CAMERA doth protest too much re its role in Boston anti-mosque campaign

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Yesterday CAMERA’s Dexter van Zile responded to a post by Jeff Klein critiquing the Israel lobby organization. Klein now responds:

CAMERA apparently didn’t like being mentioned in my piece on the anti-Mosque campaign in Boston. However, their complaint is a good example of their regular method of obfuscation and misdirection. CAMERA responds to something I did not write and proceeds to pick a couple of nits that have no bearing on the thrust (and truth) of the piece.

Here is a more detailed account, which situates CAMERA within a network of Likudnik activists who have been using anti-Islam demagoguery as an organizing tactic in service to Israel. The Boston campaign was a kind of trial run for the extremes of Islamophobic racism that are being marshaled around the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York. The subject is worthy of a much longer treatment, which I hope to compile sometime in the future.

I wrote that that campaign against the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center and Mosque in Roxbury “was organized by activists with the far-right pro-Israel David Project and CAMERA, spearheaded by founder Charles Jacobs, who now heads a front group with the Orwellian name “Americans for Peace and Tolerance.” All of this is demonstrably true from court records and discovery documents, as well as public statements and actions by the Mosque opponents. That Charles Jacobs was “only” the co-founder of the BOSTON branch of CAMERA – is a distinction without significance. Whatever the reality of the organization’s existence prior to the late 1980’s, for all intents and purposes CAMERA is headquartered in the Boston “Branch Office,” where a well-funded staff (some also based in Israel) with a six-figure budget turns out pro-Israel reports and tendentious “media criticism.” I doubt if there has ever been a more misleading, oxymoronic title for an organization than the “Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting” – unless it was Charles Jacobs’ most recent creation “Americans for Peace and Tolerance.”

CAMERA is one arm of a wide-ranging network of overlapping organizations, websites and activists in Boston, which share the same rightwing pro-Israel (and increasingly Republican) orientation. Their method – like the Neocon, Islamophobic and Tea Party Right in general — is to work both publicly and covertly. As in New York and elsewhere, the Boston anti-Mosque effort saw the creation of a supposedly independent grassroots organization to mask the real sources of the campaign. Citizens for Peace and Tolerance was launched in 2004 as a purportedly “interfaith” initiative, represented by a “moderate” Egyptian Muslim scholar, a Zionist Christian lay activist (and David Project speaker) and a relatively unknown Jewish businessman, to hold well-publicized press conferences attacking the ISB. The role of Charles Jacobs in their operation was hidden at first – though his fingerprints are all over the effort. This was the latest in a series of more or less openly pro-Israel boutique initiatives he has launched, including (besides CAMERA and The David Project) The American Anti-Slavery Group, which campaigned against “slavery” and human trafficking in the Arab world and played a role in launching the “SaveDarfur” movement. After Jacobs stepped down as Director of The David Project, he was announced as the “head” of the “new” Americans for Peace and Tolerance — which was clearly the same organization as the earlier “Citizens” group, with a slightly modified shingle.

It is no wonder that CAMERA is anxious to distance itself publically from some of the activities of Charles Jacobs. The man has become toxic to broad segments of the mainstream and more liberal organizations within the Jewish community, which he actively scorns as not pro-Israel and not pro-Republican enough.

CAMERA itself was not named as one of the defendants in the defamation lawsuit by the ISB but, as I wrote, its activists and supporters were very much involved in the anti-Mosque campaign. The discovery process associated with the ISB suit brought to light a wealth of documents which illustrate a well-oiled anti-Islam publicity operation launched by prominent figures in the Jewish and pro-Israel universe of greater Boston. (It should be noted, however, that a number of progressive Jewish rabbis, activists and organizations supported the ISB project and some eventually signed on to amicus briefs on its behalf; local peace and justice organizations like my organization, Dorchester People for Peace, also took a stand among the Mosque supporters.)

Space here does not allow a full account of the anti-Mosque campaign, but a few examples will give the flavor. In 2002, prominent Boston insurance executive and investor William Sapers learned that the ISB project was being planned adjacent to Roxbury Community College, on whose Board he served as a Trustee. Sapers, a leader of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and other Jewish communal charities and pro-Israel initiatives, was also one of the financial backers of the CAMERA-produced film based on Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. He enlisted the notorious “Islamic terrorism expert” Steven Emerson and his “Investigative Project” to dig up dirt on the ISB and feed it to sympathetic reporters at the Boston Herald and Fox-TV. These outlets duly ran a breathless series of “exposes” about the supposed Islamic terrorist threat looming in Boston from the Roxbury ISB project during 2003-4.

Meanwhile, pro-Israel activists set up a number of meetings in the offices of The David Project to map out the on-going “media campaign” (as they called it) and to organize legal harassment against the ISB project.  Among the attendees were — besides Jacobs, David Project staffer (now Executive Director) Anna Kolodner and Steven Cohen of Citizens for Peace and Tolerance — prominent local attorneys Jack Feinberg, Michael Segal, Jonathan Leffell (Chairman, New England Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces) and Evan Slavitt (then legal counsel for the Mass Republican Party), William Sapers, “terrorism expert” Ilana Friedman, filmmaker Avi Goldwasser (who produced the notorious smear “Columbia Unbecoming”), Herald/Fox reporter Jonathan Wells – and Josh Katzen, Chairman of the Board of CAMERA!  Many CAMERA activists were later prominent in the noisy and confrontational demonstrations at the ISB Mosque site organized by Charles Jacobs and others. The anti-Islam Boston campaign continues to this day.

There is so much more! Just one additional aspect worth noting here is that the supposedly Liberal Boston Globe employs columnist Jeff Jacoby, who regularly reproduces blatant pro-Israel propaganda and also faithfully trumpeted the smears against the ISB Mosque.  Actually – to the Globe’s shame — Jacoby is no mere conservative opinionator, but a movement activist, well-connected with the right-wing pro-Israel networks mentioned above and a frequent speaker at their events.  In 2004 he was one of the featured participants at a major international conference organized by CAMERA in suburban Boston on “Israel and the Media: A Global Challenge.”

Incidentally, CAMERA also maintains a Latin American affiliate, Re Vista de Medio Oriente, whose main activity seems to be attacking Hugo Chavez for “anti-Semitism. . ."

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