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Endowment for Middle East Truth Funds Massive ‘Obsession’ DVD Distribution

Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein to “Follow the money.”  Cuba Gooding, Jr. said “Show Me the Money” in Jerry Macguire.  Regarding the Clarion Fund, I say: show me who’s behind the money.  That’s a tougher act.  Though they’re clearly a two-bit Keystone Cops kind of outfit that believes they can get away with violating IRS guidelines governing non-profits and promote a pro-Republican agenda, they have covered their, and their donors’ tracks pretty well.

Thanks to Laura Rozen for informing me that Inter-Press Service has just published a new investigative piece,  Neo-cons, Ex-Israeli Diplomats Push Islamophobic Video, that really advances the story but without yet breaking it wide open.

The reporters interviewed with Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR which took my thinking in an entirely new direction:

“It seems that the Clarion Fund, from what we can tell, is just a virtual organisation that is a front for Aish Hatorah,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told IPS. “They don’t have staff, they don’t have a physical address. Nothing.”

Little is known about the shadowy Clarion Fund, which is listed with the New York Secretary of State’s office as a “foreign not-for-profit foundation.” The group has rejected requests for information about its donors.

There are a tremendous number of overlapping and interchangeable personnel, projects and subsidiary organizations between Aish and Clarion.  So this theory is tantalizing and perhaps correct.  If it were true, it would mean that an Orthodox religious group which has touted its mission as drawing secular Jews closer to Torah through one-on-one study, has a parallel and surreptitious political apparatus.  If there is any truth to this, one wonder why a group like Aish would feel the need to stake out a far-right political mission and do so using such subterfuge.  Are they afraid that they will lose those donors who see them as a purely study-driven Jewish organization?  Or are they protecting their sugar daddy donors who wish to conceal their identities?

The IPS story adds another intriguing element to the mix.  Apparently, Clarion isn’t the real moving force behind the DVD distribution project.  Another group, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) is:

A group of hard-line U.S. neo-conservatives and former Israeli diplomats…are behind the mass distribution, ahead of the November U.S. presidential election, of a controversial DVD that critics have denounced as Islamophobic.

…While the initial press reports about the mass distribution focused on the Clarion Fund’s financing role, it was Endowment for Middle East Truth that organised and oversaw the distribution, EMET’s spokesman, Ari Morgenstern, told IPS. Morgenstern [is] a former press officer for the Israeli embassy here…

EMET, according to a recent press release, is “a non-partisan, non-profit organisation dedicated to policy research and analysis on democracy and the Middle East….[It] hosts seminars, debates and educational films featuring Middle East experts in order to educate policymakers and the public at large on the common threats facing Israel and the United States.”

Morgenstern told IPS that EMET was “partnered with the Clarion Fund” on what he called the “Obsession Project” which he identified as “an initiative of EMET”. He declined to name the Project’s donors…

Morgenstern also declined to specify the cost of the DVD distribution, but did say, “it costs a great deal — it’s a multi-million-dollar effort.” Outside experts have estimated the cost of the operation, including reproduction and distribution, at between 15 million dollars and 50 million dollars.

Like hard-line neo-conservatives, EMET opposes any land concessions to Palestinians and takes other hard-line positions identified with Israel’s right-wing Likud Party and the ”Settler Lobby” there…

The group’s acronym, EMET, mirrors the name of a predecessor to the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, which was called Emet.

If you look at funding a project like this to the tune of $15-50 million, there aren’t that many right-wing Jewish donors who can come up with that kind of money.  It brings you back to the fatcats behind the Republican Jewish Coalition like Sheldon Adelson.  I’ve also heard two separate credible sources speculate that this is the type of project Irving Moskowitz would also support.  And Moskowitz is certainly the type of secretive donor who would encourage the type of skullduggery that has been used by Clarion and EMET to conceal the identity of the funder/s of the Obsession distribution.

It’s instructive to read from EMET’s mission statement on its website:

Ever since its inception sixty years ago, Israel has been on the front lines of the struggle to preserve…the values…of democracy, human rights, tolerance and pluralism against the forces of radical Islam. However, its proud narrative has been lost in an almost deafening cacophony of moral equivalency and political correctness.

It is EMET’s mission to tell the truth about Israel’s heroic story, and to bring this truth to policy makers and to the public at large. We, at EMET, believe that in the perception of the radical Islamists who have waged war against our civilization and  its democratic values, the United States and Israel sit in a common trench (!). They believe that we, in the United States are the “Great Satan”, while Israel is the “minor Satan”. Each Israel concession, therefore, whether it be land withdrawals or releasing of prisoners with blood on their hands, is therefore regarded in their minds as a victory of the forces of radical Islam over the West.

We  regard ourselves as “intellectual revolutionaries” who aim to turn around the prevalent foreign policy paradigm that has been empirically proven to have been a colossal failure, through Israel’s heartbreaking withdrawals from Southern Lebanon in May of 2000 and of Gaza from July and August of 2005.

EMET’s founder and director, Sarah Stern, learned at the feet of ZOA’s Mort Klein, where she was one of his ideological acolytes.  Without doubt, this is Likudist, if not pro-settler rhetoric which clearly identifies the ideological orientation of the group.

Just when I was starting to think that perhaps this story was too byzantine even for the likes of Shelly Adelson, whose name should come up?

Two weeks ago, EMET sponsored a seminar series on Capitol Hill named for the controversial multi-billionaire casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to right-wing Zionist organisations in the U.S.; the far-right lobby group, Freedom’s Watch; and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), whose efforts to persuade Jewish voters that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is aligned with radical anti-Israel forces in the Islamic world have drawn strong criticism from the mainstream Jewish press here.

So despite the fact that Clarion may be a front group for Aish Hatorah, it still remains possible that Adelson’s fingerprints are all over this.

It is an absolute shande that no one in the U.S. Jewish press has written anything in depth about this story.  JTA, The Forward, Jewish Week: what are these journalists and their editors doing?  Covering baby namings?  Why is the non-Jewish press eating their lunch on this story?

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Acai Berri September 25, 2008, 5:45 AM

    Having Malcolm Hoenlein gather together 100,000 Jews baying for Iranian blood would’ve “led to real tikun olam.” …do you support Iran obtaining nuclear weapons? If you were invited, would you have dinner with Ahmadinejad? If you were granted an audience with Ahmadinejad, what would you tell him

  • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2008, 11:58 AM

    @Acai Berri: This is the 3rd time you’ve published the same comment in different threads. You are abusing yr comment privilege. Don’t do this again. If you do your comment will be deleted and all future comments will be moderated before publishing.

    My answer is that having anyone (whether its an American Jew or Iranian president) baying for the blood of another country does not by definition lead to tikun olam. I do not support Iran gaining nuclear weapons but I am not willing to go to war to prevent it from happening. Negotiations are the only path that might fend off Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon. Why would I or anyone want to have dinner with Iran’s president?

  • Acai Berri September 25, 2008, 2:03 PM

    I posed this question 3 x because I wanted an answer. What should be done if negotiations/sanctions fail to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons?

  • Joshua September 25, 2008, 4:30 PM

    Dismantle all nuclear weapons. Simple.

  • Richard Silverstein September 25, 2008, 4:43 PM

    @Acai Berri: Post a question one time. Period. If you do this again, I will treat yr participation here under the provisions I mentioned in my earlier comment.

  • Acai Berri September 26, 2008, 11:52 AM

    Im still waiting for an answer to my earlier question in this thread. Also, why not have dinner with Ahmadinejad-even you would have to admit that he is the most dynamic world leader on todays stage, although by far not the most attractive.

  • Richard Silverstein September 26, 2008, 11:57 AM

    @Acai Berri: I repeat. If you do not get an answer to a question it is because neither I nor any other reader wishes to reply. I for one have no idea what question you’re referring to nor do I care. So get off this. Ask a question one time & wait for a reply. If none comes, accept it.

    I’ll now be moderating yr comments to ensure that you’ve understood what I’ve said. If you do, then yr comment will be published as soon as I receive them. You’ll be removed fr. moderation as soon as I’m confident that you respect my request.

    Why would I admit that Adhadinejad is “the most dynamic world leader on today’s stage?” He’s a hack just as much as Dick CHeney is. In fact, I’d like to lock both of them in a room & tell them only one will come out alive. Let ’em tear ea. other to shreds.

  • Acai Berri September 26, 2008, 2:10 PM

    [comment deleted per violation of comment rules]

  • amir September 27, 2008, 12:50 PM

    “I do not support Iran gaining nuclear weapons”

    Why not?

  • Richard Silverstein September 27, 2008, 5:33 PM

    @amir: And you DO support Iran gaining nuclear weapons?

    I don’t support Iran having nuclear weapons for the same reason I’d prefer that Israel not have them either. I’d prefer no nation have them. And ones that don’t yet have them I’d prefer not to get them.

  • amir September 29, 2008, 5:18 AM

    No, I don’t support Iran getting nuclear weapons. I think Israel needs to be militarily stronger than all it’s enemies and potential enemies combined. You say that you prefer that Israel or any other nation in the world not have nukes, BUT they do. Under the circumstances that Israel has nukes and has threatened Iran, that the US has nukes and has troops occupying Iran’s neighbor to the east and west (Afghanistan and Iraq) do YOU think that other nation have a moral right in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. If you think they do I wish to know why. I’m asking you because I’m trying to understand the position of a progressive zionist. A position I have a hard time understanding.

  • Richard Silverstein September 29, 2008, 5:46 PM

    @amir: The reason why Iran wants nuclear weapons is because it has dangerous neighbors who have attacked it in the past, besides the U.S. which is a formidable enemy. The way deterrence works you can’t say I want to be stronger than my enemy. Your enemy will always try (& eventually succeed) in gaining parity w. you. If they can’t build a nuclear weapon to match yours, they’ll try to match you in other ways. That is why Iran is supporting Hezbollah & Hamas. It needs a way to even the playing field. So Israel’s conviction that it can win an arms race is a delusion. It may win in the short term but it cannot win in the long term.

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