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Reports in The Forward and the Israeli media watchdog, 7th Eye, reveal that the Israeli government offered millions in funding to pro-Israel groups in the U.S. in violation of U.S. law. A number of groups approached by the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs refused the funding, believing it would label them as propaganda agents on behalf of a foreign nation. But many groups had no compunctions and readily took the cash in return for promoting Israeli interests in the U.S.
Eleven pro-Israel U.S. groups received nearly $7-million in the past year. Nearly $4-million more went to groups in Latin America, Africa, Europe and elsewhere. Among the U.S. groups were Christians United for Israel ($1.3-million), Israel Allies Foundation ($118,000), Aish HaTorah ($1.8-million), America-Israel Friendship League ($33,000), and StandWithUs. A Christian evangelical group named by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, Proclaim Justice to the Nations, received $40,000, for its efforts to pass anti-BDS legislation in Tennessee and elsewhere.
None of these groups registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires U.S. individuals or groups paid directly by a foreign state to lobby on its behalf inside the U.S., to register. None of the groups acknowledge on their websites that they received such funding. Despite being questioned by the Forward about the funding, none of the groups indicated they planned to register as foreign agents.
In some cases, they argued that the funds they received were designated to pay for travel junkets to Israel for U.S. opinion-leaders: politicians, journalists, student leaders, etc. Under FARA, if you don’t perform lobbying activities inside the U.S. you are exempt from filing. But in all cases, those who traveled to Israel were expected, sometimes even directed, to return home and utilize the government briefings in order to promote Israeli interests in the U.S. That constitutes lobbying for a foreign state under FARA.
In one particular case, the Israel Allies Foundation, which received a grant worth nearly 10% of its total annual revenue from the ministry, brought a South Carolina GOP legislator active in the Koch-funded ALEC, to Israel and introduced him to a right-wing legal scholar, Eugene Kontrovich. The latter drafted anti-BDS legislation now passed in six states (including South Carolina) and proposed in over 25 other states. The bills are highly controversial, with civil liberties and constitutional scholars claiming that they violate First Amendment rights to free speech. Neither IAF nor Clemmons has registered as foreign agents, as they should under the law.
In this particular case, a foreign state is intervening in domestic political debate and directing the legislative agenda to promote its interests. It would be legal to do so if these hired guns admitted who they were working for; but it is clearly illegal to do on the down-low.
The Justice Department has never prosecuted any such agent working for Israel. Though it has prosecuted others working for various foreign countries. In fact, one of the many ways in which Michael Flynn got himself into hot water was by taking money from a Turkish businessman and Erdogan ally to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government.
Clearly, there is a double standard, because the U.S. government treats Israeli agents with kid gloves and throws the book at the agents of other countries. There is only one reason for this: the power of the Israel Lobby to anesthetize law enforcement when U.S.laws are broken involving Israel.
The brazenness of this scheme is astonishing. In the past, no pro-Israel group would have dared take money directly from the Israeli government that involved promoting its interests in the U.S. Nor would prior Israeli governments have engaged in such chicanery. Both the Israel Lobby and Israeli leaders know the rules clearly. But with the ascendancy of Donald Trump and the Likud, laws are made to be broken. Or made only for the other guy.
UK Zionist Group and Israeli Ministry Jointly Funded $4-Million Tel Aviv “Cultural” Festival
The ministry also produced a major “cultural” festival in London ostensibly to promote Tel Aviv as an international destination. A memo produced by Erdan’s staff outlined the costs and proposed UK partners: both the Israeli government and British Zionist Federation split the $1.6-million cost. In doing so, the British group became little more than a domestic extension of the Israeli government. The Ministry memo also noted it had approached the Board of Deputies and BICOM, two major pro-Israel groups, and each had refused to participate.
I have asked the BoD and Zionist Federation to confirm this information and inform me about any other Israeli government funding they received. Neither has responded.
Hen Mazzig: Israeli Gay-Jew-of-Color… And Government Agent
In a case that has local repercussions here in Seattle, the Forward reported in 2018 that Hen Mazzig, purportedly acting as a “consultant” for the Israeli government’s advertising agency, $49,000 to engage in pro-Israel activities in the U.S.and around the world. Mazzig also employed an “assistant” whom the government paid. But the Forward discovered that the actual funding came from the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, which is a secretive quasi-intelligence agency tasked with combating “delegitimization” of Israel and BDS.
The Al Jazeera documentary, The Lobby profiled another shady Israeli figure who worked for the same ministry out of the UK’s Israeli embassy. He conspired with UK Jews to sabotage the career of senior Tory leaders deemed insufficiently loyal to Israel. As a result of the bad publicity from the program, he lost his job.
Between 2016-2018, Mazzig wrote op-eds, spoke before college groups, and engaged in incendiary attacks on pro-Palestinian groups in the U. S., the UK, and elsewhere. None of the colleges which paid him speaking fees knew he was acting as an agent of the Israeli government. None of the publications publishing his advocacy noted he was a paid agent of the Israeli state.
Mazzig argues he wasn’t an agent because the payment he received was not for work directed or supervised by the government. He argues that as a consultant he was a free agent who offered advice to the government, but took no direction in return. Those of us who know Mazzig and his history know of his tendency to lie or distort reality to his and Israel’s advantage. No one in their right mind believes that Israel pays anyone to promote its interests without directing them in some fashion as to what to do. Further, the idea that the Israeli government needed to pay anyone to tell it what was happening on college campuses is ludicrous. It has literally thousands of ways of easily learning such information without paying Hen Mazzig to do so.
The Israeli worked for SWU (including here in Seattle, where I first had the misfortune of encountering him) before he went out on his own as a paid agent of the State. What is the difference between being an Israeli agent and an SWU staff member? The only difference is who’s paying you.
StandWithUs also took funds from the Israeli government, though it claims it did so inadvertently. New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft was awarded the $1-million Genesis Prize in the midst of a scandal involving visits to a massage parlor and charges of soliciting sex. He directed that the gift be transferred to pro-Israel groups. SWU was one of them. However, the ministry decided to add $1.6-million of its own funds to those distributed to the anti-BDS groups. As the funds were co-mingled, there was no way to determine whether the non-profit was receiving funds from the Genesis Foundation or the government. Meaning that SWU was violating FARA by accepting Israeli funds to engage in pro-Israel advocacy in the U. S.
Roz Rothstein’s claim that the group she founded had never before taken Israeli money is false, as Israeli media reported. The Israeli government established a war room and recruited American Jews and others to staff it during crisis periods when Israel engaged in military attacks against Gaza. Though the training of staff for this propaganda role happened in Israel, it was funded by the government and the hasbara it produced was directed at U.S.Social media platforms. The government “solved” the problem by giving the money to StandWithUs to run the war room through a third party. But this was a sham arrangement as I reported.
I am proud to report that after tweeting this post to the StandWithUs timeline, I was blocked. What could they be afraid of?
The Forward does note that several major U.S.Israel Lobby groups refused the funds, believing it would taint their credibility. This is to their credit. But others were far less picky about who their financial partners were
Neither Israel nor the groups which took these funds seemed to have a care in the world about the larger issue of dual loyalty. The claim that American Jews owe loyalty not only to their birth country, but to the State of Israel. Such claims have been used almost since the Founding of the Republic against immigrants, Catholics and others to promote fear and hatred of minorities. Jews have worked assiduously for decades to prove their loyalty to this country. They have been sensitive to any claim otherwise, and accused those who raise this cudgel against them of anti-Semitism.
But when the Israeli government directly funds American Jews to lobby, not on behalf of U.S. Interests, but on behalf of Israel’s, that is a bridge too far. It raises all the ugly stereotypes and breathes new life into them.
Gilad Erdan: Architect of Anti-BDS Funding Plan
Recent reporting indicates that the new Israeli government has assigned the Strategic Affairs portfolio to a Blue and White MK. As a result, this more moderate political figure has reconsidered some of the more aggressive activities of the former minister, Gilad Erdan. It has also changed Erdan’s policy denying public access to the ministry’s documentation and funding lists. Concert has been deemed a failure and may be abandoned.
But make no mistake: these are the thuggish tactics of Israel’s Judeo-fascist Likud government. And these tactics, unlike that famous saying about what happens in Vegas, don’t stay in Israel. They’re exported abroad. They’re injected into the domestic politics of countries like the U.S., UK, and Germany. By permitting Israel to insinuate itself into the affairs of other countries, we are offering it not only huge power, but also power that we deny any other major foreign power.
Why is it that intelligence agencies of western nations are on high alert when it comes to the interference of Russia or China in their internal affairs, but when it comes to Israel it virtually gets a free pass? Why the double standard? Of course, the answer is that there is no China or Russia Lobby in these countries. Neither country has worked as long, as hard, or as diligently as Israel has to cultivate relationships and amass power. And when they do try to do so, they usually do so with hammer and tongs instead of the subtlety the Israel Lobby often musters.
Returning to, Erdan, he has not crept back into the woodwork. In fact, he has been promoted to a new role as both the Israeli ambassador to the UN and the U.S. The only previous Israeli official to serve both positions simultaneously was Abba Ebban. Erdan will have a hands-on role in promoting precisely the sort of anti-BDS thuggery he engaged in in his former ministerial portfolio. Nor will he engage in his work one step removed, as he did when he served as a minister attempting to Lobby on Israel’s behalf from Israel itself. Now he will get to do so directly on U.S. soil.
Erdan’s new jobs are of the most critical importance in the overall Israeli foreign affairs portfolio. Further, Bibi Netanyahu first came to international prominence as Israel’s UN ambassador. That fact is not lost on any Likud official who fills this post. Erdan is one of the most ambitious and brutal of the younger generation of Party leaders. He clearly has his sites on running for Party leader when Netanyahu leaves the scene. Yet another reason why this scandal is of critical importance.