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Magda Hassan
09-27-2008, 03:27 AM
Neo-cons, Ex-Israeli Diplomats Push Islamophobic Video
By Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton*

WASHINGTON, Sep 24 (IPS) - A group of hard-line U.S. neo-conservatives and former Israeli diplomats, among others, are behind the mass distribution, ahead of the November U.S. presidential election, of a controversial DVD that critics have denounced as Islamophobic.

The group, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), is working with another organisation called the Clarion Fund, which produced the 60-minute video and is itself tied closely to an Israeli organisation called Aish Hatorah.

The Fund is currently distributing some 28 million copies of the DVD through newspaper inserts in key electoral ''swing'' states -- states like Michigan, Ohio, and Florida that, according to recent polling, could go either way in November's presidential election.

According to Delaware incorporation papers, the Clarion Fund is based at the same New York address as Aish Hatorah, a self-described "apolitical" group dedicated to educating Jews about their heritage.

The Clarion Fund's street address as listed on the group's website and a DVD mailer for the film is apparently not a physical address, but rather a "virtual address" that goes to a post office box in New York City.

Critics allege that the movie "Obsession" is "hate propaganda" which paints Muslims as violent extremists and, among other things, explicitly compares the threat posed by radical Islam to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

At least two major metropolitan newspapers solicited to insert the paid advertisement into their product have refused to do so because of a perceived bias in the film.

"Despite the perilous state of American newspapers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch advertising department took an ethical stand and refused to distribute the DVD of a film that for two years has troubled American Muslims," wrote Tim Townsend, a reporter at Missouri's most influential newspaper earlier this month after it rejected the ad.

While the initial press reports about the mass distribution focused on the Clarion Fund's financing role, it was EMET that organised and oversaw the distribution, EMET's spokesman, Ari Morgenstern, told IPS. Morgenstern, a former press officer for the Israeli embassy here, said he contacted IPS at the Clarion Fund's request.

EMET, according to a recent press release, is "a non-partisan, non-profit organisation dedicated to policy research and analysis on democracy and the Middle East."

According to filings made in compliance with the organisation's tax-exempt 501(c)3 status, "the organisation hosts seminars, debates and educational films featuring Middle East experts in order to educate policymakers and the public at large on the common threats facing Israel and the United States."

Morgenstern told IPS that EMET was "partnered with the Clarion Fund" on what he called the "Obsession Project" which he identified as "an initiative of EMET". He declined to name the Project's donors. A spokesman for the Clarion Fund, Gregory Ross, has also refused to name the Fund's donors, whose identity remains a mystery.

Morgenstern also declined to specify the cost of the DVD distribution, but did say, "it costs a great deal -- it's a multi-million-dollar effort." Outside experts have estimated the cost of the operation, including reproduction and distribution, at between 15 million dollars and 50 million dollars.

Like hard-line neo-conservatives, EMET opposes any land concessions to Palestinians and takes other hard-line positions identified with Israel's right-wing Likud Party and the ''Settler Lobby'' there. EMET's website says, "We regard ourselves as 'intellectual revolutionaries'".

The group's acronym, EMET, mirrors the name of a predecessor to the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, which was called Emet. The word means "truth" in Hebrew.

Two weeks ago, EMET sponsored a seminar series on Capitol Hill named for the controversial multi-billionaire casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to right-wing Zionist organisations in the U.S.; the far-right lobby group, Freedom's Watch; and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), whose efforts to persuade Jewish voters that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is aligned with radical anti-Israel forces in the Islamic world have drawn strong criticism from the mainstream Jewish press here.

EMET's board of advisers includes a list of familiar neo-conservative figures, as well as three former Israeli diplomats, including a former deputy chief of mission in Israel's Washington embassy.

The group is headed by Sarah Stern, who began her activism on Israeli issues in opposition to the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestinians. She made a career out of her activism in the far-right Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) as its national policy coordinator from 1998 through 2004.

Notable members of the advisory board include prominent hard-line neo-conservatives, including former U.S. U.N. Amb. the late Jeane Kirkpatrick; Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum; and the Hudson Institute's Meyrav Wurmser, the Israeli-born spouse of Vice President Dick Cheney's former top Middle East adviser, David Wurmser.

Other prominent neo-conservative members of the board include Centre for Security Policy (CSP) president Frank Gaffney; former CIA chief James Woolsey; and Heritage Foundation fellows Ariel Cohen and Nina Shea, who has also served for years on the quasi-governmental U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

The U.S.-born and -educated hard-line deputy managing editor of the Jerusalem Post and senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at Gaffney's CSP, Caroline Glick, is also an adviser.

Glick, Pipes, and Walid Shoebat, a "reformed" terrorist and EMET adviser, are all featured as experts in "Obsession".

Also among the top names of listed advisers to EMET are three Israeli diplomats. Two of them, Ambassadors Yossi Ben Aharon and Yoram Ettinger, were among the three Israeli ambassadors whom then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin referred to as "the Three Musketeers" when they lobbied Washington in opposition to the Oslo accords. Indeed, Stern began her career at the behest of three unnamed Israeli diplomats who were based in Washington under Rabin's predecessor, Yitzhak Shamir, according to EMET's website.

Ettinger was at one time the chairman of special projects and is still listed as a contributing expert at the Ariel Centre for Policy Research, a hard-line Likudist Israeli think tank that opposes the peace process.

Ben Aharon was the director general -- effectively the chief of staff -- of Shamir's office.

The third Israeli ambassador, Lenny Ben-David, was appointed by Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to serve as the deputy chief of mission -- second in command -- at the Israeli embassy in Washington from 1997 until 2000. Ben-David had also held senior positions at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for 25 years and is now a consultant and lobbyist.

But EMET is not the only group involved in the "Obsession" controversy to have direct ties to Israel.

The Clarion Fund has also been criticised for initially denying its ties to the Israel's Aish Hatorah, which were first disclosed publicly by an IPS investigation last year.

Honestreporting.com, an organisation set up by Aish Hatorah and also a client of Ben-David, admitted to IPS that it had aided the production of the film.

The Clarion Fund and Aish Hatorah are headed by twin Israeli-Canadian brothers Raphael and Ephraim Shore, respectively. The two groups appear to be connected as Clarion is incorporated in Delaware to the New York offices of Aish Hatorah.

"It seems that the Clarion Fund, from what we can tell, is just a virtual organisation that is a front for Aish Hatorah," Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told IPS. "They don't have staff, they don't have a physical address. Nothing."

Little is known about the shadowy Clarion Fund, which is listed with the New York Secretary of State's office as a "foreign not-for-profit foundation." The group has rejected requests for information about its donors.

IPS has, however, uncovered one donor to the Clarion Fund, the Mamiye Foundation, which gave it 25,000 dollars in August of 2007, according to tax filings. Four Mamiyes, Charles M., Charles D., Hyman and Abraham, are listed as trustees on the forms.

According to filings with the New York Secretary of State, a contact listed for a Mamiye company is also the same man listed as a contact and counsel for the Clarion Fund -- Eli D. Greenberg of the law firm Wolf, Haldenstein, Adler, Freeman and Herz.

Foreign nationals and companies, and domestic tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profits are prohibited by federal election law from attempting to sway U.S. elections at any level through either contributions to campaigns or advocacy.

Morgenstern, EMET's spokesman, said that the DVD distribution only went to "swing states" because media attention is focused there, and EMET is hoping to spark a public debate about the threats posed by" radical Islam".

But CAIR has filed a complaint asking the Federal Election Commission to review the actions of the Clarion Fund both as a foreign entity and as a non-profit.

The complaint by Nadhira Al-Khalili, CAIR's legal counsel, asked that both charges be investigated.

*Jim Lobe contributed to this story.

Magda Hassan
10-30-2010, 08:41 AM
Koch Footprints Lead to Political Powder Keg

The Far Right's Secret Slush Fund to Keep Fear Alive

By PAM MARTENS
A secretive libertarian nonprofit with ties to Charles Koch bankrolled what was widely perceived to be a fear mongering effort to throw the Presidential election to Senator John McCain in 2008. Until now, where the money came from has been a hotly debated mystery.
Seven weeks before the Presidential election of 2008, approximately 100 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Petersburg Times, distributed millions of DVDs of the documentary, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” The DVDs were included in the Sunday editions. Altogether, including a separate direct mail campaign, 28 million DVDs flooded households in the swing voter states.
The newspapers did not know who was funding this massive propaganda campaign and, apparently, did not care. They inserted the DVD in their Pulitzer properties with the casualness of throwing in a sample of suds free detergent. The nonprofit organization named on the packaging of the DVD as the entity behind the film, the Clarion Fund, Inc., had no known history of operations and had a virtual office address in New York City with no physical presence and no employees on site. Documents submitted to the IRS to obtain its tax-exempt status show the Clarion Fund demanded total secrecy from its vendors:

“At all times, whether during or after the provision of services to Clarion, Service Provider shall keep in confidence and shall not disclose or use, for his or another’s benefit, any nonpublic knowledge, data, material, document or other information of any type that is related to Clarion, or its subsidiaries, directors, members, managers, agents, employees or other affiliates or that Service Provider otherwise acquires in the course of providing services (collectively, the ‘Confidential Information.’).”
The DVD packaging was slick, leveraging the imprimatur of the big league media outlets by listing 73 as part of its distribution network. The cover carried a red banner blaring: “As seen on CNN and FOX News by more than 20 million viewers worldwide.” The title of the film was graphically enhanced with the “O” in “Obsession” sporting the Islamic crescent moon and star and the “N” represented by an upended fearsome automatic weapon. The movie content was slick as well. The first half is endless scenes of suicide bombers and human carnage; the second half of the film intersperses clips of Hitler, Hitler Youth, or Hitler analogies intermittently with Muslim crowds and young children with fists in the air calling for death to westerners. Once at the beginning and again at the end, the film reminds us that not all Muslims ostensibly want to kill us; in the middle of the film it quantifies the number that do (without any support to back up this hunch): a cool 100 to 150 million, i.e., 10 to 15 per cent of 1 billion Muslims.
In one particular respect, it resembles a government-made war propaganda film: it is silent on the hundreds of thousands of civilian Muslims, including women and children, killed by U.S. bombs and ground war.
One possible tie to government interests is Erik Werth. Mr. Werth served under Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in the Clinton White House where he worked on a Top Secret review of White House Security. He was also a segment producer at NBC’s Dateline. In documents submitted to the IRS to gain tax exempt status for the Clarion Fund, Mr. Werth’s email address is listed. Mr. Werth is named as the Co-Director and Co-Producer of the Clarion Fund’s subsequent documentary, “The Third Jihad.” The Fund’s web site, RadicalIslam.org advises that yet a third film is on the way, “Iraniam,” concerning Iran and nuclear weapons.
The reaction to corporate media peddling this propaganda in the final days of a Presidential race where one candidate was already being smeared for Muslim ties was immediate and harsh. A writer at Democratic Underground using the moniker MrMickeysMom grabbed the keyboard to vent a spontaneous reaction: “Okay – Who ELSE just picked through the Sunday advertisements and viewed this DVD today?...They’re here to warn us about the declaration of war on Western Culture and to bring down Christianity and Judaism – just in time for the election. So, this is the heat, folks. This blitz DVD is one more step – the biggest, boldest step I can see to orchestrate fear, hatred and to change your vote…It told me that the White House will be changed and become the Muslim House…that America has to wake up and that America is strangling itself with ‘our political correctness.’ ”
Margaret Lewis of Durham, North Carolina fired off a letter to The News & Observer of Durham, North Carolina: "I cannot believe that I was sent the hate-inflaming, fear-mongering video disk ‘Obsession’ in my newspaper! What will you enclose next? KKK robes?"
Hal Chase of Hudson wrote to the St. Petersburg Times: “My wife and I were shocked to see the CD entitled Obsession tucked innocently among the ads in our Sunday paper. This hate-filled propaganda is just part of the right-wing extremists’ fear and smear tactics. Their hope is to make Americans afraid of anyone who is not exactly like them, and thereby affect the outcome of November’s election.”
Approximately 60 newspapers refused to accept the DVD for distribution, including the Detroit Free Press, the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The News & Record of Greensboro, North Carolina.
At the time, John Robinson, Editor of The News & Record, said the paper declined to distribute the DVD because “…it was divisive and plays on people’s fears…As I’ve said on other occasions about news decisions, just because you can publish doesn’t mean you should.”
CounterPunch can now report what this race-baiting, fear-mongering campaign cost and where the money, at least nominally, came from. The 28 million DVDs were produced at a cost of $15,676,181 by Artist Direct Media which does mass manufacturing of CDs and DVDs with volume discounts. The big media buy for Sunday newspaper insertions ran up the tidy tab of $719,436 and was conducted by NSA Media, a unit of the global ad giant, Interpublic Group, parent of McCann-Erikson. That figure seems decidedly on the light side so there may be other funding sources involved that have not yet surfaced. (NSA Media is a powerful ad buyer, representing some of the biggest print buyers and consumer brands in the country, which might help explain why so few questions were asked by the largest newspapers about this unseemly project.) The full tab, and then some, was paid by the super secretive libertarian nonprofit, Donors Capital Fund. In 2008, Clarion Fund became Donors Capital Fund’s largest grantee by a large margin, receiving $17,778,600. That sum constituted 96 per cent of all funds received by Clarion in 2008 and 9 times its revenue in 2007.
Donor’s Capital Fund is a “supporting organization” to Donors Trust, a sister nonprofit. Both promise the pursuit of taking over social welfare needs with private funds rather than government solutions; they want small government. (With 43 million Americans now living below the poverty level, it’s fascinating to know that these folks earmarked $17 million not to hunger relief but to DVD packaging. Let them eat plastic, perhaps.)
There are shades of Charles Koch all over Donors Capital and Donors Trust. Two grantees receiving repeat and sizeable grants from Donors Capital are favorites of the Koch foundations: George Mason University Foundation and Institute for Humane Studies. Another tie is Claire Kittle. A project of Donor’s Trust is Talent Market.org, a headhunter for staffing nonprofits with the “right” people. Ms. Kittle serves as Talent Market’s Executive Director and was the former Program Officer for Leadership and Talent Development at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Then there is Whitney Ball, President of both Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust. Ms. Ball was one of the elite guests at the invitation-only secret Aspen bash thrown by Charles Koch in June of this year, as reported by ThinkProgress.org. Also on the guest list for the Koch bash was Stephen Moore, a member of the Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Moore is a Director at Donors Capital Fund. Rounding out the ties that bind is Lauren Vander Heyden, who serves as Client Services Coordinator at Donors Trust. Ms. Vander Heyden previously worked as grants coordinator and policy analyst at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.
Legal counsel for the Kochs has declined to respond to two emails with a week’s lead time seeking clarification of the relationship the Kochs have to Donors Capital and Donors Trust.
What remains unclear is the underlying donor within Donors Capital who made the large sum possible. Was it a joint effort by wealthy donors to boost Senator McCain’s presidential aspirations? Was it a single Islamophobe? While the DVDs were hitting the front lawns bundled in newspapers, the Clarion Fund posted an endorsement for McCain as President on its web site, a legal breach for a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. When it was outed by the media, it quickly removed the endorsement. What is certain is that the donor(s) had every reason to believe they would never be discovered. The organization advises contributors on its web site: “Unlike with private foundations, gifts from your account will remain as anonymous as you request.”
Prior to this sophisticated and expensive media campaign in the final approach to election day, “Obsession” was part of the 2007 college road show headed by the lefty turned radical right, David Horowitz (who dramatically improved his tax bracket by discovering the greatest threat to America’s future was radical Islam, just before the rest of the country discovered the greatest threat to America’s future was home grown terrorists with algorithms and high speed computers on Wall Street trading floors. While Mr. Horowitz had a fourth of the country gazing at variations of Hitler’s mustache, the underpinnings of America’s financial infrastructure were imploding right under our noses.) Mr. Horowitz joins the swelling ranks of pundits and academicians earning a fat living from tax subsidized nonprofits while railing against government welfare. His pay at his nonprofit, Freedom Center, was a sweet $480,162 in 2008, the most recent tax filing available on line. Total salaries and benefits at the Center represented 40 per cent of revenues in 2008.
Throughout the fall of 2007, and continuing into 2008, Mr. Horowitz promoted his “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” program to more than 100 college campuses, with the film “Obsession” made available for viewing. His Freedom Center established a program and web site called Terrorism Awareness Project, which linked with conservative student groups on campus.
Was there a nexus between Mr. Horowitz’s drive to promote the film and it being later bankrolled by a super wealthy libertarian nonprofit? What we do know for sure is that the far right has assembled a $6 billion interlinked machine of think-tanks, lobbyists, PACs, astroturf front groups, media sycophants, endowed professorships, state-based political fronts and now even their own centralized headhunter; all to throw us off the scent that the real threat to the poor and middle class in America is corporate domination.
Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years; she has no security position, long or short, in any company mentioned in this article. She writes on public interest issues from New Hampshire. She can be reached at pamk741@aol.co (pamk741@aol.com)

http://www.counterpunch.org/martens10262010.html

Ed Jewett
10-31-2010, 06:51 AM
Obsession DVD Distributors: Would We Try To Influence Election? Never!

By Eric Kleefeld (http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/kleefeld) - September 25, 2008, 10:59AM
We've finally gotten to speak with the people behind the mass distribution of Obsession, a DVD warning viewers of the threats of radical Islam. And they're actually claiming that their mailing of the DVD to millions of households in swing states, and paying to have it inserted in local papers in places like Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, is not an attempt to sway voters in swing states.
And get this: They're saying the swing-state focus is simply an effort to get the attention of reporters in swing states, because the media is heavily focused on swing states and if they distributed the DVD in non-swing states it wouldn't get any attention.
The movie is being distributed (http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/09/who_is_funding_distribution_of.php) by Clarion Fund (http://clarionfund.org/), a right-wing group founded by filmmaker Raphael Shore, in partnership with the Endowment for Middle East Truth (http://www.emetonline.org/). Since these organizations are 501(c)(3) non-profits, it would be illegal for them to use the DVD as an express effort to win people's votes -- but they can embark on educational campaigns.
Nonetheless, this "educational campaign" -- which would seem to be helpful to John McCain -- is heavily focused on swing states. Why?
"If we were to distribute only in Hawaii and Maine, the press would be like, 'Look we're in Pennsylvania, we're in Florida, we're not covering something in Hawaii now,'" said Gregory Ross, Clarion Fund spokesman, in an interview with Election Central.
Ross explained. "So to capture the press and get interviews just like you're calling me, that why we're sending it to the swing states."
"We do not consider this electioneering," Ross added, "because we're not telling anyone how to vote."
Still, Ross appeared to accidentally concede that politics might be behind the campaign.
In a reference to the Endowment for Middle East Truth, which is helping push the DVD, Ross said: "They use our movie Obsession as a vehicle to help foster political -- well I should say, discussion in general."

Ari Morgenstern, spokesman for EMET, concurred that this is not about influencing the election: "Well, this is in no way an effort to influence the election. The goal is to help educate the American public about radical Islam's war with the West."
Neither Ross or Morgenstern would disclose the identities of any of their donors who are helping with this effort, but Ross did say they "span the political spectrum." He declined, however, to say if one or more were backing Barack Obama or John McCain.
Ross said that Clarion Fund has another movie coming out, The Third Jihad, about the threat of radical Islamists right here in America, set to premiere in October. There are not currently any plans to distribute it in swing states in the same way as they are doing for Obsession -- but he's not ruling anything out.


http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/09/obsession_dvd_distributors_wer.php