StandWithUs is serious about their Captain Israel campaign. Since January 2011, StandWithUs has been publishing Captain Israel comic books to deflect criticism against the state of Israel by not-so-subtly ignoring historical accuracy and smearing nonviolent solidarity campaigns against the occupation.
So far, only two comics have been released. The first issue, published in January, presents a modified version of Israel’s history. The second issue, released in May, demonizes the BDS movement as an anti-Semitic tactic. In the still unreleased third issue, Captain Israel “confronts the UN”.
I’ve had a few run-ins with StandWithUs in the past and from what I gather, the organization is committed to justifying even the most unlawful of Israel’s actions by excusing the occupation as a necessity to protect Jews from further global persecution. Although it describes itself as an educational group, the organization is notorious for its twisting of facts, its “thuggish smear tactics“, and its explicitly negative attitude toward Islam which it regularly identifies as the source of today’s hostilities against Jewish existence. In fact, a 2009 report reveals that StandWithUs receives funding from backers of anti-Muslim groups and propagandists that promote increased military action against Muslim-dominated Arab countries.
StandWithUs’ propaganda techniques are evident in the first panel of the first page of the first publication. It is one thing to have pride, but it is an entirely different (and disgraceful) thing to have so much pride that history must be contorted in order for a modified message to be sold to the public.
Here is a glimpse of StandWithUs’ most embarrassing creation yet.
In the first issue, StandWithUs makes the bold claim that only the West recognized Palestine while Arabs chose to avoid using the name until the 1960s. This “fact” is so ridiculous that even the most obtuse reader will question the validity of Captain Israel’s statistic.
Captain Israel then makes the bigoted “Land without a people for a people without a land” claim in the following panel.
Just so that everyone is on the same page, Palestine was not “desolate” nor was it “impoverished”, as the comic states in an earlier panel. It has a history of substantial orange, date, and olive exports. And the European and Russian immigrants weren’t and still aren’t “pioneers”. They were settlers and they continue to be settlers, and international bodies like the United Nations even recognize them as such.
The comic goes on to highlight Israel’s multiple attempts at swapping “land for peace” without once acknowledging that the West Bank is still under Israel’s control, that the Apartheid Wall travels deep into Palestinian territory and effectually steals land, and that Syria’s Golan Heights remain occupied as well. How can this superhero, who claims to have lived through Israel’s 3000-year history, miss these very obvious facts?
The second issue features twice the malicious propaganda by defining BDS, or Boycott, Diviestment, and Sanctions, as “bigotry, divisiveness, and slander” as well as the embodiment of a “barbaric destroyer snake”.
Captain Israel equates BDS to blood libel charges that resulted in the massacre of dozens of Jewish communities in 15th century Europe, and then associates this form of nonviolent activism as the sequel to Adolf Hitler’s attempt to exterminate Jews by first boycotting them, then murdering them. In what seems to be a severely unrelated note meant to evoke anger towards Muslims and Arabs, Captain Israel mentions that Hitler’s Mein Kampf is still a bestseller in the Arab world even though there exists absolutely no evidence to suggest this is true.
The comic gets more dramatic. StandWithUs identifies BDS as a campaign against Jews when, in fact, BDS is a legitimate grassroots campaign targeting illegal Israeli policy irrespective of religion and following the strategies undertaken against South Africa’s apartheid regime.
After painfully thinking of ways to counter BDS, Captain Israel eventually comes to a conclusion: defeat it with his IsraeLight!
But Captain Israel made a very rookie mistake by showing us how damaging BDS can really be to a government that refuses to abide by international law and universal principles of human rights. He features the artists who acted on the BDS call and canceled their gigs in Israel. He gives a shout-out to the University of California, Irvine, and expresses his frustration over the growing bus-advertisement campaigns. He references the boycotts against Caterpillar, Ahava, and Sabra hummus, all of which have direct financial ties to the Israeli military or to the government programs that employ the violation of international and humanitarian law.
Captain Israel is noticeably infuriated by the success of BDS, even acknowledging that it convinces “sincere people” to take a moral stand by divesting from businesses complicit in Israel’s unlawful activity. He takes his anger out on the BDS snake — the same snake representing the criminal Nazi ideology — and removes its fangs as if he had just watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. With the snake struggling to survive, the ultimate solution involves a combination of IsraeLight and the ever-so-original BIG, or Buy Israeli Goods, campaign.
This is truly one of most vulgar, hateful, and twisted attempts to discredit criticism against Israel since StandWithUs tried labeling Islam as an apartheid religion just months before. According to StandWithUs’ newest and most dramatic creation, BDS is a blood-thirsty snake, the UN always applies double standards against Israel (which is funny, considering the revocation of the Goldstone Report and the publication of the Palmer Report), Arabs didn’t recognize Palestinians until the 1960s, Jerusalem is administered by a corrupt Muslim majority willfully scamming tourists, Israel maintains a legal obligation to control a certain percentage of the West Bank at all times, Hitler inspired today’s boycott strategies, and Muslims read Nazi literature more than anyone else.
It is a shame that such propaganda even exists, and it is even more of a shame that StandWithUs feels compelled to spread hatred against Arabs and Muslims in order to achieve some form of support for their cause. Nevertheless, the fact that Israel’s backers now resort to imaginary superheroes to fight their battles must mean that the global effort to end Israel’s illegal occupation is truly working.