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New York, NY, October 22 – Human rights advocates today added to revelations reported in The Jewish Daily Forward this week about the new Hollywood entertainment industry group Creative Community for Peace (CCFP). CCFP campaigns against a cultural boycott of Israel, and claims to oppose the politicization of art. But The Forward revealed this week that CCFP, not itself a nonprofit, operates under the aegis of the long-established US nonprofit StandWithUs (SWU) which is “widely perceived as being on the far right of the pro-Israel spectrum.” The Forward also shows that CCFP shares some of SWU's right-wing positions, though CCFP espouses goals of “peace” and “freedom of expression.” SWU, legally registered under the name Israel Emergency Alliance (IEA), regularly boasts of its endorsement by and support to the Israeli government.
CCFP’s cofounder, music executive David Renzer, tried to distance the group from SWU, telling The Forward that CCFP has “always operated independently” of SWU, and asserting, “there is no day-to-day relationship” with SWU. But according to Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, David Renzer is married to the cofounder and president of SWU Esther Renzer; another CCFP co-founder, Ran Geffen-Lifshitz, is on the board of StandWithUs Israel; CCFP’s Director Lana Melman appears to be based in the long-established SWU office in LA as she can be reached by phone via the SWU switchboard there; and CCFP and SWU held a strategizing session together with Israeli government officials to shape CCFP’s activities. Still, SWU and CCFP have gone to lengths to camouflage their interrelationship, even quietly registering StandWithUs and Creative Community for Peace with the LA County Clerk in 2010 as “fictitious business names” for the registered nonprofit Israel Emergency Alliance (Scanned file available on request).
The Forward quoted Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel, who also helped to lead the 2012 CCFP strategizing session, lavishing praise on CCFP saying “they are effective because they work from inside the industry” and “the best way to talk to them [artists] is from within the industry.” The Israeli government encourages celebrated musicians to play in Israel as part of its effort to Brand Israel positively, “make Israel cool,” and combat efforts to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
Poet and author Remi Kanazi explained, “Artists like Alicia Keys who have been lobbied by CCFP to perform in Israel, and musicians like Macy Gray, Erykah Badu and Moby whose photos and quotes are used by CCFP to promote itself deserve to know that standing behind CCFP’s supposed non-political support for peace and freedom of expression are the right-wingers at StandWithUs, who work closely with the Israeli government, and promote positions that make a just resolution to the conflict impossible.”
The Forward noted that CCFP “takes positions that appear to be held by only a narrow spectrum among Jews who support Israel,” disputing that Israeli settlements are primary obstacles to peace, or that Israel holds Palestinians under military occupation. According to the UN, the International Court of Justice, human rights organizations and governments, Israel’s settlements violate international law and Israel militarily occupies the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.
Phan Nguyen from Adalah-NY commented, "Given CCFP's denial of the importance of Israeli settlements and military occupation, and CCFP’s claim that Israel simply lacks ‘a true peace partner,’ CCFP's repetition of the word peace, including in its own name, should be understood as a cynical rhetorical ploy. CCFP appears to use the word peace in the same manner that SWU instructs its trainees to do – ‘Always include the word ‘peace’ in your answer,’ ‘If the Israeli side says ‘peace’ more times than the Palestinian side says ‘peace,’ we will win the PR war.’”
And while CCFP also claims to promote “freedom of expression” CCFP has never taken a position in support of Palestinian cultural workers whose right to freedom of expression is regularly crushed by the Israeli government. SWU also works with the right-wing evangelical group Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and CUFI’s homophobic leader, John Hagee. SWU members have disrupted a meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), even pepper-spraying two JVP members.
Allison Brown from Adalah-NY added, “CCFP says briefly in just one place on its website that it is doing business as Israel Emergency Alliance. But few people have ever heard of Israel Emergency Alliance, which turns out to be the legally registered name for StandWithUs. CCFP and SWU appear to have deliberately avoided linking their names together, perhaps trying to disguise CCFP’s partisan, right-wing agenda.”