What does Canary Mission, far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, Robert Spencer’s and Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative or Stop Islamization of America, US Tea Party, and David Yerushalmi’s American Freedom Law Center all have in common? All are funded by various chapters of the mainstream Jewish Federations across the US and the SF Diller Foundation.
In the past, I wrote an article for the American Studies Journal and I estimated then that 70% of the funding for the Islamophobia Industry comes from the pro-Israel/Zionist sources and concrete evidence is slowly emerging. To date, the single largest expenditure to push Islamophobia in the US came in the form of the Clarion Fund paying upward of $17 million to produce and distribute 28 million copies of the documentary Obsession in the run-up to the 2008 elections. This Clarion Fund expenditure was followed by another outlay for the more Islamophobically horrific documentary, the Third Jihad, framing the American Muslim community civic engagement programs as a threat to the country and collectively can’t be trusted. The recent reports on the San Francisco Jewish Federation and the Diller Foundation funding for the granddaddies of the Islamophobia Industry make the initial estimates very conservative.
An October 3, 2018 article by Josh Nathan-Kazis titled, REVEALED: Canary Mission Blacklist Is Secretly Bankrolled By Major Jewish Federation, published in the Jewish Forward uncovered evidence that all the above major Islamophobic figures and groups got direct funding from San Francisco’s Jewish Community Federation and the Diller Foundation. Examining the tax returns from the 2014-2016 period, Josh Nathan-Kazis, pointed out that: “The federation’s support of Canary Mission connects the American Jewish establishment itself to a website that is facing increasing criticism from young Jews.” Canary Mission is a McCarthyite blacklisting operation that targets pro-Palestine and BDS activists on college campuses to protect Israel’s brand in the US.
Critically, the outfits mentioned above all engage in the most despicable forms of Islamophobia and seek the demonization of the American Muslim community. Funding for Geert Wilders, who pushes the most extreme anti-immigrant and xenophobic policies in the Dutch Parliament, is very disturbing and raises profound ethical and moral questions to the American Jewish community. In 2013, four members of Wilders’s Freedom Party “wore badges in the Dutch parliament… featuring a well-known neo-Nazi insignia which has links to the country’s infamous national socialist party of the 1930s.” Recently, Prime Minister Netanyahu has welcomed Wilders into an official visit to Israel but for the Diller Foundation to provide funding for a known neo-Nazi sympathizer and his party is an unforgivable act considering the current rise of White Nationalist groups domestically and across the globe.
Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative or Stop Islamization of America was responsible for framing the community center in New York City as the “ground zero mosque” and led the 2010 campaign against it. More importantly, Geller’s bus ads in the past few years across the country generated the most insidious forms of Islamophobia in a supposed effort to protect Israel’s standing. Furthermore, Geller outlandish forms of Islamophobia included hosting a draw the prophet of Islam cartoon competition but it seems none of it disqualified her from receiving funding from the Diller Foundation.
In the US political landscape, David Yerushalmi’s American Freedom Law Center has played a very menacing role in demonizing Muslims through the sponsorship of countless anti-Sharia legislation. The funding for the American Freedom Law Center included (a $10,000 in 2014; $175,000 in 2015; and $100,000 in 2016). Interestingly, the ADL, which also receives funding from the Jewish Federations and Diller Foundation, said that David Yerushalmi has a “record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.” The ADL itself is not innocent on this front, and their record of Islamophobia and demonization of the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities is long and well-established, but the contradictions are in plain sight.
For the Diller Foundation and Jewish Federations across the country to fund American Freedom Law Center that targets Muslim religious identity is yet another injury to the Muslim community, which took place while interfaith efforts were underway across the country. What is the meaning of interfaith, if the major funding agencies for the American Jewish community is engaged in the wholesale funding of Islamophobic groups and individuals! Interfaith dialogue is meaningless and insulting if funding for Islamophobic groups is undertaken within the same mainstream organizational infrastructure.
I have reviewed extensive tax return from multiple Jewish Federations across the country and have livid reactions to it. Yes, the Jewish Federation and Diller Foundation handed out many grants and funded projects undertaken by community groups, organizations, and universities, which are all worthwhile and inspiring considering the commitment and commendable high levels of generosity regularly demonstrated by the Jewish community. However, the funding directed at Islamophobic groups, Geert Wilders’s neo-Nazi Freedom Party, US Tea Party Patriots, and others stains and undermines the good that is done.
The issue at hand is the split personality of the organized American Jewish community which can be seen on the one hand in the high levels and well-established records of generosity, funding the building of hospitals, endowments for schools and colleges, backing liberal political positions and offering support in defense of civil rights for all. The history and work of the American Jewish community is inspiring and gives hope to the challenges facing Muslims in today’s America. However, on the other hand, the same mainstream Jewish community groups acting on behalf of Zionism and seeking to protect Israel’s interests can exhibit the most reactionary and racist discourses when it comes to Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and their allies. A moment of deep reflection is urgently needed by the Federations, the Diller Foundation and all the groups that have adopted Islamophobia as a weapon in defense of Israeli Apartheid.
Indeed, the issue of Palestine causes the American Jewish community to pursue strategies and policies that undermine and cross the ethical and moral boundaries of the community. Resorting to funding Islamophobia is a sign of failure and an admission that Israel as a brand is no longer defensible on merits alone. Demonizing BDS activists, targeting SJP organizers and defaming faculty on college campuses is behind all the efforts at rescuing Israel’s image and brand. Funding Geert Wilders will not rescue the brand but will mar it further and lead most young Jewish Americans to seek a different and more meaningful future horizon.
The Jewish journalist and activists who exposed these contradictions are acting to uphold and express the highest ethical and moral ideals of the Jewish community and often are doing so in partnership with Palestinians and Muslims in the US and abroad. Appealing and funding Islamophobia in the hope of saving Israel’s Apartheid is a failed and failing policy, and no amount of grants or resources can rescue dying settler colonialism. The future belongs to Jews, Muslims and justice loving people from all walks of life that are already crafting and envisioning a different tomorrow, one that is not wedded to securing a demographically engineered Apartheid state.