Eli Clifton has written a terrific piece of investigative journalism uncovering the financial sugar daddies and mommies of StandWithUs, the pro-Israel “truth squad.” He notes the irony that SWU and others like Lenny Ben David, the former political enforcer for Aipac, have called J Street to task for accepting funding from Arabs, while SWU itself accepts funding from wealthy American Jews who support the worst forms of racist attack on Muslims:
…An IPS investigation into the tax records of the donors to StandWithUs, which professes to be ideologically neutral, found a web of funders who support organizations that have been accused of anti-Muslim propaganda and encouraging a militant Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.Some of these organizations have tied the origins of Palestinian nationalism to Nazi ideology, and suggested that a vast Muslim conspiracy — in a similar vein to the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion — is mobilizing to undermine the U.S. constitution and impose Sharia law.
SWU’s annual budget is around $3.4 million.
Among such donors are Susan Wexner, heiress to the Wexner family clothing empire, who contributed $850,000 between 2005-2008:
Wexner also made contributions to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD).
…Critics say [MEMRI] is a propaganda outlet, and accuse it of mistranslation and overstating the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Middle East media.
Independently, I have verified that Wexner contributed $600,000 to an Israeli group aiding the settlers of Gush Katif, many of refuse to resettle permanently in protest of their forced evacuation from Gaza. She’s also one of those who believes there’s no left or right when it comes to Israel, but that there is only one morally correct position–being pro-Israel.
Returning to MEMRI, Roz Rothstein’s defense is touching, if self-serving and inaccurate:
“MEMRI is used by every news publication on the planet. People don’t look at MEMRI as right-wing. It’s just verbatim Arabic translation. They’ve never been cited for inaccurate translation.”
In 2007, CNN correspondent Atika Shubert and Arabic translators accused MEMRI of mistranslating portions of a Palestinian children’s television program.
“Media watchdog MEMRI translates one caller as saying — quote — ‘We will annihilate the Jews,”’ said Shubert. “But, according to several Arabic speakers used by CNN, the caller actually says ‘The Jews are killing us.”’
Wexner also supports CAMERA, a group which lies about the record of Palestinian Canon Naim Ateek, a leading Catholic anti-Occupation cleric:
CAMERA, another media watchdog group, has caught criticism for denying reliable reports of settlement expansions, leading the executive director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Donald Wagner, to describe CAMERA as “a well-known source of extremist pro-Israel propaganda that is routinely challenged by Israeli and international human rights and peace organizations for its consistent misrepresentation of the facts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
She has also supported the leading neocon think-tank, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies:
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a policy institute “founded shortly after 9/11 by a group of visionary philanthropists and policymakers to support the defense of democratic societies under assault by terrorism and militant Islamism,” according to its website.
However, the group has frequently been cited for pushing a hawkish U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and Iran, and the Christian Science Monitor called it one of the “top neocon think tanks.
Another top SWU donor is the wealthy Los Angeles funder and Aipac powerhouse, Larry Hochberg, who’s given $400,000 to SWU:
Larry and Andrew Hochberg contributed over 400,000 dollars to StandWithUs since 2005 and also contributed to FDD and Honest Reporting, another watchdog group that monitors the media and “exposes cases of bias” against Israel.
Much like MEMRI, Honest Reporting has come under attack for taking words and phrases out of context and for producing the documentary “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.”
Twenty-eight million copies of the film were distributed by direct mail and newspaper inserts before the U.S. presidential election last November.
Honest Reporting, Aish Hatorah and Clarion Fund share a cozy ideological relationship (two brothers run all three groups) supporting extremist settlements, Islamophobic films like Obsession and Third Jihad, and Judaizing East Jerusalem. They were also involved in lobbying for John McCain’s presidential candidacy through one of their websites. To this day, no one has been able to uncover who contributed well over $15-million to manufacture and disseminate these DVDs.
SWU’s third-largest donors are Lawrence and Susan Post who:
Contributed just under 70,000 dollars to StandWithUs since 2005 and contributed to MEMRI and Christians United For Israel (CUFI), a U.S. “pro-Israel” Christian organization founded and chaired by controversial pastor John Hagee.
Rothstein has the chutzpah to blow smoke up our rear ends with this disingenuousness:
Asked if the philanthropy of their donors reflected a right-wing political leaning by StandWithUs, Rothstein rejected the idea.
“I don’t think it’s fair since our tent is pretty broad,” she said. “Some people call us ‘left of center, others call us ‘right of center’ and some call us ‘center.’”
“We see it as our job to help people understand that the founding document of Hamas calls for the elimination of Israel,” Rothstein added. “If J Street is interested in negotiating with Hamas — who are absolute fundamentalists and violent — it’s like a phony dream to want to sit down with someone who is intending to kill you.”
Some, like me call SWU what it is: far right pro-Israel. As for Hamas, J Street isn’t “interested in negotiating with Hamas.” But it does, along with Israeli military and intelligence analysts like Ephraim Halevy and Lt. Gen. Shlomo Brom and many others see a pragmatic purpose to Israel remaining open to talk to Hamas. In fact, an Israeli poll found that Israelis themselves were willing to have their government talk to Hamas if it would help free Gilad Shalit or guarantee a ceasefire. Which means that SWU is a Likudist, far-right phenomenon. No one should be confused by Roz Rothstein’s smokescreen. She ain’t just pro-Israel. She’s pro-Likud and pro-settler. And Eli Clifton’s investigation puts a few more nails in the group’s ideological coffin.
Eli also makes clear that each of these and other donors could have contributed much more than the amounts he discovered if they gave through donor directed funds or other means which would have concealed their specific connection to the contribution.