Pajama Media’s alum Pam Geller struck gold when she discovered a Sufi group intended to building a mosque and Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero. Now, her cause has been embraced by more powerful rightist pro-Israel forces, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and his patron, David Horowitz. Even more importantly, Politico has revealed that the source of all of the financial support for Jihad Watch over the past three years comes from L.A. technology magnate, Aubrey Chernick and his wife, Joyce. Aubrey funded Pajamas Media with a few-million of the $750-million he earned from sale of his software company to IBM in 2004.
Several years ago, when I wrote intensively about Chernick and Pajamas Media there was very little money trail from Chernick’s Israel philanthropy. I noted he was the honoree at a Stand With Us dinner, which made clear his ideological proclivities. I also noted he was a trustee of the pro-Israel think-tank, WINEP (originally affiliated with Aipac). But I didn’t feel I had the full picture. Chernick’s $900,000 gift to Horowitz, used to support Spencer and Jihad Watch, now fleshes out the picture of the Chernicks’ far-right political views.
Laura Rozen has discovered that Chernick’s charity-giving is done through the Fairbrook Foundation ($66-million in assets). According to its 2008 IRS 990 report, among the far-right pro-Israel groups he’s funding are Ateret Cohanim ($30,000), involved in the Judaization of East Jerusalem through “appropriation” of Arab homes; Muslim-basher Bridgette Gabriel’s American Congress for Truth ($50,000); Aish HaTorah, funders of the anti-Muslim films Obsessed and Third Jihad ($14,000); the anti-Palestinian media advocacy group MEMRI ($100,000); American Freedom Alliance, another Muslim-bashing group, founded by Avi Davis, which defends western civilization from the unwashed hordes ($120,000); Gary Bauer’s American Values ($80,000); Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture ($160,000); the anti-Arab media advocacy group CAMERA ($25,000); the Council for Democracy and Tolerance, an Arab-bashing group established by a Pakistani neocon ($160,000); Defend the West, yet another Muslim-turncoat group founded by Ibn Warraq ($130,000); Hudson Institute ($50,000); Heritage Foundation ($50,000); the Jewish neo-con security think tank JINSA ($15,000); the anti-Arab media advocacy group Second Draft ($40,000); Stand With Us ($20,000); and Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum ($180,000). In 2005, Chernick gave $60,000 to the Central Fund of Israel, one of the largest pro-settler ‘philanthropic’ advocacy groups.
Since Aubrey Chernick sold his business, he has bought into a new one, National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination (NC4), which consults for businesses, law enforcement and government on emergency preparedness, risk management, and homeland security-related matters. Is it any accident that Chernick’s philanthropy supports Muslim-bashing and provokes fear in the minds of New Yorkers and Americans that Muslims will harm American security and sully the memories of the 9/11 victims? This is a nice example of someone’s political ideology, business interests and philanthropy all catalyzing each other.
Rozen also reveals that Joyce Chernick sat on the board of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. I hate to say it but in the Chernicks, we have yet another prospect for the mystery funder of the $20-million promotion of the anti-Muslim film, Obsession, during the last presidential campaign. Not to mention a prospect for funding the entire roster of three films produced by the Aish HaTorah offshoot, the Clarion Fund.
Horowitz, Spencer, et al. are angry that Politico is examining their financial support feeling the media should be focussing attention on the true evil, the Sufis intending to taint the hallowed ground of Ground Zero. Horowitz, never known for humility or adherence to commonly accepted notions of truth or reality, made this wonderfully ironic statement about his own remuneration:
The Freedom Center had a budget of $4.5 million last year, according to its tax filings…Horowitz has received an average of $461,000 a year in salary and benefits over the past three years, while Spencer has pulled in an average of $140,000, according to the center’s IRS filings.
But, Horowitz said, “Robert Spencer, David Horowitz, Pam Geller — we don’t do this for the money — we do this because we believe in it.”
Let’s face it: the Park51 mosque project is a gravy train for the Islam-bashing three. They will parlay their efforts into huge personal financial rewards from wealthy ideologues like the Chernicks, and other Republican-leaning groups who have already piled on to the effort to uproot the project from its intended lower Manhattan location.
Let’s not make the mistakes that were made in the Debbie Almontaser-Khalil Gibran Academy scandal, when New York political leaders caved to loony Jewish right-wingers like Daniel Pipes and David Yerushalmi, attempting to paint her as a jihadist. This time, let’s realize there are powerful right-wing pro-Israel financial and political interests seeking to torpedo the mosque project. The memory of 9/11 victims is an excuse, a convenient stepping-stone toward their real interests which are bashing Muslims for political gain.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.