Hillary Clinton gains backing of neocon megadonor who funds Islamophobic groups

Seth Klarman

Hillary Clinton has gained the support of a major neoconservative donor who has funded Islamophobic groups and backed one political activist who even a Democratic Party think tank says has put out “anti-Islam messages polluting our national discourse.”

The Forward’s Nathan Guttman reports this important neocon Jewish crossover in the presidential campaign.

Klarman is a billionaire investor and a leading supporter of Israel and rightwing Israel lobby groups. Klarman’s family foundation has supported several Islamophobic groups, including one that “applauded” an Oklahoma law, later struck down as unconstitutional, that would have discriminated against Muslim religious practices.

As the Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis reported in 2012, in addition to personally backing Romney, Klarman’s family foundation supports Islamophobic groups and rightwing Zionist groups, including the David Project and the Israel Project.

But the foundation also has a focus on Israel advocacy. Klarman has been a board member of, and a major donor to, The Israel Project, a fast-growing pro-Israel advocacy group that seeks to provide information useful to working journalists. He gave the group nearly $4 million between 2008 and 2010.

The foundation has also given smaller amounts to the Middle East Media Research Group, an anti-Islamist research group whose board members include Elliott Abrams, a senior aide in several Republican administrations, and Steve Emerson, a researcher devoted to exposing ties, as he perceives them, between American Muslims and extremist Muslim movements. Klarman has also contributed to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, a group devoted to combating what it sees as anti-Israel bias in the media.

Klarman has also been the longtime chairman of The David Project, a Boston-based group mostly concerned with pro-Israel advocacy on campus. The group is also known for its long-running, and ultimately failed, effort to oppose the construction of a Boston mosque.

A Democratic Party-linked think tank has characterized Steven Emerson as part of an Islamophobic network disseminating bigotry. The Center for American Progress reported:

A small group of conservative foundations and wealthy donors are the lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America, supporting a central nervous system consisting of a clutch of misinformation experts. Just as Newt Gingrich relied on these experts’ talking points to grossly mischaracterize the dangers of Sharia law in our country, the five men profiled in this chapter are responsible for orchestrating the majority of misinformation about Islam and Muslims in America today. This small network produces talking points and messages relied upon and repeated by every segment of this interconnected network of money, grassroots leaders, media talking heads, and elected officials.

There are five key think tanks led by scholars who are primarily responsible for orchestrating the majority of anti-Islam messages polluting our national discourse today: [includes Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism]

A supporter of hardline pro-Israel groups, Klarman would seem to be in step with Hillary Clinton’s biggest superpac supporter, Haim Saban, who has said that his one issue is Israel and to whom Clinton promised that she would work with Republicans to oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Klarman is the chief backer behind the Times of Israel, a pro-Israel online publication. He announced his leadership in a letter in 2012 that said that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

My own interest in Israel has become even stronger post-9/11, when the threat of terrorism and the danger of radical Islam collided with a global campaign on many fronts to delegitimize the Jewish State. As a long-time student of the history of anti-Semitism, I know that this blind hatred is never the fault of Jews; moreover, it is clear to me that anti-Zionism is simply the newest form of anti-Semitism. When the Jewish State is singled out above all others for criticism, such as it is at the United Nations, this is anti-Semitism.

One of the most important of democracy’s freedoms is freedom of the press. I am a firm believer that the more people learn about Israel, the more they will understand how she responds with imperfect but exemplary morality and decency to life in the most difficult of neighborhoods. Whether it is the enduring conflict with the Palestinians, the Arab neighbors now in turmoil who threaten hostilities and the abrogation of peace treaties, or the challenges of maintaining a vibrant democracy in a country with a highly diverse population under the intense and constant lens of worldwide media scrutiny, it is hard to imagine any country doing a better job growing its economy, maintaining a vibrant public forum, and sustaining and enriching the lives of all its citizens.

Nathan-Kazis also reported that Klarman describes himself as an opponent of Israel’s policy of establishing exclusively Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank, calling it a mistake “from the beginning.”

Klarman supported the Times of Israel, he said, because he has so much respect for David Horovitz, its editor. Horovitz did an American tour recently on behalf of AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby group. He offered very pragmatic/tough explanations of Israeli public opinion, and of Israeli support for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Note that the Council on American Islamic Relations last year stated that Steven Emerson is a notorious Islam-basher:

Emerson is viewed by many as one of the nation’s most notorious Islamophobes who has made a career out of promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.

“Steven Emerson’s long history of inflammatory and inaccurate claims should disqualify him as a commentator on any legitimate news network,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “He has made a career out of bashing Islam and Muslims.”

This FAIR report notes that Emerson has called terrorist bombings a “Middle Eastern trait” and stated that a “New York Times review (5/19/91) of his 1991 book Terrorist chided that it was “marred by factual errors…and by a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias.” His 1994 PBS video, Jihad in America (11/94), was faulted for bigotry and misrepresentations – veteran reporter Robert Friedman (Nation, 5/15/95) accused Emerson of “creating mass hysteria against American Arabs.””

Alex Kane documented some of Emerson’s Islamophobic positions:

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.

The Center for American Progress notes that Emerson was cited in Anders Breivik anti-Muslim manifesto and that’s not just a coincidence:

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.

In this capacity, Emerson frames Islam as an inherently violent and antagonistic religion….. Emerson was twice cited in Anders Breivik’s manifesto.