Weir’s “talk was full of pictures of dead children; most of them were unexplained, just said to be results of Israeli soldiers.….The whole talk was designed to make you feel too bad or too ashamed to question any of her words, no matter how blatantly full of lies they were. I felt uncomfortable raising my hand and telling her that what she said about the history of Israel was all lies…”[5]

Weir claims that her materials are objective because she and her organization“are directed by Americans without bias and ethnic ties to the region”[6] and because they are not “pressured by powerful special interest groups.”[7] As these thinly veiled allusions to Jewish control of the media suggest, Weir and her organization have an overwhelming bias: they embrace the Arab view of the conflict and its demonization of Israel. One of their new board members, former Illinois Congressman Paul Findley, has been one of the most outspoken anti-Israel advocates and was dubbed “Israel’s number one enemy on Capitol Hill” before he was ousted from office in 1983.[8]

They also have an explicit agenda: persuading Americans to end all support for Israel. “We believe strongly that if Americans knew the truth about Israel and Palestine-about the massive amount of our tax money that is being given away to Israel, and about the human cost of Israel’s American-financed militarism-they would demand an immediate re-thinking of our policies in this region.”[9]

Weir’s special contribution is her effort to make Americans feel guilty. She argues that US support for Israel “makes us accomplice to war crimes and an accessory to oppression….We [Americans]are driving the violence in this region.”[10] She presumes that we are not doing so willingly. Rather, media bias has “manipulated” us.[11] If we knew the true facts, we would demand an end to support for Israel. Her mission is to spread what she considers to be the facts.

Weir’s inflammatory assertions and distortions are matched only by her lack of information about the history of Israel and of the conflict. Consider some of her statements:

  • “You call this…[Israel’s] ‘War of Independence.’ Please explain this to me. Independence from whom? From the farmers whose ancestors had tilled the land for centuries?….Independence from humanity? From morality? From normality? From everyone else in the world?”[12]

  • “People who say there are two sides to this ‘conflict’ are full of bs….Here there is the brutalizer and the brutalized. It’s not complicated.” [13]

  • “It is hard not to sound fanatic, over-wrought, biased. The lie is too big, the repression too complete, the Palestinians’ lives too horrible to write about reasonably.”[14]

  • “When a rare, crazed, would-be freedom-fighter escapes this prison and tries to strike his oppressor, we need to read about the prison he exploded out of. Rather than an ‘inexplicable, fanatical terrorist,’ we would see what we had helped create with our aid to Israel-a terrorized victim who has tragically but inexplicably turned to violence himself.”[15]

  • “Empowered by American money, Israel is occupying land that does not belong to it.”[16]

  • “When people say Israel has a right to exist, it means that Israel has a right to discriminate.”[17]

  • “Americans have to stop this [supporting Israel]. Israel will keep shooting kids in the back until we all say, Enough.”[18]

  • “You’ve called ‘anti-Semite’ once too often. You’ve pressured one too many newspapers, one too many universities, one too many mayors…”[19]

  • “This poverty [in the Territories] has not happened by accident, Weir argued. ‘I was seeing newly, artificially, purposefully created poverty. Poverty being created by America through its support of a regime that is consciously, and again, quite effectively, squeezing out people it does not want around.’”[20]

  • “The U.S. State Department has yet to impose any diplomatic sanctions whatsoever against a government whose "apology" for one of its soldiers crushing a young, peaceful American student has consisted of calling it "regrettable”…The American media have yet to accord this horror the attention it would normally merit, if it had been done by any other country on earth, including the U.S. government.”[21]

  • “Historians have since written that the fact that Israel was able to attack a US ship (the Liberty) and kill and maim American servicemen, with virtually no consequences, convinced Israeli hardliners that Israel could, whenever it wanted, get away with murder.”[22]

  • “[Weir] told me that Israeli soldiers are invincible-that they are bulletproof. I wasn't sure if I heard her correctly, so I asked her, "You mean people never come up to them and shoot them and kill them?" and she said no, they have armor, they are bulletproof.” Alex Scheinker, student at Washington University[23]

[1] http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.com/about_us/whoweare.html

[2] http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.com/about_us/

[3] http://www.ifamericansknew.com/about_us/whoweare.html

[4] Alison Weir. February 19, 2001. “Gaza Calling”. Media Monitors Network. www.mediamonitors.net/weir1.html . Accessed March 9, 2004. Also published in: Weir, Alison. “Gaza: A Report From the Front”, in Roane Carey, editor, with an introduction by Noam Chomsky. 2001. The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid. New York, NY: Verso. p. 159-163.

[5] Alex Scheinker, “Weir’s Speech Aimed at Emotions, Not Intellect,” Washington University Student Life, April 21 2004 at http://www.studlife.com/news/2004/04/21/Forum/Weirs.Speech.Aimed.At.Emotions.Not.Intellect-666145.shtml

[6] http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.com/about_us/whoweare.html

[7] http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/

[8] http://www.ifamericansknew.com/about_us/whoweare.html and Janine Zacharia, “Israel’s Stake in Congress,” Jerusalem Post, November 6 2000 at http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2000/11/06/Features/Features.14949.html

[9] http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.com/about_us/whoweare.html

[10] http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/

[11] http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/

[12] Alison Weir. October 18/19, 2003. “Death Threats in Berkeley: ‘Close Your Organization or Die’”. www.counterpunch.org/weir10182003.html Accessed March 9, 2004.

[13] Alison Weir, “Gaza Under Siege,” February 24 2001 at www.palestinemonitor.org/eyewitness/Gaza/gaza_under_siege.htm Accessed March 9 2004

[14] Alison Weir. February 19, 2001. “Gaza Calling”. Media Monitors Network. www.mediamonitors.net/weir1.html . Accessed March 9, 2004. Also published in: Weir, Alison. “Gaza: A Report From the Front”, in Roane Carey, editor, with an introduction by Noam Chomsky. 2001. The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid. New York, NY: Verso. p. 159-163.

[15] July 27, 2001. “U.S. Media Bias toward Israel Conflicts With Journalist’s Experience.”

Report from a Palestine Center briefing by Alison Weir. Originally published in For the Record No. 79, July 27, 2001. www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/20010727ftr.html Accessed March 9, 2004.

[16] http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/

[17] Cited at www.honestreporting.com/articles/critiques/Readers_Roundup.asp Accessed March 8, 2004.

[18] www.palestinemonitor.org/eyewitness/Gaza/gaza_under_siege.htm Accessed March 9, 2004.

[19] Alison Weir. October 18/19, 2003. “Death Threats in Berkeley: ‘Close Your Organization or Die’”. www.counterpunch.org/weir10182003.html Accessed March 9, 2004.

[20] July 27, 2001. “U.S. Media Bias toward Israel Conflicts With Journalist’s Experience.”

Report from a Palestine Center briefing by Alison Weir. Originally published in For the Record No. 79, July 27, 2001. www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/20010727ftr.html Accessed March 9, 2004.

[21] Alison Weir, “The Fog of War: We Won’t Forget Rachel Corrie, Israel,” Counterpunch April 3 2003 at http://www.counterpunch.org/weir04032003.html

[22] Alison Weir, “The Fog of War: We Won’t Forget Rachel Corrie, Israel,” Counterpunch April 3 2003 at http://www.counterpunch.org/weir04032003.html

[23] Alex Scheinker, “Weir’s Speech Aimed at Emotions, Not Intellect,” Washington University Student Life, April 21 2004 at http://www.studlife.com/news/2004/04/21/Forum/Weirs.Speech.Aimed.At.Emotions.Not.Intellect-666145.shtml

Organization Background

If Americans Knew, a non-profit corporation, is primarily a one-person operation founded by free-lance journalist Alison Weir in 2001. Based in Berkeley, California, it is dedicated to providing Americans with information that is “unreported, underreported, or misreported” in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.[1]

If Americans Knew maintains a well kept website, produces educational materials and provides lecturers (usually Weir herself) to campuses, churches, and civic groups across the country.

Weir has been involved in journalism on and off for the past 25 years. She has been associated with the Center for Investigative Reporting; served as an editor at Women Sports Magazine and as a freelancer for the San Francisco Examiner and Rolling Stone magazine; authored a children’s book; and most recently she was the editor of the Marin Scope newspaper in Sausalito, California.[2]

Intrigued by photos of Palestinian youths throwing stones at Israeli tanks, Ms. Weir traveled to Gaza in early 2001, where she says she interviewed a few hundred people in thirty days and developed her impressions of the conflict. (It is not clear whether she visited Gaza with a journalist’s pass or whether she visited under the auspices of one of the Palestinian organizations that provide reality tours and arrange interviews and translators.)

Since that trip, she has become a self-styled authority on the conflict and, in effect, a publicist for Palestinian propaganda. Her articles began appearing in the San Jose Mercury-News, the San Francisco Examiner, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. One piece, "Gaza: A Report from the Front," was published in the 2001 book The New Intifada: Resisting Israel’s Apartheid (New York, NY: Verso), edited by Roane Carey. Other contributors to this volume included prominent figures in the anti-Zionist, anti-Israel camp, such as Noam Chomsky, Edward W. Said, Glenn E. Robinson, and Robert Fisk.

Given Weir’s limited background and knowledge about the Middle East, it is not clear why she is sought as a speaker, but she has lectured at the Center for Policy Analysis, at the League of Women Voters, and at numerous university campuses, churches, community centers and libraries.[3] The If Americans Knew website reports that she has been commended by individuals such as former U.S. Senator and Dean of Stanford Law School, Tom Campbell.[4]

The organization now has former Illinois Congressman Paul Findley on its board, a fact that underscores its anti-Israel stance and that may explain some of its contacts.[5] Findley has been a prominent anti-Israel activist for decades. AIPAC worked hard to unseat him in the early 1980’s, and he was once dubbed “Arafat’s best friend in Congress.”[6] Findley’s organization, Council for the National Interest (CNI) and his books-They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby (1985) and Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts about the US-Israel Relationship (1993)-have all attacked AIPAC, the “Jewish lobby,” vilified Israel and called for an ending US aid to Israel. In an article entitled “Liberating America from Israel,” Findley claimed: “Nine-eleven would not have occurred if the U.S. government had refused to help Israel humiliate and destroy Palestinian society.” [7] Some journalists have charged that Findley, like several former government officials, receives financial support from Saudi Arabia.[8]

The other active member of If Americans Knew is Weir’s daughter Sarah who recently graduated with honors from UC Berkeley in 2002, and currently is the organization’s Projects Manager. Sarah apparently shares her mother’s concerns about the impact of the media. Her college honors thesis, entitled "The Mass Media, Persuasion, and Political Knowledge," explored the effects of mainstream media on consumers’ political opinions.[9] At If Americans Knew, Sarah has designed booklets, posters, and flyers, conducted media analyses, and initiated an educational website. Sarah also contributes articles to the Arab Palestinian media. Her article, “Commission of Inquiry reveals US-Israeli cover-up of U.S.S. Liberty attack” for The Electronic Intifada, 25 October 2003, and “Reversing Reality: Newspaper Coverage of Israel and Palestine” April 11, 2003, for the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If Americans Knew is not prominently covered in the media, but Weir got considerable local attention when she received a voicemail death threat after participating in a debate about the conflict in Berkeley in October 2003. She called the media and Berkeley police officers came to guard her office. A “crowd” also came to show their support for her, including UC Dean of Students Karen Kenney who had moderated the debate and Kriss Worthington of the Berkeley City Council.[10] Weir minced no words about the reasons for the threat. “’This is the bullying action of cowards,’ Weir said. ‘I think it represents the fanaticism with which people defend Israel. It also shows how weak their cause is in a public debate…Since they didn’t win the debate, they thought they would just kill us.’”[11]



[1] http://www.ifamericansknew.com/about_us/

[2] http://www.amila.org/comments.php?id=44_0_5_0_C

[3] http://www.ifamericansknew.com/about_us/whoweare.html

[4] http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/being_a_target.html

[5] http://www.ifamericansknew.com/about_us/whoweare.html

[6] Janine Zacharia, “Israel’s Stake in Congress,” Jerusalem Post, November 6 2000 at http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2000/11/06/Features/Features.14949.html and

Paul Sperry, “Ralph Nader: The Unchallenged Hero of Muslims,” Frontpage Magazine, March 26 2004 at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12737 , and for more on Arafat and Findley, see Ray Hanania, “What Paul Findley Means to Me,” at http://www.hanania.com/pfindley.htm

[7] Paul Findley, “Liberating America From Israel,” September 12 2002 at http://www.jordanwhite.com/Essays%20by%20Others/Findley%202002.htm

[8] Paul Sperry, “Ralph Nader: The Unchallenged Hero of Muslims,” Frontpage Magazine, March 26 2004 at http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12737 , and for more on positions offered to ex government officials by Saudis, see Joel Mowbray, “Feeding at the Saudi Trough,” Town Hall, October 1 2003 at http://www.townhall.com/columnists/joelmowbray/printjm20031001.shtml

[9] http://student.cs.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/authors/SarahWeir.php

[10] Jakob Schiller, “Threat Draws Crowd, Including Councilman, University Dean,” Berkeley Daily Planet, October 7

[11] Jakob Schiller, “Threat Draws Crowd, Including Councilman, University Dean,” Berkeley Daily Planet, October 7

Strategy

Alison Weir may be a well-intentioned do-gooder committed to human rights, but she has only the shallowest understanding of the conflict and its history. Like many anti-Israel speakers, she has latched on to the conflict as a simple morality tale of good versus evil in which Israel is not just the evil-doer, but demon-like. The depth of her animosity to Israel can be unsettling.

Weir can be tough to counter because she speaks in a flat, almost monotone voice that gives the appearance of dispassionate objectivity. In addition, she is not afraid to make outrageous accusations with absolute conviction such as, “Israel will keep shooting kids in the back until we all say, Enough.”[1] Nor is she rattled by audience questions that expose her errors. She unblinkingly holds her ground or counters with her special issue-media bias-and claims the questioner has been misled or is a victim of propaganda. In short, she dismisses and discredits other views and holds to her vision with almost religious zeal. She even confesses, “It is hard not to sound fanatic, overwrought, biased. The lie is too big, the repression too complete, the Palestinians’ lives too horrible to write about reasonably.” [2]

Weir’s main persuasion technique is to focus on specifics-specific numbers, specific anecdotes and specific photographs-that seem factual and irrefutable. She amplifies her credibility by an “I was there” approach, basing many of her anecdotes on her personal experience in the Territories.

Her second technique is emotional. She tells dramatic, heart wrenching anecdotes and backs them up with her photographs. As one student wrote after hearing Weir speak at Washington University: “I realize now, more and more, that the whole talk was based on making people emotional and therefore irrational. The whole talk was designed to make you feel too bad or too ashamed to question any of her words, no matter how blatantly full of lies they were. I felt uncomfortable raising my hand and telling her that what she said about the history of Israel was all lies, I felt uncomfortable pointing out to her that what she said about the conflict was false and very one-sided, and I was too preoccupied with feeling sad for the children whose images she showed.” [3]

Her third technique is to make audiences feel guilty for the suffering she describes. American support for Israel, she repeatedly asserts, “makes us an accomplice to war crimes and an accessory to oppression.”[4]

Finally, Weir uses a staple rhetorical device in which she describes an Israeli ‘misdeed’ and then spins it into a wholesale condemnation. For example, she argues that “the fact that Israel was able to attack a US ship (the Liberty) and kill and maim American servicemen, with virtually no consequences, convinced Israeli hardliners that Israel could, whenever it wanted, get away with murder.” [5]

Accusations and Defamations
  • After the attacks of September 11th, Alison Weir warned of anti-Arab discrimination in America, up to and including internments like those faced by Japanese-Americans during World War II.[1] .

  • Alison Weir warns of Israeli genocide of the Palestinians: killings of Palestinian protestors and children; Security Fence as a “Berlin Wall”[2] ; predictions of mass transfer during the “fog of war” of the US invasion of Iraq.[3]

  • Alison Weir claims Israel kills more Palestinians, and specifically more Palestinian children, than Palestinians kill Israelis, or Israeli children, including that “over 80 Palestinian children were killed-most by gunfire to the head-before the first Israeli child was killed.”[4]

  • Alison Weir alleges Israeli treachery against America, citing Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty as having been “completely intentional”,[5] rather than an unfortunate accident of war, as determined in numerous inquiries. Despite Israel’s ranking as the #1 recipient of US foreign aid, Alison Weir alleges that Israel kills Americans, such as Rachel Corrie and Tom Herndahl of the International Solidarity Movement.[6]

  • Ms. Weir says Israel receives favorable press in the US because so many Americans are Jews or Israelis or know Jews or Israelis.[7]

  • Alison Weir has a badly misinformed view of Israeli history, claiming that with only one exception, Israel attacked first in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973.[8]
  • "Outsiders do not seem to recognize that bin Laden is one of the pre-eminent heroes of Afghans, occupying a role similar to the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who fought at the side of the Colonials during America's Revolutionary War." Paul Findley, Silent No More: Confronting America’s False Image of Islam, 2001[9]

  • “Supporters of former Congressman Paul Findley (Republican of Illinois) have been leafletting anti-war events with an anti-Israel diatribe of his entitled "Liberate America!" That's right -- liberate America from the clutches of Israel! In this leaflet Findley says "Congress behaves as if it were a subcommittee of the Israeli parliament. " Reported by Pete Brown, “Israel and Imperialism,” The Communist Voice, May 23 2003[10]

  • “Speaking of the Israel lobby in the US, Findley tries to frighten patriotic American imperialists: "The lobby's intimidation remains pervasive. It seems to reach into every government center and even houses of worship and revered institutions of higher learning. " Reported by Pete Brown, “Israel and Imperialism,” The Communist Voice, May 23 2003[11]

  • "[It] is interesting but not surprising to note that in all the words written about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, has never been mentioned, despite the obvious fact Mossad complicity is as plausible as any of the other theories." Paul Findley[12]

  • “Acts of individual, group or state terrorism are alien to Islam.” Paul Findley, “Emerson’s ‘Jihad in America,’” Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, March 1995[13]
  • On Steve Emerson’s Film, “Jihad in America:’” “Without any proof he presents them as sinister, subversive schemes to finance "Islamic terrorism" here "on American soil." The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), based in Washington, DC, concludes: "From beginning to end, 'Jihad in America' and its producer, Steven Emerson, offered nothing but distorted snippets of fiery rhetoric, unsupported allegations and spurious juxtapositions to build a case against the Muslim community in America.’” Paul Findley, “Emerson’s ‘Jihad in America,’” Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, March 1995[14]

[1] “Fight against Ethnic Hatred to avoid War against Civilians”, September 13, 2001, www.mediamonitors.net/weir2.html .

[2] www.IfAmericansKnew.org

[3] “An Old Evil Renames Itself as ‘Transfer’”, February 8, 2003, www.counterpunch.org/weir02082003.html

[4] “The United States and Israel, A Relationship that Endangers Americans”, August 22, 2002, www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/20020822ftr.html , originally appearing in “For the Record” No. 127, 22 August 2002

[5] www.ibn.net/Archives/hana/11904.wma

[6] www.ibn.net/Archives/hana/11904.wma

[7] “Gaza Calling”, February 19, 2001, www.mediamonitors.net/weir1.html

[8] www.IfAmericansKnew.org

[9] Cited in Stephen Schwartz, “All the Hate that’s Fit to Print” Weekly Standard, 7/22/02 at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/464ijlvz.asp?pg=1

[10] http://home.flash.net/~comvoice/31cTailWagDog.html

[11] http://home.flash.net/~comvoice/31cTailWagDog.html

[12] cited in Michael Collins Piper, “The Mossad’s Role in the JFK Assassination,” 1997 at http://www.afrocubaweb.com/news/mossadjfk.htm

[13] http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/0395/9503020.htm

[14] http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/0395/9503020.htm



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