Ben Doherty published an illuminating report at Electronic Intifada about a new initiative by the American Jewish pro-Israel lobby to smear Iran. There are so many that it wouldn’t be newsworthy but for the fact that this new group, Iran180, created under the auspices of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council, is using sexual humiliation and abuse as a political tool smearing Iran’s president.
At San Francisco’s 2011 Gay Pride parade, Iran180 hosted a float which featured a huge papier-mache Ahmadinejad figure with his pants down being sodomized by a presumably Israeli nuclear missile. The original caption accompanying this image was: “Ahmadinejad Getting Fucked in the Ass with a Nuclear Weapon.” Another image featured here shows the Iranian president fellating the same missile. All these are more are linked from the Iran180 site to its Flickr gallery. Another image features Bashar Assad and Ahmadinejad celebrating their gay marriage under a chupah, a Jewish wedding canopy. As shocking as this is (and it is), sleuthing the origins of this group and exposing why it’s presenting such shameful imagery as a form of political discourse in the U.S. is even more instructive. It shows the vast pro-Israel/anti-Iran conspiracy at work in this country seeking any possible opening or advantage in the run-up to Israeli war against Iran.
Iran180 makes a pretense of supporting gay rights inside Iran. But did the knucklehead who came up with this idea ever stop to think how real Iranians would feel about American gays dramatizing the public sexual humiliation of their president? And how these same Iranians might feel toward actual Iranian gays who face constant danger in pursuing their sexual identities? Imagine one of these images gracing the front page of an Iranian newspaper. This isn’t going to generate a whole lot of sympathy in Iran for the LGBT community.
I’ve been exploring over the past few weeks the pinkwashing issue, Israel’s effort to anoint itself a gay rights champion in order to distinguish itself from its supposedly gay-hostile Arab neighbors. This latest effort seems to be pinkwashing on steroids. The thinking appears to be if bragging about gay rights is good, then exploiting gay pornography is even better. I’ve even written here about an earlier similar incarnation of this theme.
Further, Doherty in his EI post correctly notes the textbook depiction of Ahmadinejad with the same beard, flapping ears, and hook-nose featured in those classic Der Sturmer cartoons. The Iran180 float is Jews dusting off old anti-Semitic tropes and packaging them in a new bottle for use against Iran.
I’m sorry to say that prominent journalists, writers and Iranian-Americans have been hoodwinked by Iran180’s agenda. In this photo, Iran180 managed to enlist NY Times reporter Anna Bernard, noted Iranian-Jewish novelist Roya Hakakkian, and two other Iranians for an International Women’s Day event held at the offices of law firm, Skadden Arps. The truth is that those behind Iran180 have exploited these individuals to gain credibility. In doing so, they’ve disregarded any concern for the damage to their reputations that such an association will cause them.
Many of us are uncomfortable with the Iranian regime (as we are with the Israeli government as well). One reason is that it (like those behind Iran180) is seeking any form of leverage they can find to advance their own interests and agenda. If we think associating the regime’s critics with these horrid images isn’t on that agenda, you’d have to be naive. Did Iran180, Washington Square Research, the JCRC give any thought to this before they perpetrated this hoax on all concerned? Do they even care?
Iran180 appears to have begun as an entirely different organization, Stand for Freedom in Iran. The latter group was founded by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Community Relations Council (in whose name its domain was registered) in 2010. It consisted of a number of New York non-profits representing the city’s ethnic groups and constituencies. The short-lived purpose (the group’s website hasn’t been updated since 2010, indicating it became moribund the same year it was launched) was to serve as a front for the local Jewish community allowing it to claim that all of the city’s minorities were united in opposing Iran, whose president was to speak at the United Nations. The group hosted a rally against Ahmadinejad outside the UN which was addressed by Rudy Giuliani. The Conference of Presidents original plan to have Sarah Palin, then running as John McCain’s vice presidential candidate, sunk like a stone when New York’s Jewish Democrats fled the coalition in droves complaining that it was a partisan political maneuver on Malcolm Hoenlein’s part (which it was).
The evidence that these two groups are different iterations of the same anti-Iran smear? If you review the list of sponsoring groups, the two share the following ones: 100 Hispanic Women, NAACP-NY, NY Coalition of 100 Black Women, Jewish Community Relations Council, Anti-Defamation League, Alliance of Iranian Women, Planet Iran, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (CUFW), Chinese Community Relations Council and Turkish American Community of NY.
At the press conference announcing the launch of Iran180 (in September 2010), there are several prominent Jewish leaders who take a leading role (as they did in Stand for Freedom). They are Michael Miller and Alan Jaffe, CEO and board president respectively of the JCRC, Alisa Doctoroff and John Ruskay, board chair and CEO respectively of UJA-Federation of NY, and a Who’s Who of NY Democratic politics including the governor, members of Congress, and a U.S. senator. To their credit, Chuck Schumer and Michael Bloomberg weren’t there. There was one lone Iranian participating in the launch. They must’ve found him or her via a Hollywood casting call.
Among the new groups who came on board to sponsor Iran180 are the pro-Mujahadeen a-Khalq (MEK) front group, Progressive American-Iranian Committee, one of whose leaders is the MEK spokesperson, Hassan Daioleslam; United Against a Nuclear Iran, a more conventional neocon group founded by the usual Aipac-affiliated neocons and think-tankers; American Jewish Committee; and UJA Federation of NY. I’ll be bringing to the attention of the staff of the AJC and Jewish federation their endorsement of sexual humiliation as a tactic in demonizing Iran.
What strikes me as “innovative” in this strategy is the attempt to reach out to the U.S. gay community as an ally in the “war” against Iran. American Jewish pro-Israel advocates, in their efforts at pinkwashing, presume that the enemy of their enemy will be their friend. If they can demonize Iran as a gay Hell, then gays will become automatic allies in the campaign to overthrow the Iranian regime. I’m not sure gay Americans are quite that knee-jerk in their politics.
But in the outreach effort to American gays, someone at Iran180 or their political consultants has gone way off the reservation of reasonable political discourse. Do UJA federation, the ADL, AJC endorse sodomy and fellatio as a legitimate political tools to dramatize their campaign for regime change?
Since Ben Doherty published his EI post, he’s discovered that in essence Iran180 is a purely astroturf organization. It doesn’t exist in the sense that a traditional NGO might exist having a grass roots membership, a mission statement, and a cohesive set of goals and organization. Iran180 is a figment of a PR flack’s imagination. In this case, it’s a product of a bunch of pro-Israel media/PR flacks called Washington Square Research. The principals in this charade are the CEO Marco Greenberg, Liel Liebovitz and Chris DeVito (who’s also listed as Iran180’s “Outreach Director”). Greenberg’s professional background includes stints with Burson Marsteller (which pioneered astroturfing) and BBDO Israel, along with training Israeli diplomats for the hand-to-hand combat they’ll experience in the U.S. media marketplace.
Liebowitz is a lieutenant in the IDF, “senior writer” for the Jewish neocon-funded Tablet Magazine and has also contributed to the New Republic. In fact, he met his current boss while both served in the IDF as PR flacks:
Messers. Leibovitz and Greenberg first met in the Israel Defense Forces over a decade ago, where they both were entrusted with revising the Army’s strategic media infrastructure.
There is a reason why Iran180 was entrusted by the NY Jewish community leadership to a bunch of IDF-trained PR flacked. Because it exists essentially to serve Israel’s interests, and not the ostensible goals listed in the group’s website of promoting human rights for Iran.
The next time any journalist, novelist or public intellectual receives an invitation to speak for this group from Chris DeVito, they might ask him why he doesn’t reveal that he’s not working on behalf of Iranian human rights, but that rather his paycheck is paid by a PR firm and New York’s pro-Israel Jewish community. DeVito is an especially sad case since he has legitimate academic credentials as a Mideast scholar with training at Tuft’s Fletcher School. But to prostitute that knowledge on behalf of a PR firm and to not admit in your political advocacy that you’re being paid not by the NGO but by bunch of flacks who’re likely paid by the New York’s pro-Israel lobby–that’s distressing.
In the old days of the Cold War, Americans were regaled with stories of ominous Communist front groups created with seeming all-American names and values, in order to conceal the sinister Red hand behind them. American Jews should ask why their supposed leaders would need to adopt the same surreptitious, duplicitous strategies employed by earlier subversive groups. Engaging in such subterfuge indicates that the guiding Israel-lobby hand behind these efforts doesn’t have faith that Israel’s anti-Iran message will resonate loudly enough. It simply lacks confidence in the real message, so it gins up a fake campaign using fake issues to create fake emotional responses from American gays. This is pinkwashing taken to an absurd degree.