‘New York Times’ profile of group bent on sanctioning Iran fails to mention Israel connections

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Ross
Dennis Ross, a major pro-Israel figure, helped to found United Against Nuclear Iran
(Photo via Blip.tv)

The New York Times recently profiled United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a hawkish group bent on monitoring Iranian commerce at sea and promoting sanctions against the country. Missing from Rick Gladstone’s piece, though, is any mention of Israel. It’s a glaring omission given the fact that the group has connections to Israel lobby groups and receives funding from organizations with a focus on Judaism and Israel.

The group was founded in 2008 by high-level officials like former Bush administration official Mark Wallace, the current CEO, and former Obama administration officials like the late Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross, who has handled the Israel file in a number of presidential administrations.

Other members of UANI’s board include Meir Dagan, the former Mossad director who made waves for his opposition to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran but is also pro-sanctions; Alan Solow, a former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organiations; former Homeland Security Advisor and MEK supporter Fran Townsend; and more. As Robert Dreyfuss wrote in the Tehran Bureau in 2008, it’s a “coalition of bipartisan hawks, from neoconservative hardliners to liberal interventionists.”

And while the organization puts most of its energy into sanctioning Iran, they also wouldn’t mind U.S. military attacks on the country, despite their spokesman saying in 2008 that the group’s “aim is not to beat the drums of war.” In 2011, in the aftermath of the alleged (and hyped-up) Iranian plot to assassinate a Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., UANI said that President Obama should “make it clear that Iran will face consequences for its actions, including military retaliation for attacks on Americans.”

UANI pushes for a “maritime blockade” of Iran, as the New York Times profile notes. Unmentioned by the Times’ Gladstone is that a “maritime blockade” is considered an act of war under international law.

Gladstone also reported that “the group relies on private donations and fund-raising to operate, according to its Web site. The group’s officials declined to identify the donors but said its annual budget was about $1.5 million.” The UANI has always been cagey about its funding, declining to discuss details of their money with The Forward in 2008.

But tax records I reviewed reveal that UANI gets a portion of their funding from organizations with a focus on Israel and Judaism. While the funding I discovered doesn’t amount to $1.5 million, it’s still a window into who their donors are.

In fiscal year 2010, the latest year I reviewed, UANI received $50,000 from the United Jewish Communities of Metrowest New Jersey, which also funds an array of Jewish and Israel-focused groups like Birthright and Hillel. UANI also received $25,000 from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland that year. That same Cleveland organization gave UANI $50,000 in both 2008 and 2009. While the Jewish Federation of Cleveland has also given some money to groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, most of their money goes to Jewish and Israel-related groups.

In fiscal year 2009, UANI garnered $10,000 from the Herbert Bearman Foundation for its “Unclenched Fist” advertisement, the group’s first national television ad campaign. The ad called for “economic pressure on the Iranian regime” to “keep them from building a nuclear arsenal.” U.S. and Israeli intelligence have maintained that while Iran is enriching uranium–a right they have under international law–there is no evidence they have decided to build a nuclear weapon. You can watch the misleading Bearman-funded ad here:

The Herbert Bearman Foundation also gave money that year to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations ($3,410); the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces ($7,500); the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies ($5,000); and many other Jewish groups.

Lastly, UANI received $100,000 from the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago in fiscal year 2009, and $15,000 that year from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Other UANI-Israel lobby connections are easy to discover. In April, UANI and The Israel Project organized an event together on “Iranian nuclear proliferation.” In 2011, UANI partnered with Iran 180, a group launched by the New York Jewish Community Relations Council, as the Electronic Intifada’s Benjamin Doherty pointed out last year. Iran 180 and UANI, along with New York City Public Advocate (and current mayoral candidate) Bill de Blasio, coalesced around pressuring automobile companies to stop doing business with Iran.

The group is also close to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Last year, The Forward’s Nathan Guttman reported that “UANI has strong ties to the Jewish community and is supported by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.” The Jewish group’s website also feature an ad for UANI prominently. 

But the Times’ Gladstone did not mention any of these Israel lobby connections. By doing so, the “paper of record” didn’t provide the full picture about the hawkish group–and did a disservice to their readers.

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