Thanks to research provided by reader RM for this post.
Sarah Posner’s article in Jewish Week goes the farthest so far in directly connecting Aish HaTorah to Clarion Fund, which has been a thesis I’ve been promoting for a few weeks now. Also, this is the first time that any Jewish publication has run a full-length expose of the subject. So kudos to Jewish Week and editor Larry Cohler Esses.
In her piece, she connects for the first time in any MSM article billionaire Rabbi Irwin Katsof, the founder of the Aish HaTorah’s Jerusalem Fund, to production of Obsession. My anonymous researcher holds out strongly for Katsof being the funder of the multi-million dollar production and promotion campaign for Obsession and Third Jihad. While this is a credible hypothesis, at this point, we only can confirm that an evangelical source has acknowledged that Aish HaTorah contributed lavishly to their efforts to promote the film. The fact that another evangelical source referred to Clarion Fund as funder of the same project indicates that the two groups are, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable:
[Judeo-Christian View publisher Gary] Cass was vague as to how his publication acquired DVDs for the mailing. He said they came from Clarion but declined to say if they were purchased or contributed. Referring to Clarion, he said, “Let’s just say we have a good working relationship with them.“
Here’s what Posner has to say about Katsof:
Formal or informal, the ties between Aish HaTorah and the production of the films appear to date back to the launch of the media watchdog group Honest Reporting by the founder and former executive director of the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, Irwin Katsof, in 2001.
Honest Reporting, also a tax-exempt organization, released “Obsession” in 2005…The group now denies any involvement in the production of “Obsession.” But its Web site promoted it as an Honest Reporting project in 2005, the year it was first released. It listed “Obsession: The Movie” as an “affiliate” on its Web site in 2006. “We had nothing to do with it,” said a person answering the organization’s New York telephone number.
Katsof, who founded the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah in 1995 in Los Angeles, claims on his Web site to have launched Honest Reporting in 2001. Honest Reporting, known initially as Middle East Media Watch, stated on its Web site that it was started “at the initiative of the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah.”
According to both organizations’ tax returns, Katsof was the president of the Jerusalem Fund and executive director of Middle East Media Watch when the Jerusalem Fund lent Middle East Media Watch $158,000 in 2001. Honest Reporting’s tax returns also show it received a $48,000 grant from Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem in 2002.
Reached by phone, Katsof would only describe himself as a “real estate developer.” A spokesperson later said that Katsof had not had worked for Honest Reporting since 2001, and had not worked for the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah since 2004. But Honest Reporting’s 2004 tax return lists Katsof as the organization’s unpaid executive director. Like the Clarion Fund, Honest Reporting currently shares an address with Aish International, Inc., the fundraising arm of Aish HaTorah, and the Aish HaTorah Jerusalem Fund in New York.
It hasn’t yet been reported that Katsof founded the non-profit, Words Can Heal, drafting Hollywood celebrities and D.C. politicos (including John McCain) around the milquetoast mission of ridding America of bullying and promoting civility in national discourse. Apparently though, the group’s mission only includes Judeo-Christian citizens and doesn’t extend as far as Muslim-Americans. Otherwise, one wonders how Katsof can justify the hate spewed against them in Obsession and Third Jihad. Is this Katsof’s idea of civility?
Here’s a few suggestive passages which reveal the utter hypocrisy of the group:
According to Irwin Katsof, Co-Executive Director for WordsCanHeal.org, “In the post-Columbine era we need to reduce gossip and verbal abuse that is behind so much pain in our society…”
Says Katsof, “the first step is for people to acknowledge that gossip and verbal abuse has real consequences. Words can cause real pain…”
The Washington campaign coincides with the proposal of a “WordsCanHeal Day,” an effort led by Senators Harry Reid, Sam Brownback, Tom Daschle and John McCain.
Print ads aimed at bringing a new tone to American politics will begin this week…
When we recognize that these films have been inserted into the presidential campaign on behalf of John McCain, one wonders what Katsof means by “new tone” unless it’s to sink political discourse even deeper into the gutter than it already is. Not to mention the horrible slurs and racism which characterize the portrayal of Muslims in these films.
Finally, I chuckled at this quotation from Alan Dershowitz, the man who singlehandedly destroyed the academic career of Norman Finkelstein through slurs, calumny and character assassination:
Alan M. Dershowitz, says about the book and the campaign “We may have the right to gossip under the First Amendment, but this effort shows us that exercising this right is wrong.”
I wonder whether the Dersh was the best person they could turn to to promote their message?
Will Evans has done some good new research which further documents Aish/Clarion’s entanglement in the extremist evangelical movement as they promote Obsession and Third Jihad.