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Who funds Pamela Geller? In 2010, it was a former Israel Project board member

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Geller at 9/11 Conference Pamela Geller speaks at a September 11, 2012 conference (AP Photo/David Karp)

The nation’s leading anti-Muslim blogger and activist is back at it again in the New York City subway system. On December 17, Pamela Geller, who runs the blog Atlas Shrugs and is the head of Stop Islamization of America and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, had inflammatory ads put up in 50 subway stations at a cost of over $10,000. The ads picture the World Trade Center burning on September 11 and quote a Qu’ran verse–tying the religion of Islam to the terrorist attacks.

And in September, she put up another round of anti-Muslim advertisements at a cost of thousands of dollars. Many of them were altered and defaced by activists.

All of this begs the question: who is paying for Geller’s antics?

The latest advertisements that went up in the subway December 17.

It remains unclear who exactly is funding the ad buys. In an e-mail to Mondoweiss, Geller said “all the money for the ads comes from supporters’ donations.” On the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s website, a donation button urges readers to “fund the fight.” But the word “supporters” is not exactly revealing. (It’s also worth noting that Geller won a $4 million divorce settlement and $5 million in life insurance.)

Tax records, though, show who partly funded Geller two years ago, when she first made a big name for herself leading the fight against the Park 51 Islamic center in lower Manhattan. These details have not been reported by other media outlets.

A foundation called the Alan and Hope Winters Foundation gave $5,000 to the American Freedom Defense Initiative in 2010, the Geller-led outfit behind the anti-Muslim advertisements. The foundation also gave money to a host of other anti-Muslim outfits that year, including the neoconservative Hudson Institute ($25,000) and David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence ($115,000).

Geller said that the Winters’ money went to her activism around Park 51. But the fact that a big-pocketed foundation gave cash to Geller’s group raises the question as to whether other foundations are likewise funding Geller’s ad buying spree.

Regardless of the answer to that question, the Winters donation is interesting in its own light. Hope Winters was on the board of The Israel Project in 2006 and 2007, according to 990 tax forms reviewed. It is the clearest example yet of how members of the Israel lobby are tied to Geller, a woman who told The New York Times that “a very good guide” to how she sees the world is the “prism of Israel.” Indeed, her last ads read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” And next to those words were the following: “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

The Israel Project (TIP) is a thoroughly-mainstream and well-connected shop that seeks to put “a more positive public face of Israel” out for everyone to see. TIP works with journalists to inform–or spin– the American public about the region. The group’s influence can be seen in the fact that a number of Senators and Representatives from both parties sit on its “board of advisors.”

Currently, TIP is headed by Josh Block, a former spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. TIP did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

So what’s a former board member with TIP doing funding Geller’s hateful crusade against an Islamic center? Winters did not respond to inquiries relayed to her through an associate who helps handle her foundation’s finances. But it’s not too hard to guess.

TIP’s and Geller’s goals converge when it comes to Israel. They both support hawkish right-wing Israeli governments bent on colonizing the West Bank. They both want aggressive U.S. or Israeli action against Iran. Geller’s whole shtick is to cast Israel as a Western outpost in a sea of Arab and Islamic barbarism–the first line of defense in the “war on terror.” More subtly, TIP sees the Middle East in that way as well.

And TIP has other links to well-known Islamophobes. As the Institute for Policy Studies’ Right Web project notes, the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney spoke at a 2007 TIP-organized press conference about the “Iranian threat.” When Gaffney is not pushing for aggressive action against Iran, he’s pontificating about the threat of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration in the U.S. government and how sharia law is slowly taking over. Crazy stuff, but TIP has no problem with it.

The explicit links between Geller and TIP are a sharp contrast to how other mainstream Jewish groups have reacted to her anti-Muslim ad buys. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Jewish Community Relations Council condemned Geller’s September ads, which conflated Muslims and Palestinians with “savages.” But these groups have themselves dabbled in explicit Islamophobia. A Dallas branch of the ADL, for instance, once held a screening for the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.”

Geller told me in an e-mail that “many clear-thinking and freedom-loving Jewish groups approve of my work.” 

While Geller remains a step too far for some groups, like the ADL, she operates within the larger context of Islamophobia that has been aided by Israel lobby groups. Think of her as the tip of the big spear pushed by more mainstream pro-Israel groups. And her links with The Israel Project bring the Geller tip that much closer to the mainstream establishment.

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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18 Responses

  1. hass on December 19, 2012, 3:09 pm

    The Israeli Project was pushing out propaganda for a US-Iran war too:

    “A recent series of slick dispatches from the public relations front of the war on terror falls into this mail pile. Typically illustrated by an 8-by-11 glossy of a mushroom cloud rising from an atomic blast, the scary memos from the Israel Project’s copywriting crew breathlessly depict the various threats represented by a “nuclear Iran,” patiently explaining why that radioactive outcome is “dangerous for everyone.” These regular mailings from the Israel Project to “opinion agents” such as yours truly are, in effect, a public relations campaign for war.”

  2. CountOne on December 19, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Thank you Alex. I have often wondered how people like Geller are able to sustain their activism. My respect for her is even higher then it was now that I know she(probably) uses lot of her own money in her efforts educating people to the threat Salafism and Islamism present not only to the western world, but also the Middle Eastern world. I’m definetely going to look up ‘SANE’. What a great name! Thanks again for the information.

    • Avi_G. on December 19, 2012, 7:20 pm

      the threat Salafism and Islamism present not only to the western world, but also the Middle Eastern world.

      Aside for the baseless accusations, and the concern-trolling for the Middle East, do you have any empirical evidence to support your nutty opinions?

      Explain how “Islamism”, which happens to be America’s favorite way of suppressing nationalism in the Middle East, is threatening the so-called West.

      If anything, the West is succeeding in maintaining an iron grip on the Middle East thanks to radical Islam. The same happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and is currently taking place in Syria.

      By the way, Israel boosted Hamas to the top. If anything, it is Jewism — unlike “Islamism” — that is destabilizing the Middle East.

    • Mooser on December 21, 2012, 8:02 pm

      Count One? Nah, strike three, and no balls.

  3. ToivoS on December 19, 2012, 4:02 pm

    Alex good reporting. We could have guessed, but it is useful to know, that these “fringe” racist, Islamophobic groups like Geller’s are tied into the same Zionist funding streams that provide support for the Lobby. Someday this madness will end but how it will end remains a mystery.

  4. DICKERSON3870 on December 19, 2012, 5:50 pm

    RE: “A foundation called the Alan and Hope Winters Foundation . . . also gave money to a host of other anti-Muslim outfits that year, including the neoconservative Hudson Institute ($25,000) and David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence ($115,000).” ~ Alex Kane

    SEE: “David Yerushalmi, Islam-Hating White Supremacist Inspires Anti-Sharia Bills Sweeping Tea Party Nation”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 3/02/11

    [EXCERPTS] You’ve gotta hand it to David Yerushalmi. Until now, I can’t recall a Jew who’s ever been called a white supremacist before (actually now that I think of it, I called him a Jewish white supremacist way back in 2007). Thanks to him, we now can. . .
    . . . I’m referring to an eye-opening expose in Mother Jones about the inspiration the Jewish extremist is offering for the anti-Muslim legal initiatives that are sweeping the south after the victory of one such campaign in Oklahoma a few months ago. . .
    . . . One of the most delicious phrases used to describe the Jewish anti-jihadi is “white supremacist,” to which I say: if the shoe fits . . . I’ve also called him a Jewish fascist. But white supremacist will do just as well.
    As Murphy notes, this is a guy who endorses the principle that “Caucasians” are superior to blacks and that Jewish liberals are a cancer in the U.S. body politic. The nearest Jewish “intellectual” antecedent I can determine would be Meir Kahane. But Yerushalmi’s views are far more radical than Kahane’s. . .


    P.S. Yerushalmi is also Pam Geller’s personal attorney.
    Who’s Behind the Anti-Islam Ads on MTA and Muni?
    David Yerushalmi and (in)SANE

  5. Abdul-Rahman on December 19, 2012, 6:50 pm

    The kind of people Israel and leading Israeli figures are today often openly associating themselves with is quite telling to be sure. People like, just to name a few, John Hagee, Glenn Beck, Pamela Geller of course, Robert Spencer, the fascist “EDL” crew over in England, the fascist Geert Wilders, etc. etc. (i.e. a bunch of disreputable right-wing extremists!)

    • weindeb on December 20, 2012, 6:11 pm

      Oh, boy, Abdul-Rahman, I’m reminded of that wise saw: “Lie down with dogs and get up with fleas.”

  6. DICKERSON3870 on December 19, 2012, 7:07 pm

    RE: “The group’s [The Israel Project’s] influence can be seen in the fact that a number of Senators and Representatives from both parties sit on its ‘board of advisors’.” ~ Alex Kane

    MY COMMENT: One of my two “chickenhawk” Republican senators down here in Georgia, Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), has been on the Israel Project’s “board of advisors” since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate back in 2002. Then a congressman, Chambliss advanced to the U.S. Senate by defeating the incumbent senator Max Cleland (D-GA), a recipient of both the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for valorous action in combat during the Vietnam War).

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Saxby Chambliss]:

    (EXCERPT) . . . [Saxby] Chambliss focused on the issue of national defense and homeland security during his campaign, and released an ad that included Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, highlighting Cleland’s record on the issues of war and terrorism.[8]
    Chambliss received criticism from Democrats and Republicans for this ad, pointing out that he, who hadn’t served in the Vietnam War due to receiving military deferments, had attacked a Vietnam War veteran who lost three limbs during his service for not being tough enough on issues of war and homeland security. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said of one ad, “[I]t’s worse than disgraceful, it’s reprehensible;” Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said the ads were “beyond offensive to me.”[9] On the other hand, Chambliss supporters say the ad did not question Cleland’s patriotism, but rather his judgment.[10][11] . . .

    SOURCE –

  7. a blah chick on December 19, 2012, 10:52 pm

    Someone should tell Pammyshrugs that Israel had Islamic courts. Please someone, anyone, tell her this and video the conversation because I want to see her head explode.

  8. kylebisme on December 20, 2012, 1:48 am

    I suspected the quote was less than authentic, so I looked it up, and sure enough, Geller put a period where there should be a comma, and left off the rest of the verse. Given the whole verse, it obviously isn’t declaring a plan to “cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers” in general as Geller would have us believe, but rather only ones who’ve “joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”. Furthermore, the capitalized “We” and larger context make it obvious that it’s supposed to be God speaking in in the majestic plural about His own intentions rather than a call to action for Muslims.

  9. NickJOCW on December 21, 2012, 7:29 am

    Wikipedia quotes her saying she became politicised after 9/11 but there’s no mention when she became demented.

  10. seafoid on December 21, 2012, 9:09 am

    Who funds Pamela Geller?


    • Mooser on December 21, 2012, 7:56 pm

      “Who funds Pamela Geller?

      Let’s hope that’s true, it let’s us off the hook!
      No, if it was true, Alex Kane would have found it out and reported it.

  11. Les on December 21, 2012, 2:02 pm

    To criticize Geller is to be an anti-Semite. Does that also explain the silence of our rabbis and our media?

  12. NickJOCW on December 22, 2012, 10:42 am

    Someone should tell Geller that hate is an addictive negative emotion and, like greed or paedophilia, it won’t just remain restricted to whatever first awakens it; harbouring hate within herself may simply indicate emotional immaturity but fostering it as she appears to be doing is playing with fire.

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