AIPAC gives its seal of approval to Islamophobe Steven Emerson

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
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Emerson
Steven Emerson appeared at the AIPAC conference on Sunday (Image via Jewsonfirst.org)

The annual Israel lobby confab has once again put its seal of approval on Islamophobia. A key member of what has been termed the “Islamophobia network” appeared Sunday at an officially scheduled session at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference.

Steven Emerson, the head of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, has been a lead pusher of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. since the 1990s. On Sunday afternoon, he led a session at AIPAC titled “The Threat From Within: Islamic Radicalism in the United States.” Here’s the description, taken from AIPAC’s website:

Islamic extremists operating within the United States pose a serious risk to America’s security. Acts of domestic terrorism, as well as various attacks that have been thwarted by intelligence agencies and law enforcement, point to the severity of the threat. What can and should the United States do to combat these homegrown radicals?

Emerson, who has given testimony to Congress, also appeared at AIPAC’s conference last year, where he spoke on a similar topic. It’s unclear what exactly he said.

But the evidence that has come out in recent years about “Islamic extremists” in the United States points to the conclusion that Emerson’s session likely hyped the threat. The latest study released by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security in North Carolina revealed that only 14 American Muslims last year were indicted for violent terror plots. That’s a decline from the 21 Muslim Americans indicted in 2011. What’s more, almost all of the plots from last year involved undercover agents and informants. Critics have called plots egged on by undercover agents entrapment, and many of the plots involve law enforcement agents targeting young, unemployed and/or mentally ill Muslims.

Unbiased evidence, though, is not a concern to Emerson, who has been pushing anti-Muslim politics since before the September 11, 2001 attacks. In 1991, the New York Times called one of Emerson’s books “anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian.” One of his most infamous moments came in the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. Emerson told a reporter that the bombing bore a “Middle Eastern trait” because it intended to “inflict as many casualties as possible.” It turned out the attack had nothing to do with Islamic extremists.

In 1995, Emerson said that “the level of vitriol against Jews and Christianity within contemporary Islam, unfortunately, is something that we are not totally cognizant of, or that we don’t want to accept.We don’t want to accept it because to do so would be to acknowledge that one of the world’s great religions — which has more than 1.4 billion adherents — somehow sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine.” Emerson also opposed the Park 51 Islamic center in lower Manhattan.

What’s more, AIPAC is giving space to a man who engages in some questionable financial activities. In their landmark report on the “Islamophobia network,” the Center for American Progress took note of Emerson’s cash:

Emerson’s nonprofit organization IPT received a total of $400,000 from Donors Capital Fund in 2007 and 2008,133 as well as $100,000 from the Becker Foundation, and $250,000 from Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, according to our research. Emerson’s nonprofit organization, in turn, helps fund his for-profit company, SAE Productions. IPT paid SAE Productions $3.33 million to enable the company to “study alleged ties between American Muslims and overseas terrorism.” Emerson is SAE’s sole employee.

Even more intriguingly, a review of grants in November 2010 showed large sums of money contributed to the “Investigative Project,” or “IPT,” care of the Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation. An examination of CTSERF’s 990 forms showed that, much like the Investigative Project, all grant revenue was transferred to a private, for-profit entity, the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals…

This kind of action enrages Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group. He argued that “basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit.”

The increasing influence of Islamophobia donors to Emerson’s nonprofit and for-profit work has focused more recently on anti-Islam, anti-Muslim expertise. Indeed, according to an investigation by The Tennessean newspaper, the Investigative Project now solicits money by telling donors they’re in imminent danger from Muslims.

The appearance of a major fomenter of Islamophobia at AIPAC is a prominent example of how Islamophobia has become entwined with strong support for Israel–particularly the right-wing brand of Zionism, though more mainstream Zionist organizations, like AIPAC, also legitimize anti-Muslim sentiment.

Emerson’s appearance is in line with how the Israel lobby utilizes Islamophobia to further its own goals by trying to marginalize Muslim American political organizing and by casting the Israel/Palestine conflict as a civilizational clash between Christianity and Judaism on one side and Islam on the other. Yet another prominent example of how mainstream Israel lobby groups legitimize Islamophobia was exposed in this post, where I reported that a former member of the Israel Project’s board funded anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller in 2010.

AIPAC’s seal of approval for Emerson also runs counter to the Israel lobby organization’s pronounced goal of making AIPAC look “more like America,” as its president said on Sunday.

Ironically, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren told the AIPAC conference–on the same day that Emerson appeared–that his main message was to “reach out to the churches in your community, to the African-Americans, the Latinos, to the mosques” to boost pro-Israel sentiment. Having Emerson as an official speaker at your conference is probably not the way to do that.

But support for Emerson serves a much more important political purpose–so don’t expect AIPAC to drop him any time soon.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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6 Responses

  1. Avi_G.
    March 5, 2013, 9:30 am

    From the perspective of a patriotic American, the Israel Lobby is a parasite.

    From the perspective of a world citizen, the Israel Lobby is a blight unto the world.

    Either way, the Israel Lobby is a manifestation of the very state it represents, a parasite and a blight.

  2. Nevada Ned
    March 5, 2013, 9:44 am

    Thanks, Alex. The media critics at FAIR have been onto Emerson for a couple of decades. See for example this article by Jane Hunter.

  3. piotr
    March 5, 2013, 11:14 am

    By the way, Islamophobes have a certain problem in gaining Latino support. Of course, Latinos are a very diverse group, both racially and ideologically, but majority has a certain identification with Amerindians who in the past were slaughtered, subjugated and oppressed in a feudal system as serfs/campesinos.

    In turn, Spanish Conquest followed anti-Muslim re-Conquest, Conquista and Reconquista. The patron saint of Spain is St. James the Apostle named Matamoros, Moor Slayer — or was it a battle cry invoking the Saint and the enemy? This is the “money quote”:

    Ya en América, Santiago Matamoros se transforma en Santiago Mataindios, al ser invocado por los españoles contra los indios precolombinos.

    Recent civil wars in Central America had both: “Mataindios” component and participation of our own “Matamoros” faction like Elliot Abrams, Otto Reich etc.

    Matamoros y Mataindios, subjugate lesser people everywhere!

  4. American
    March 5, 2013, 1:25 pm

    Featuring Emerson is really scrapping the bottom of the barrel.
    But featuring him does show what AIPACer’s really are.

  5. Abdul-Rahman
    March 5, 2013, 2:30 pm

    “reach out to the churches in your community, to the African-Americans, the Latinos, to the mosques” lol what pathetic Zionist hasbara. These Zionist propagandists know African-Americans mostly oppose their crimes (I’m sure these AIPAC clowns are among those who still try to bring up Jeremiah Wright every other second), AIPAC and the ADL whine about Chicano groups quite a lot link to nationalmecha.org and they know Muslim Americans oppose their Zionist crimes.

    It is quite an irony that Zionist Jews are turning EVEN more to right wing Anglo-Saxon Protestants (the same Protestants who in the past had Martin Luther writing books with such titles as “On the Jews and Their Lies”), who today have “Christian Zionist” nutjobs who are part of the end times cult known as “dispenstationalism” (who have all but trademarked their doctrine of the “rapture”, invented in 19th century CE England by a man named John Nelson Darby, on Dispensationalism link to rationalwiki.org

    Who can forget this!

    Max Blumenthal “Rapture Ready: The Christians United for Israel Tour”

  6. a blah chick
    March 5, 2013, 7:28 pm

    My favorite Stevie moment came in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. Our boy was all over the airwaves in the immediate aftermath hinting darkly that it was the “ARABS” who did it. After Mc Vey was arrested Stevie boy vanished. I can still recall one of the network newspeople reporting on the arrest sounding a bit testy about “certain people” expounding on the culprits with no proof. It was muted criticism of Emerson, no question about it.

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