- Tax-exempt research institute focusing on alleged “pro-Israel bias” in the American media
- Charges Israel with war crimes and human rights abuses
Founded in 2001 by Alison Weir, If Americans Knew (IAK) describes itself as a “research and information-dissemination institute” that focuses primarily on “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. foreign policy regarding the Middle East, and media coverage of this issue.” The organization’s mission – rooted in the premise that the U.S. media are largely infected with a pro-Israel bias – is to “inform and educate the American public on issues of major significance that are unreported, underreported, or misreported.”
IAK asserts that because of what it calls the “Israeli military occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians in those regions “live in an odd and oppressive limbo” where “they have no nation, no citizenship, and no ultimate power over their own lives.” By IAK’s telling, “Israel is one of the leading violators” of the Geneva Conventions, “a set of principles instituted after World War II to ensure that civilians would ‘never again’ suffer as they had under Nazi occupation.” Lamenting that “Palestinians live, basically, in a prison in which Israel holds the keys,” IAK claims that “Israeli forces regularly confiscate private land; imprison individuals without process – including children – and physically abuse them under incarceration; demolish family homes; bulldoze orchards and crops; place entire towns under curfew; destroy shops and businesses; [and] shoot, maim, and kill civilians.”
Arguing that it is only because of “the money and weaponry provided by the United States” that Israel is able to “impos[e] an ethnically discriminatory nation on land that was previously multicultural,” IAK calls for a complete cessation of all U.S. aid to the Jewish state. “American support of the Israeli government,” the group elaborates, “… places us [the U.S.] at war with populations whose desperate plight we are helping to create and … makes us an accomplice to war crimes and an accessory to oppression.” In addition, IAK charges that U.S. economic assistance to Israel not only “prop[s] up a system of discrimination that is antithetical to American principles of equality and democracy,” but also “interferes with American relations with the oil-producing nations” while siphoning vital tax revenues away from “domestic needs.”
In an effort to shield itself from charges of anti-Semitism, IAK is usually careful not to disparage “the Jews” explicitly; instead it typically refers to subsets of Jews such as “the Zionists,” “the Israel lobby,” or “the neocons” whose “dual loyalties” allegedly undermine America’s national sovereignty.
IAK’s account of Israeli history is riddled with biases and falsehoods. For example, the organization maintains that the Second Palestinian Intifada (2000-05) was “sparked when an Israeli general, Ariel Sharon, known for his slaughter of Palestinian civilians throughout his career, [provocatively] visited a Jerusalem holy site, accompanied by over a thousand armed Israeli soldiers” who subsequently overreacted with murderous barbarism to “some Palestinian youths [who] threw stones” at them. This propagandistic account has been thoroughly discredited by historians.
While emphasizing that Palestinian civilians were killed and injured in significantly greater numbers than their Israeli counterparts during the Second Intifada, IAK entirely omits the context in which those deaths occurred. That is, it does not mention that Israel was forced to respond to wave upon wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks deliberately targeting Israeli civilians. Nor does it acknowledge that Israel’s military efforts were aimed exclusively at terrorists, many of whom used private homes and heavily populated areas as bases for their operations, thereby placing civilians in harm’s way.
In its final analysis, IAK describes the Second Intifada as a justified “rebellion” that Palestinians reluctantly launched in response to the relentless “hardship and humiliation” that Israeli abuses had been heaping upon them. The purpose of the rebellion, says IAK, was “to create a nation free from foreign oppression,” similar to the way “the American Revolutionary War” was in essence “the American intifada against Britain.” In IAK’s version of events, Palestinians resorted to suicide bombings only because they had concluded, much to their dismay, that “armed resistance ha[d] become necessary – much as Americans supported war after the attack at Pearl Harbor.”
With similar disregard for truth, IAK refers to the 1967 Six Day War as a “Pearl Harbor-like surprise [Israeli] attack on Egypt” — a characterization that, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) notes, “ignores the fact that before Israel’s preemptive strike, Egypt expelled UN peacekeepers meant to separate the two sides, provocatively massed its troops on its border with Israel, threatened to destroy the country, and, in an act of war, illegally blockaded the Israeli port of Eilat.”
“But even more preposterous,” says CAMERA, “is [IAK’s] assertion that Israel ‘attacked’ and ‘invaded’ surrounding countries in 1948. During the 1948 War of Independence, it was Israel that was illegally attacked and invaded by its neighbors, which sought to destroy the nascent Jewish state. This attack by the Arab countries and the Palestinians was a violation of United Nations Resolution 181 (the Partition Resolution) and the UN Charter.”
CAMERA also reports that Weir and IAK routinely “parrot discredited claims that Israel attacks Palestinians with ‘mysterious poison gas‘”; “cal[l] Israel an ‘apartheid nation’”; “describe Palestinian violence as a ‘legitimate right and … moral duty’”; and even “refer to the founding of Israel as the start of a ‘holocaust.’”
A noteworthy IAK board member is the former U.S. congressman Paul Findley, who: (a) claims that Americans “have been misled by the American media, which is controlled by the Jewish lobby”; (b) describes the United States as a nation in “bondage to Israel’s misdeeds”; and (c) wrote that “Nine-eleven would not have occurred if the U.S. government had refused to help Israel humiliate and destroy Palestinian society.”
Another key member of IAK is Alison Weir’s daughter Sarah, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 2002.
To disseminate its anti-Israel message as broadly and forcefully as possible, IAK has produced a host of informational materials such as booklets, fact sheets, media studies, and articles. It also has organized public forums and provided speakers and written materials to hundreds of schools, churches, libraries, and civic organizations across the United States. In 2003 the organization began publishing annual “Media Report Cards” evaluating major media outlets nationwide on their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, the IAK website includes a listing of recommended books authored by Alison Weir and other notables such as Ali Abunimah, Max Blumenthal, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Ilan Pappe, Noam Chomsky, and Edward Said.
IAK supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that aims to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state.