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How a “Pro-Peace” Organization is Deceiving Social Justice Advocates

The Telos Group is an American nonprofit organization that claims to help advance a “pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, and pro-peace” agenda. While its “pro/pro/pro” slogan is appealing, Telos’s past and current work reveals a different agenda altogether.

In 2014, an exposé by the watchdog organization CAMERA showed that Telos was using its “pro/pro/pro” slogan to disguise its anti-Israel agenda. Telos rebranded the following year with a new logo, a new website, and the announcement of “a slightly new direction.” Unfortunately, the rebrand was simply a facade for its real goal—solely promoting the narrative favored by Palestinian leadership. The only notable change was Telos’s new reluctance to post about meetings with some controversial Palestinian figures. For instance, in 2011, Telos uploaded a picture of the PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi to its “Conservative Leaders Trip” Facebook photo album. In 2016, following its rebrand, Telos met with Ashrawi twice, but did not publicize the meetings.

The silence on the Telos Group’s “pro/pro/pro” social media accounts is understandable, since Ashrawi recently reiterated the PLO’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and rebuked Theophilos III, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, for referring to Israeli “democracy” and “freedom of worship.” Unhappily for Telos, Palestinian media covered the meetings, and the PLO published two press releases about the meetings and posted them on Facebook, complete with pictures.

Telos also facilitated a meeting between Sam Bahour, chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy, and the Women Donors Network’s Middle East Peace and Democracy Circle, which claims to “fund progressive peace initiatives for a just, sustainable, and non-violent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” While Bahour posted about the meeting on social media and thanked Telos staff for organizing it, Telos’s social media outlets remained silent.

Given Bahour’s violent anti-Israel rhetoric, Telos had good reason for its silence. In a 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bahour accused Israel of “the continued brutal subjugation of Gaza and coerced Judaization of Arab East Jerusalem.” He added, “Absent a political framework to secure Palestinian freedom and independence, ‘economic peace’ initiatives only facilitate the crime of occupation.” And in a +972 Magazine op-ed in 2014, charmingly titled “Israelis, Stop Swimming in Our Shit,” Bahour claimed:

Ever since the founding of the State of Israel, the policy has been clear: Uproot the Palestinian population using all means possible, legal and illegal, destroy Palestinian villages in an attempt to erase the crime, and rebrand anything left, like city and street names, in a policy the Israel government has long ago identified as “Judaization” of the country.

In addition to facilitating these meetings, the Telos Group takes Americans on tours that, it claims, provide participants with multiple narratives. Unfortunately, trip participants’ own testimonies demonstrate they only learn narratives critical of Israel. One participant, Justin Kron, did his own research after his tour and discovered that Telos had not given him both sides of the story on Palestinian access to water.

While perceived as an organization that only seeks to oppose blanket support for Israel, tour participants’ experiences demonstrate that the Telos narrative instead encourages them to give blanket support for the Palestinian narrative. This agenda should come as no surprise given the organization’s leadership.

Telos Group president and co-founder Gregory Khalil was once Ashrawi’s intern, and worked for four years as an advisor to Palestinian peace negotiators. He gave a presentation to high school students in 2014 that misrepresented Zionism’s history and perpetuated the myth that the Holocaust was the cause of Israel’s reestablishment.

In 2004, Khalil wrote a New York Times op-ed encouraging the United States to stop exercising its UN Security Council veto to protect Israel. Twelve years later, his advice was followed when the United States abstained on Resolution 2334, which condemned the building of Jewish communities in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank.

While the Telos Group is many things, it certainly is not “pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, and pro-peace.” By continuing to solely advance the Palestinian leadership’s narrative under its misleading “pro/pro/pro” slogan, the Telos Group deceives Americans who are genuinely pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, and pro-peace while eroding support for authentic efforts to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians. For readers interested in learning more about this organization and its agenda, I refer them to my recently published Gatestone Institute piece on the subject.

Noah Summers is a specialist on Middle East affairs and American foreign policy.

[Photo: Telos / Facebook]