Tag Archives: Richard Silverstein

Report: Minnesota Jewish group helped Israeli government monitor ‘bad Muslim,’ Rep. Ellison

This article originally appeared in Mondoweiss.

Keith Ellison, the progressive Congressional representative for Minneapolis’ fifth district, is no darling of the Israeli government, largely because of the letter he spearheaded that called for an end to the blockade of Gaza.  Now, new details indicate that the Israeli government actively monitored Ellison’s activities with the cooperation of the Minnesota chapter of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

The story first emerged in the New York Times piece on FBI documents leaked to blogger Richard Silverstein that provides a peek at U.S. spying efforts on Israel.  Scott Shane reported on what Silverstein told him was in blog posts based on information provided by former FBI translator Shamai Leibowitz:

A third [blog post] describes a call between an unnamed Jewish activist in Minnesota and the Israeli Embassy about an embassy official’s meeting with Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who was planning an official trip to Gaza.

An article published yesterday in the Minnesota-based American Jewish World reveals that the “unnamed Jewish activist” worked for the Jewish Community Relations Council and describes what the activist talked about with the Israeli consulate in Chicago.  Mordecai Specktor reports:

“I do recall that there was a lot of discussion in that conversation about Keith Ellison, and about his hostility toward Israel,” said Silverstein. “They used the fact that he had gone on a trade mission to Saudi Arabia, shortly before the conversation happened between the JCRC person and the diplomat, to testify, in their eyes, to how anti-Israel he was…”

Silverstein told the AJW that the “local Minneapolis person was… updating the [Israeli] diplomat on what they knew about Ellison’s schedule… then the JCRC person said, ‘and he’s going on a trip to Gaza with [Rep.] Brian Baird, of Washington state.’

“They were talking about how harmful this would be to Israel, and how [Ellison and Baird] were trying to hurt Israel by this kind of activity,” Silverstein recalled…

In an e-mail message to the AJW on Wednesday night, Silverstein recalled details from his April 2009 blog posts based on the wiretap materials. He wrote that Israeli officials had a “problematic” relationship with both Ellison and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum…

On April 28, 2009, Silverstein posted a message on his blog: “Earlier this month, a senior official of Israel’s D.C. embassy contacted a Minneapolis Jewish communal staffer, to inform him about a D.C. meeting between Congress member Keith Ellison and deputy chief of mission, Jeremy Issacharoff.”

Silverstein, in both his phone conversation and a subsequent e-mail, mentioned that the wiretapped conversation between the person affiliated with the JCRC and the Israeli diplomat included a discussion that compared Ellison, the first Muslim member of the U.S. House, with André Carson, D.-Ind., the second Muslim ever elected to the House. Paraphrasing the conversation, Silverstein said that the local Jewish activist and the Israeli diplomat deemed Ellison to be the “bad Muslim,” who was too independent in his views and uncontrollable; and Carson was the “promising Muslim,” who was seen as more amenable to persuasion by Israeli officials.

In an email to Specktor, the director of the Minnesota JCRC confirms that “the JCRC communicates from time to time with the Consul General’s office in Chicago… Accordingly, the JCRC’s conversations with the Consul General’s office have included discussions about members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation, including Representative Ellison.”

While it’s no surprise the Israeli government coordinates with Israel lobby and Jewish groups, the revelations published by Specktor are a glimpse into what exactly they coordinate about.

In his blog, Silverstein writes about what he sees as the problem with this type of coordination:

If you read between the lines of [director of the Minnesota JCRC] Steve Huneg’s [e-mail] statement above, you will find a confirmation of the monitoring the local Jewish community was offering as a service to the Israeli foreign ministry on behalf of Israeli interests. One has to ask, if this type of activity is standard for the Minneapolis JCRC and presumably others across the country, where do the interests of Israel and those of the U.S. diverge? Or do they at all? Is it the role of the official representatives of the American Jewish community to consult with Israeli government officials about local Representatives who Israel (and they) feel are “bad for Israel?” Is it right to peruse Congressmember’s travel schedules to inform the Israeli government when local Representatives may be taking trips deemed harmful to Israel’s interests?


We have to understand as American Jews that there are times when American interests are different from Israeli. When Israel asks us essentially to inform on our elected officials that’s not right and not in our interests as Americans.

UN report debunks Israel’s Naksa propaganda

Immediately after the Israeli military reportedly killed dozens of unarmed demonstrators in the occupied-Golan Heights on June 15, Israel’s propaganda machine went into high gear.  Newly-released details from a United Nations report authored by the Secretary General clearly show that the Israeli spin on the Naksa protests was just that:  spin.

The principle claim was that the Israel Defense Forces only shot at the bottom half of protesters’ bodies, and therefore did not kill them.  Instead, as a New York Times report put it, the Israeli military said that “10 protesters were killed after they threw makeshift firebombs and started a fire that set off land mines near the border town of Quneitra, on the Syrian side of the lines.”

It turns out that there was indeed a fire that killed demonstrators, according to the UN.  But according to published accounts of Ban Ki-Moon’s report on the demonstrations, it was Israeli weaponry that caused the fire which ultimately killed protesters.

From Ha’aretz:

A UN report on the Naksa day events said the IDF used tear gas, smoke grenades and live fire to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the ceasefire line.

It stated: “Several anti-tank mines exploded due to a brush fire apparently started by tear gas or smoke grenade canisters near UNDOF facilities at Charlie Gate, resulting in casualties among protesters.”

The brush fire was put out by Syrian and Israeli fire squads, and UNDOF, the report read.

Meanwhile, the Zionist blogosphere is all over this story by Michael Weiss of the Telegraph that purports to show Syrian state documents proving that “Assad orchestrated Nakba Day raids” on the Golan Heights.  Weiss, who works for a pro-Israel advocacy group, claimed that the document was authentic and originated from the “‘Office of the Mayor’ in Al-Qunaitera province.”  But blogger Richard Silverstein throws cold water on Weiss’ report, writing that it was Israeli intelligence–which has a history of pushing false stories in the media–who leaked the memo to him.

Another American Family Grieves Over Israeli Killings With Impunity

Ziad Jilani and his three American daughters

Emily Henochowicz, Tristan Anderson, Furkan Dogan, Brian Avnery, Rachel Corrie and more–all American citizens killed or severely injured by Israel with no justice served and barely a peep heard from U.S. authorities.  Now, add Ziad Jilani, who was a permanent resident of the U.S. and whose family holds U.S. citizenship,  to that list.

Last summer, Jilani was executed at close range by Israeli Border Police in East Jerusalem.  Amira Hass of Haaretz reported then that:

A motorist from East Jerusalem who ran over and wounded several Border Police officers Friday was shot twice in the face from close range while still lying on the ground, eyewitnesses said. Neighborhood witnesses said the fatal shots were fired once the officers no longer had reason to fear that their lives were in danger, and could have easily arrested the suspect.

Witnesses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz told Haaretz that the motorist, Ziad Jilani, suddenly swerved his car and hit the group of officers walking further up the road. They said, however, that they believed the collision was an accident, and not committed intentionally as initially reported.

Hass and Yaniv Kubovich have the report on the Israeli Justice Ministry closing the case:

The widow of a motorist who was shot to death by police in East Jerusalem in June learned yesterday from her lawyer that the Justice Ministry closed its investigation into the case. In a conversation with Haaretz Moira Jilani, a U.S. citizen, expressed shock over the closure of the investigation.

In the aftermath of Jilani’s death, Richard Silverstein wrote on the U.S. Consulate offering little help to the Jilani family:

Jilani’s widow is an American citizen.  As such, she is entitled to the services of the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem.  Alas, the consulate’s response has been lackadaisical and sullen at best.  After an inquiry from Jilani’s sister, a U.S. citizen living in California, Congressman Brian Bilbray wrote to the consulate.  The response by Consul Debra Towry was typical CYA bulls(&t.  She claimed falsely that a list of attorneys was offered to the family.  The truth is that the family was forced to hire its own attorney with no help whatsoever, and certainly no list proffered, from the consulate.  The consul noted in her letter to Bilbray that a consular representative attended the first legal hearing into Jilani’s death.  This is true.  But they only did so after the widow begged them to do so.

This is a pattern with Israel, and the U.S. doesn’t do nearly enough to push for justice for its own people.  Henochowicz’s case has been closed.  The Obama administration didn’t touch the case of Dogan, the Turkish-American who was murdered on the Mavi Marmara.  The Corrie family is still bravely seeking justice.  And Israel is the U.S.’ bedrock “ally.”


Upper West Side Synagogue and Brooklyn Jewish Center to Host Memorial Events for Far-right Extremist Meir Kahane

Three memorial events for the racist, far-right ultra-nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane are to be held throughout New York City this Sunday in ceremonies marking twenty years since the killing of Kahane.

The events are to be held at the Ocean Avenue Jewish Center in Brooklyn, at the site of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan and at the West Side Institutional Synagogue, which describes itself as a “warm and vibrant modern orthodox synagogue located in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.”

The Kahane memorial at Ground Zero is taking aim at “political Islam” and at the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero.  A blog post promoting the event on the Jewish Defense League’s “Canada blog” states, “It has been 20 years since *Rabbi Meir Kahane* (HY”D) was murdered. He was the first Al Quida [sic] terror victim. And his vision is more important today than ever.  The forces of Political Islam built a Mosque on the holiest site of the Jewish People-The Temple Mount. And today, the forces of Political Islam are determined to build a Mosque at Ground Zero.”

At the Upper West Side event, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn of the West Side synangogue will be speaking–despite telling someone organizing a protest against the event that the Kahane memorial is “not a west side institutional event” and that “somebody is renting our ballroom.”  Also speaking will be Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel, a right-wing group that supports “Israel’s right…to the territories won in the 1967 war”; the talk-show host Barry Farber; and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a right-wing Orthodox Jewish follower of Kahane who has advocated for the racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims in New York City.  Hikind is an advocate for illegal Jewish settlement in occupied Palestine, and his wife runs “Ateret Cohanim, one of the chief Jewish groups forcibly Judaizing East Jerusalem,” as blogger Richard Silverstein put it.

The honoring of Meir Kahane has sparked controversy among the Jewish community in New York City, and there are plans, led by Yeshiva students in the city, to protest the memorial events.

“We were pretty outraged to see that a synagogue in the Upper West Side–from what I understand, a relatively mainstream, Orthodox Upper West Side synagogue–would be holding a memorial to Meir Kahane, who is one of the most extreme, radical, right-wing Israeli leaders in the last few decades,” said Itamar Landau, a full-time fellow at Yeshivat Hadar, in an interview.  Landau is a key organizer behind the planned protests this Sunday.  “That’s not the Jewish community that I believe in, and that’s not the Jewish community I think we have.”

Kahane is a notorious figure.  He founded the Jewish Defense League, a U.S. organization designated a “terrorist” group by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department and U.S. courts. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Jewish Defense League “has a long history of bombing, assaulting and threatening its perceived enemies. Its targets have included the Soviet Union, neo-Nazi activists, Palestinian leaders, prominent black Americans, and even Jewish moderates.”

Perhaps the most infamous act of violence by a follower of Kahane was the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, when Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli-settler born in Brooklyn, murdered 29 Muslims praying at the Cave of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.  The Israeli government outlawed the Kach political party, which was founded by Kahane, and an offshoot party, in the 1990’s.

Kahane advocated for the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and Israel, an idea that still retains currency among Israeli political parties, as Avigdor Lieberman’s recent speech at the United Nations showed.

(Thanks to Jesse Bacon of Jewish Voice for Peace for tipping me off to this).

Koch Brothers Also Funding Islamophobia

The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer made waves with her piece on the Koch brothers, which described how Charles and David Koch, the owners of the multi-billion dollar Koch Industries, were “giving money to ‘educate,’ fund, and organize Tea Party protesters” in an effort to “turn their private agenda into a mass movement.”

Now, more has emerged about the Koch brothers’ agenda, and it’s not just limited to advocating for “drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation.”  An investigation by CounterPunch‘s Pam Martens has revealed that “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.”

The “fear mongering effort” in question was the documentary “Obsession:  Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” which was distributed to millions of people in “swing states” around the country in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election through corporate newspapers.  The documentary has been condemned as anti-Muslim, and features interviews with notorious Islamophobes such as Steven Emerson, Daniel Pipes and Caroline Glick.

The CounterPunch investigation adds a whole new layer to the overlap between anti-Muslim activists and the Tea Party, which I wrote about yesterday.

Martens writes:

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.

Richard Silverstein has more over at his blog.

House Republicans Pal Around with anti-Muslim, anti-Black racist David Yerushalmi

It should come as no surprise that elected officials are aiding and
abetting anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., especially with mid-term elections nearby.  But it was still a little shocking to read Think Progress national security blogger Matt Duss’ post on a newly released report titled “Sharia: The Threat to America.”

Duss writes that the report, authored by the neoconservative Center for Security Policy, was presented to Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI).  Here’s the slightly shocking part:  also attending the event Duss reported on was David Yerushalmi, the general counsel for the Center for Security Policy.

So just who is this Yerushalmi fellow that Republican politicians were palling around with?

Yerushalmi has been aptly described as a “Jewish fascist” by blogger Richard Silverstein.  As Silverstein highlighted in August 2007, Yerushalmi has said:

One must admit readily that the radical liberal Jew is a fact of the West and a destructive one…Indeed, Jews in the main have turned their backs on the belief in G-d and His commandments as a book of laws for a particular and chosen people…What interest does America have in a strong Israel? If your answer is democracy in a liberal or western sense, know you have sided with the Palestinians of Hamas.

Yerushalmi was a member of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, which was instrumental in the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim smear campaign that brought down Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual-language Arabic school in Brooklyn.  He has followed his Islamophobic buddies Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer in joining in their war against the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, and is an attorney with the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is run by Geller and Spencer.

That’s not even the worst part.  Charles Johnson, the blogger at the formerly right-wing, hawkish website Little Green Footballs who “parted ways with the right” for, in part, its “Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.),” has the rundown on Yerushalmi:

This is a good time for some background information on Pamela Geller’s associate David Yerushalmi, who is an advocate for criminalizing Islam itself and imposing 20-year sentences on practicing Muslims. Yes, really.

He’s not simply anti-Muslim, though; Yerushalmi also wrote a now-infamous article titled “On Race: A Tentative Discussion, Part II,” in which he advocated a return to a pre-Bill of Rights Constitution, and the restriction of voting rights to white male land-owners. Again … yes, really.

Here’s a lengthy article at Talk To Action on the bizarre views and causes of David Yerushalmi: Anti-Semitic White-Supremacist Orthodox Jew Tries To Ban Islam In US.

Yerushalmi has deleted as much evidence of the “On Race” article as he could; he removed it from the Internet Archive and the Google cache, and put his entire website behind a registration wall. But here’s a PDF that contains the full article, and it’s as ugly and twisted a piece of racism as anything I’ve ever seen. Yerushalmi opens by calling Islam “an evil religion,” and “blacks … the most murderous of peoples.”

A quote:

“There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote. You might not agree or like the idea but this country’s founders, otherwise held in the highest esteem for their understanding of human nature and its affect on political society, certainly took it seriously. Why is that? Were they so flawed in their political reckonings that they manhandled the most important aspect of a free society – the vote? If the vote counts for so much in a free and liberal democracy as we ‘know’ it today, why did they limit the vote so dramatically?”

So there you have it: House Republicans are openly associating themselves with a “Jewish fascist” who has called “blacks…the most murderous of peoples” and advocates for the criminalization of Islam.