New York, NY, September 2, 2014 - On August 23, the Los Angeles group Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) released a widely reported on statement in Billboard Magazine - “200 Hollywood Heavyweights Support Israel.” What was not reported is that CCFP is a “creative” front group for the right-wing, pro Israeli settler nonprofit StandWithUs, that has a close relationship with the Israeli government. Though CCFP carefully avoids explaining this on their website and materials, CCFP is the same legally-registered nonprofit as StandWithUs (SWU), and, as of October 2013, operated from within SWU’s LA office.
Felice Gelman from Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel commented, “We wonder if CCFP explained to the Hollywood luminaries who signed its statement, like Ziggy Marley and Sarah Silverman, that its apolitical message of ‘art building bridges for peace’ is actually a sanitizing front for the right-wing, pro-settler organization StandWithUs, that has deep ties to the Israeli government? We are also concerned that US media covering the statement did not report on who CCFP really is.”
The statement on Gaza is as misleading as its hidden identity and the politics of its sponsor SWU. Nerdeen Kiswani, a student activist with Students for Justice in Palestine, explained, “CCFP begins and ends its statement with apolitical, and essentially deceptive invocations of peace. But the core argument reflects typical SWU talking points and Israeli government right-wing spin, that Palestinians themselves are somehow entirely to blame for Israel’s slaughter of over 2000 Palestinians and the destruction of thousands of homes and entire villages in Gaza.”
Since the statement was first published, at least one celebrity ‘signatory’, Moroccan filmmaker Sanaa Hamri, has had her name removed, saying she never agreed to sign on.
SWU, which was originally created and registered in 2001 as Israel Emergency Alliance, states on its website that “StandWithUs, known as the Israel Emergency Alliance, is a 501(c)(3) organization.” CCFP, created in 2010, also states on its donation page that it is “a 501(c)(3) organization, dba [doing business as] Israel Emergency Alliance.” Upon creation, CCFP was simply integrated into the existing legally registered organization Israel Emergency Alliance/StandWithUs. As The Jewish Daily Forward reported in October 2013, CCFP is not actually a nonprofit, but rather it operates under the aegis of the long-established nonprofit StandWithUs, which is “widely perceived to be on the far right of the pro-Israel spectrum.”
SWU regularly touts congratulations and endorsements by the Israeli government and has organized pro-settler PR projects with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. SWU also works with the right-wing evangelical group Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and CUFI’s homophobic leader, John Hagee. Additionally, in 2010, SWU members disrupted a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) meeting, even pepper-spraying two JVP members.
Exposing CCFP’s similarity to SWU, The Forward reported in October 2013 that CCFP “takes positions that appear to be held by only a narrow spectrum among Jews who support Israel,” disputing that Israeli settlements are a primary obstacle to peace, and that Israel holds Palestinians under military occupation. (Update, September 14 2014: CCFP removed these links from their website, after this press release was made public on September 2, but they still can be seen here.) The Forward article showed that CCFP is in lockstep with Israel’s right-wing government, quoting David Siegel, Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles, lavishing praise on CCFP, and saying “they are effective because they work from inside the industry.”
CCFP’s cofounder, music executive David Renzer, has attempted to distance CCFP from SWU, telling The Forward that CCFP has “always operated independently,” and asserting “there is no day-to-day relationship” with SWU. The facts belie this. On top of CCFP’s legal status as part of SWU, David Renzer is married to the SWU’s cofounder and president, Esther Renzer. Another CCFP co-founder, Ran Geffen-Lifshitz, is on the board of StandWithUs Israel, and CCFP and SWU held a strategy session together with Israeli government officials to shape CCFP’s activities.
SWU and CCFP have gone to lengths to camouflage their interrelationship, even registering StandWithUs and Creative Community for Peace with the LA County Clerk in 2010 as “fictitious business names” for Israel Emergency Alliance (documents viewable in this expose). Though CCFP asserted to The Forward last year that it was only working under SWU while “awaiting the processing of its application” as “a tax-exempt charity,” current online searches of IRS and California state records for Creative Community for Peace continue to come up empty.
Despite the fact that CCFP operates within SWU/Israel Emergency Alliance, the most current publicly available 990 tax form for SWU/Israel Emergency Alliance from 2012 makes no mention whatsoever of CCFP. The 2012 990 demonstrates that the organization is managed by SWU, noting the salaries and titles of six “Key Employees,” each of whom is an SWU staffmember, with no one listed from CCFP.
The 2012 990 also lists Steven Rosen of Silver Spring, Maryland as a “Strategic Adviser.” SWU’s 2011 and 2010 990s also show that Rosen was paid $120,000 and $127,000 from SWU in that same role. For 23 years Rosen was a top official at AIPAC, the right-wing Israel lobby group. He served as AIPAC’s Director of Foreign Policy until he was indicted for alleged violations of the Espionage Act, though the charges were later dropped. A New Yorker expose on AIPAC last week noted that Rosen “was fond of telling people that he could take out a napkin at any Senate hangout and get signatures of support for one issue or another from scores of senators.” One of Rosen’s favorite quotes during his years with AIPAC was, “A lobby is like a night flower: it thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.”
For more detailed background and documentation on CCFP, SWU and their relationship see this expose by Phan Nguyen.