"What you see before you are modern-day partisans," said Roz Rothstein at a Oct. 19 dinner co-sponsored by StandWithUs and Media Line honoring former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes. Rothstein, founder and president of StandWithUs, was speaking of her organizations' board members, but she urged the standing room-only crowd of 360 to participate in the struggle. "Please join us, get involved and become a partisan for peace, truth and clarity," she said.
Rothstein's partisans aren't forest bandits. They are high-tech fighters engaged in a 21st century battle where e-mails and Web sites are their weapons of choice. The cause is Israel, and the enemy is all those who fail to support it: "biased" news outlets, pro-Arab Middle East faculties and anti-Israel demonstrators. According to StandWithUs, the army has grown from the 40 people who heeded Rothstein's May 2001 call to 100,000 foot soldiers around the world who log on regularly to the StandWithUs Web site, subscribe to their e-mail list or use their brochures. These grass-roots warriors are on hand to protest any divestment conference, counterdemonstrate at any pro-Palestinian rally and flood what they deem "anti-Israel" media outlets with e-mails correcting errors and presenting what they say is the "centrist Israeli viewpoint."
The atmosphere was charged at the dinner, held at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance, where speakers included StandWithUs board members Newt Becker and David Suissa, Media Line founders Felice and Michael Friedson and guest of honor, Alan Keyes. Keyes, a former talk show host, presidential candidate and United Nations Economic and Social Council ambassador, who speaks positively about Israel on his radio program, went to the Jewish State in August as a guest of StandWithUs and Media Line.
"We have stood before the entire world and the nation and told both that we will not tolerate neutrality in the war against terror," Keyes told the audience. "And if we aren't going to tolerate neutrality in the war against terror, then we shouldn't be tolerating neutrality amongst those who support Israel."
The event was a last-minute affair, organizers said. Planned in just five weeks, the dinner was oversold and more than 50 people had to be turned away the Friday before for lack of space.
The turnout only underscored StandWithUs' presence and popularity within certain sectors of the community. As a grass-roots organization that regularly works to complement the efforts of the established Jewish organizations, StandWithUs has the support of Hillel, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Israeli Consulate and the Anti-Defamation League, to name a few.
"We all have a niche," said Gary Ratner, the executive director of American Jewish Congress. "Their niche is their grass-roots ability to mobilize people and the wonderful materials they put together. Our niche is doing in-depth research and the applying political pressure, and the combination is a powerful force."
StandWithUs also has fans among the smaller, lesser-known groups, who find that the organization is there to supply them with the hand-holding support necessary to combat the anti-Zionism they encounter. StandWithUs staff (three interns, three full time, plus a host of volunteers) are available to answer any questions about Israel's position in the current Middle East conflict and advise student groups about how they should react to campus hostilities. The StandWithUs campus brochure, a $30,000 effort designed by Rothstein's husband, Jerry, provides students with information that will enable them to hold their own in discussions with those who are anti-Israel. Thousands of copies of the brochure have been shipped to college campuses; StandWithUs is currently raising money to fund a new printing.
But for the most part, the community appreciates the gap that the organization has filled.
At the dinner, Shanit Hassid from Bruins for Israel, a pro-Israel group at UCLA, thanked StandWithUs for providing the group with financial support for events. Hassid said that request was not honored by any other organization.
"It is our complete intention here to work with anybody who wants to work with us," Rothstein said."
For more information about StandWithuUs, visit www.standwithus.com or www.standwithuscampus.com