Click here for UPDATE on removed petition
The latest and most reprehensible petition by Avaaz to date was recently released.
Avaaz: No to Boycotts of Israel (posted in May 16th, 2012)
This is the final straw for me and a confirmation of whose interests Avaaz really represent. I strongly stand against this petition and urge others to join the BDS movement.
One year ago, I helped Avaaz for a few weeks by setting up a twitter & FB account. During that time, many incidents occurred within the team and I became highly suspicious. After a few weeks, I spent 48 hours without sleep researching “Who Is Avaaz”, distressed by the thought that I might have actually joined a shady ass organization.
These were my findings up until July 2011 (please provide any info that may be of use):
Note: I expect some might ask for a more concrete connection. That this post just refers to loose connections solely based on religion. Here, I do not attempt to prove anything. I am providing some observations which allow you to connect some dots. If anything, ask certain questions that have not been asked before. But for me, this is all the proof I need. #FreePalestine
If people are not complaining about the incessant emails from Avaaz, they are usually concerned with the lack of transparency provided by the organization.
The main objective of this post is to provide a little bit more transparency on the question: Who is Avaaz?
The question is of pertinence to this author because of the recent Avaaz campaigns during the revolutions taking place across the Middle East and North Africa, namely: Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain and Avaaz taking a very active role.
The type of activism taking place is not clearly mentioned in any of Avaaz’s statements and as you will see below, the links to Jewish personalities and organizations raises suspicion in a time where foreign influence is a common accusation by the dictators who are attempting to crush these populist movements. Even if those Jewish entities are well intentioned, it is quite a dangerous position during these turbulent times.
The group paints a picture of a civic global activist network that magnifies voices for the most important issues at hand including human rights, environment, climate change and so on.
As this July 2011 Guardian article puts it,
“Founded in 2007, Avaaz is not primarily known for this kind of direct action, or indeed any action outside of cyberspace. To most people, Avaaz is just the group that organises all those online petitions; that corrals anyone with access to the internet and a conscience into emailing politicians on subjects that range from homophobia in Uganda, to the EU ban on GM crops and political corruption in Brazil. In the process, Avaaz – which means “voice” in Farsi and other languages – has established quite a following. Nearly 10 million people across 193 countries have now taken part in its nigh-on 46m “actions” (as the group calls the emails, phone-calls, fundraisers and rallies undertaken in its name).”
But reading the rest of the article about its organization and funding is a copy/past job off the website, www.avaaz.org, where it states the following in the “About Us” section:
Avaaz’s priorities and power come from members
Each year, Avaaz sets overall priorities through all-member polls (See 2010 poll results here), and campaign ideas are polled and tested weekly to 10,000-member random samples—and only initiatives that find a strong response are taken to scale. Campaigns that do reach the full membership are then super-charged by, often, hundreds of thousands of Avaaz members taking part within days or even hours.
In other words, Avaaz staff don’t set an agenda and try to convince members to go along with it. It’s closer to the opposite: staff listen to members and suggest actions they can take in order to affect the broader world. Small wonder, then, that many of our most successful campaigns are suggested first by Avaaz members themselves. And leadership is a critical part of member service: it takes vision and skill to find and communicate a way to build a better world.
In this section, the organization assures users that this is a purely grassroots movement, and that through technology one need not worry about whether the staff influences the agenda. This is nonsense. They carefully choose which campaigns and they do this as a team but with ultimate decision from the highest person in the project (and potentially even higher)
Our member-funded model keeps us independent and accountable
Because Avaaz is wholly member-funded, democratic accountability is in our DNA. No corporate sponsor or government backer can insist that Avaaz shift its priorities to suit some external agenda—we simply don’t accept funds from governments or corporations. (Read more about why it’s worth donating to Avaaz here, and chip in here.)
This section attempts to assuage any skeptics’ fears that this group has influential people funding the organization. At the time of the writing, the group’s so-called Memberships had reached 9.75 million. Quite a number until it is understood that a member only needs to write his email address (and prepare for the sleuth of emails).
The problem is that it ends up giving credence to the claim that they can collect so much money from their “members”, thus diverting attention away from the main financiers of the organization.
Here is @JillianYork explaining their legal status: ( I recommend reading her whole post, it touches on many more issues)
Apart from Syria, I have two remaining criticisms about Avaaz. The first is this: They are not a 501(c)(3) (non-profit) organization, rather, they are a 501(c)(4), the classification of organization that can lobby, engage in political campaigns, and don’t have to name their major donors. To put this in perspective, the 501(c)(4) designation applies to PACs, leading Stephen Colbert to label 501(c)(4)s “spooky PACs.”
I have accumulated information that was not readily available and took some time to dig up. There is much more information about these individuals on different sites. However the following points to the areas of concern:
1. Ricken Patel – Director
- Advisory Council to J-Street, one of 160 advisers
- A fellow for Res Publica
- Ricken respondsto Israeli ‘leftist’ attack on the campaign for investigation on Turkish Flotilla massacre.
- “My mother’s father was Jewish and she is very proud of this heritage — I am too.”
- “For those who truly care about Israel (and Avaaz is a passionately pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-Peace community) “
2. Tom Periello (Co-founder, former Virginia US Congressman from 2008-2010)
- Tom Periello congressional campaign funded by J-Street
- Read Adam Shapiro article How Tom Perriello became a slave of Israel (from 2009)
- He writes in the Atlantic, “The heroes of Tahrir Square wanted the president [Obama] to move more decisively at first, but ultimately saw him as standing with the future, and standing with them.”
Here Tom stands behind Obama’s actions during Egypt’s 18 days, defending his late response to the events. Egyptians know very well that the US administration lost its biggest ally in the Arab world and would have gone at lengths to keep him in power, if not for the resilience of the peaceful revolutionaries and workers movement.
One of the advantages of this alliance is Mubarak’s complicity in the oppression of Palestine and Egypt’s major role in the cutting off of Gaza to the rest of the world.
- He also writes, “The courage of the popular resistance in Syria has already weakened the regime in Iran, and, while overt engagement could do more harm than good, if this resistance is crushed, it could send disillusioned youth back towards the al Qaeda pitch.”
Here Tom seeks to link the benefit of the Syrian revolution to the demise of the ‘evil’ Iran archenemy. Therefore, US support of Syrian revolutionaries is a must for the US (and its allies in the region) NOT for the benefit of freedom fighting peoples, but because they would “weaken the regime in Iran”.
- To Tom’s defense, in 2010 he was one of “valiant 108″ to sign against AIPAC
C. Jeremey Heimans & David Madden (Co-founders of Avaaz from Australia)
- Together they started GetUp!in Australia
- Looks for assistant, job posting on Temple Israel
- Jewish Australian
- J.H. Previously consulted for consulted for the UN, OECD and ILO (the reference is from this angry blogger accusing him of being a right wing libertarian economist from Harvard)
D. Eli Pariser (Co-founder of Avaaz from USA)
- Executive Director of MoveOn.org, an American non-profit progressive public policy advocacy group and political action committee
- A fellow for Res Publica
- MoveOn.org approached Palestinian activists friends of mine in Austin,TX. They attempted to break them away from the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) and join their group instead to work on common causes. When this failed, they lost all contact.
- He is Jewish American
E. Tom Pravda (Co-founder)
- A fellow for Res Publica
- A former member of the UK Diplomatic Service
- He has also consulted extensively on political, security, research and advocacy issues for a range of clients, including the US State Department
F. Andrea Woodhouse (Co-founder)
- Associate at Institute for State Effectiveness
- Adviser at Government of Indonesia
- Co-founder at Win Back Respect
- Team Leader and Consultant at World Bank
G. Stephanie Brancanfourt – on LinkedIn profile it says currently working as Foreign Service Office at U.S. Department of State
H. Raluca Ganea – Israeli Avaaz Sr. Campaigner read link
“I have a great deal of sympathy for my fellow Jews and a deep concern for the survival of Israel.” – G. Soros
Wikipedia link to George Soros
There is a wealth of information about this elusive high profile billionaire and his links to:
- Nazi regime during WWII in his native Hungary
- Connection with the infamous Carlyle Group of which we heard about plenty during the Bush years
- Quanta, where he had the Rothchild investment fund
What concerns me is the following:
- He is Jewish Hungarian
- He is major “mystery” financier of J-Street
- He is the main funding behind GetUp! and MovenOn.org and Res Publica
- In 2008, Canadian minister John Baird labeled Avaaz a “shadowy foreign organization” tied to billionaire activist George Soros.
- It is still not 100% verified since they lack any transparency and insist that the members fund everything. However, there seems to be a pattern once you follow the founders and their organizations and the funding.
As mentioned above, there is a pattern of George Soros funding groups in which these individuals have the highest authority. Therefore, it is highly likely that he is the main financier of Avaaz.
He also funded the Open Society Institute, which is run by another Avaaz co-founder
But the one group that requires a little more detail is J-Street:
- The Washington Times reported back in 2008 that Soros revealed as financier of liberal Jewish-American lobby with $245,000 of initial $750,000.
- Also in the same article, “More recently J Street has changed some of its earlier positions. The group now supports U.S.sanctions against Iran, but opposes the use of force against Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure.’
- Also noteworthy on J-Street is Norman Finkelstein’s exposure of their true intentions in this Democracy Now! debate with the Director, Jeremy Ben-Ami.
The diagram below shows other groups in which Soros is affiliated with, precluding the ones mentioned in this post.
Avaaz began a project in 2011 focusing their attention on the events in the Middle East sparked by the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt. It was after these two countries’ successes in toppling their respective dictators that Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria began their own movements.
Here, Avaaz began a project to “magnify” the voices of those struggling to gain their freedom.
Their efforts included:
- Teaming up with regional activists in the field of Human Rights
- Connecting activists/bloggers with major news networks (i.e. Guardian) for which Avaaz has connections
- Supplying activists with satellite phones & modems in media blackout areas
- Posting videos online and sharing them with media outlets.
- Facilitating filming of footage of defected soldiers
- Creating radio and video advertisements such as this video advocating soldiers to cease killing civilians
- Lobbying foreign ministries and UN to apply pressure on the governments
Before the so-called Arab Spring, Avaaz had ran a campaign during the Israeli invasion of Gaza, it was called “Full Ceasefire, End the Blockade”
There was a few controversial matters that arose during the first few days of the invasion when the campaign was released.
The early text stated:
Petition to the UN Security Council, the European Union, the Arab League and the USA: We urge you to act immediately to ensure a comprehensive ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, to protect civilians on all sides, and to address the growing humanitarian crisis. Only through robust international action and oversight can the bloodshed be stopped, the Gaza crossings safely re-opened and real progress made toward a wider peace in 2009.
This Wikipedia Talk:Avaaz.org mentions some editing that was done during this campaign and the final version is on their site.
Problems mentioned by author:
It is unfortunate that the petition is deliberately edited so that it doesn’t show the savage Israeli attacks on Gaza, instead they only mention rocket attacks into Israel (which resulted in 4 killed Israelis). The petition completely hides the savage Israeli attacks on Gaza that killed hundreds of Palestinian (400 so far) including a hundred of kids and their moms.
They have also conducted campaigns for Investigation of the Freedom Flotilla raid that resulted in 9 activists being murdered by Israeli commandos. Most recently the September UN vote for Palestinian statehood.
The vote for Palestinian statehood is a controversial matter that not even all Palestinians agree with. This is an initiative from the Palestinian Authority who is frustrated with the failed Peace Process. Critics believe there is no room for this solution with the West Bank divided into cantons with hundreds of thousands illegal settlements craved into it
What the Palestinian population almost unanimously agrees on is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), but this was not chosen as a suitable course by the Avaaz team, who as seen above, ostensibly leaves matters of priority to the members.
There is also a video that was put out that @tarekshalaby analyzed in detail in his post “Normalizing the Illegal State of Israel”
You don’t need to put this video in the context of pro-Zionist Avaaz to understand the real aim behind it. With a campaign as such, any question of Israel’s legitimacy is discarded, any chances of return to pre-1967 borders is abolished, and anyone thinking that this is an illegal Israeli occupation resulting in an inhumane apartheid is absolutely insane. Even some of those who oppose the Israeli government are bound to fall for this and think it’s for everyone’s good. Clearly it’s not.
It could be argued that many of Syria’s enemies prefer the current regime since they have proved that they are not a threat. When Israeli bombs annihilated a suspected nuclear facility in 2007, there was no response. The Golan Heights is still illegally occupied, but Syrian tanks are used against its own people instead. If Assad and his cohorts are removed, there is no guarantee that the new regime will be just as docile. (don’t get me wrong, Assad is a criminal and should leave!)
On the other hand, the alliance between Iran and Hezbollah has created a front that has been a thorn in the back of Israel, and as a result the US. So one would expect that they are active in trying to remove the Assad clan.
As can be seen through media reports, articles and a simple Google search, the vast amount of Avaaz’s efforts in the press relates to Syria. Much more than Bahrain (despite the No to F1 in brutal Bahrain campaign). This author poses the question, why the focus on Syria?
Read about Rami Jarrah, Syrian activist that says, “What they’ve done is immoral,” he told me. “They’ve taken advantage of the death of thirteen people to suit their media campaign.” in article called The Great Escape: Has One NGO Been Lying About Its Role in Syria? – by Simon Van Zuylen-Wood.
Less than 24 hours after publishing this blog post with links to the latest petition by Avaaz: No to Boycotts of Israel it seems the administrators have removed it from their website.
Here is the original picture and text:
No to Boycotts of Israel.
This petition is awaiting approval by the Avaaz Community
Why this is important
On the 15th May 2012 Eamon Gilmore the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs suggested he may seek a EU wide boycott of Israeli settlement goods.
Israeli settlements are in Area C, Area C of the West Bank under the Oslo Accord was assigned to Israel.Area A and B was given to the Palestinian Authority to control.
If Minister Gilmore wishes to seek a boycott of Israeli settlement goods,We seek an EU wide boycott of Moroccan goods made in occupied Western Sahara and Indonesian goods made in West Papua New Guinea.
We urge Minister Gilmore,Minister Creighton, an Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Prime Minister of Ireland) and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs not to seek a boycott of Israeli goods ,instead they should look to build bridges between various communities in the Middle East.
Singling out Israel will not secure a lasting peace.
Read Gary Spedding’s analysis of this original petition (with background on the Irish connection) where his final statement is:
The dilema we are left with is that Israel still refuses to label its settlement goods as being from settlements and as such this encourages the more radical approach of a blanket untargetted boycott so as to disallow settlement goods slipping through the net. The Israeli government knows that this causes a lot of polarized debate as not everyone agrees with blanket boycotts and the argument for them is much easier to break down and silence.
I would like to ask Avaaz to unequivocally answer a few related questions:
- Do you believe in a State for Palestine based on 1967 borders?
- Do you believe in the Right of Return for all Palestinians?
- Do you agree that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state?
- Do you believe every settlement/outpost should be removed?
- Do you agree with the BDS movement?
Within the time in took to write UPDATE 1, a new petition has emerged in favor of the boycott, also on Avaaz petition site
123 signers. Let’s reach 250
And in fairness, I have also found this article in Al Arabiya english, Alice Jay, Avaaz Campaigns Director said this:
“These are campaigns that are created by members of Avaaz and do not represent the views of the Avaaz community as a whole. In fact Avaaz has campaigned for a Palestinian state and strongly against illegal settlements in the West Bank and see them as one of the greatest obstacles to peace in the Middle East.”