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Support for Islamophobic groups from Jewish Communal Fund slurs ‘Jewish community as a whole’

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As the charity season ramps up, so does a vigorous protest by a coalition of progressive Jewish groups in New York of the Jewish Communal Fund, because the JCF has funneled more than $2.5 million over the last six years to Islamophobic organizations.

The JCF, which is affiliated with the Jewish Federations, has so far ignored the protesters’ demand for a meeting with the fund’s ceo. “We demonstrate. Silence. We send in a petition with 5000 signatures. Silence. We write to them. Silence,” says Jane Hirschmann, a leader of the protest. “They seem to be hunkering down.”

But the pressure is on. The coalition to Defund Islamophobia held a demonstration outside the JCF headquarters two weeks ago marked by mainstream Jewish representation, not to mention 75 New Yorkers gathered in the cold. Next Monday, December 9, the coalition will lead a lunchtime picket of the JCF offices (12:30-1:30, 575 Madison Ave. at 56th Street). It will picket again in January, demanding a meeting with the fund’s leadership, to learn why the fund has apparently refused to stop serving as a conduit for Islamophobic groups.

The protest appears to have put real pressure on the Jewish Communal Fund, certainly embarrassing the charity operation. The Defund Islamophobia campaign coalition includes Jewish Voice for Peace, NY, Jews Against Anti-Muslim Racism, and Jews Say No, and the JCF protest itself was endorsed by a very mainstream NY progressive group, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

One speaker at the Nov. 14 protest carries establishment clout: Victor Kovner is a founder of the liberal Zionist organization J Street, and was counsel for the Metropolitan Transit Authority when the agency got Pamela Geller’s Islamophobic ads out of subways and buses.

Kovner said the Communal Fund “is slurring, smearing the Jewish community as a whole to associate with these vicious, fascist, racist groups. And we must, as Jews, speak up against what they are doing.”

Victor Kovner speaks at Jewish Communal Fund protest, November 14, 2019. New York. Photo by Jake Ratner.

Another strong speech came from the journalist Karen Ranucci, who said that her family has pulled its money from JCF because it couldn’t get a meeting with execs to explain why the JCF funds Islamophobic organizations. “I encourage anyone who might have a penny in there or know anybody who has any money, spread the word, and take it out, because obviously that’s the only thing that will get their attention,” she said.

Jewish Communal Fund protest, November 14, 2019. New York. Karen Ranucci with sign. Photo by Jake Ratner.

The JCF manages “donor-advised funds”. The organization passes money to causes chosen by donors and gets the donors a tax write-off, and preserves their anonymity. Here is the report from a year ago documenting the Fund’s gifts to six anti-Muslim groups in 2013-17, to the tune of $2 million– updated this year to add another $554,216 in 2018. Those groups are:

–Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative. Geller has said that Hitler was inspired by Islam and called Islam “an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme
ideology on the face of the earth.”

–The Clarion Project. Maker of anti-Muslim propaganda films such as “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Agenda for America.”

–The David Horowitz Freedom Center. Horowitz has likened Black Lives Matter to the KKK and said that mainstream Muslim groups are fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called Horowitz “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement.”

–Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. The Center for American Progress has said that Emerson “frames Islam as an inherently violent and antagonistic religion.”

–Middle East Forum, led by Daniel Pipes, who has argued that Barack Obama is a Muslim and Muslims seek to impose Islamic law in the U.S. Pipes has also suggested that Japanese internment was a model for how to deal with Muslims.

–MEMRI – the Middle East Media Research Institute. MEMRI serves as a source for journalists on Arab media and seeks to portray Islam in violent, terroristic terms.

Sadly, support for these bigoted groups is a pattern throughout the Jewish community nationally, in Chicago, in San Francisco, in Boston. As Donna Nevel and Elly Bulkin reported:

Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago through its donor-advised funds [made contributions] between 2011 and 2014 [to] the Middle East Forum and Investigative Project on Terrorism, recipients of nearly $650,000… In the 2013-2017 fiscal years, the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (the local Jewish federation) also funded anti-Muslim hate, including giving more than $360,000 to three of the anti-Muslim hate groups highlighted in the [NY] JCF report.

More recent research on the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco and the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which is “housed and staffed” by the Federation, documents substantial financial support for anti-Muslim hate going back to 2003.

Here are extended excerpts of two speeches outside the JCF last month.

Ranucci told the crowd that “Our family was using the JCF to give charitable contributions to organizations,” and then stopped when it learned of the pattern of supporting bigotry.

When we found out– we joined a Jewish organization feeling that we would be protected, that they would care about the values that Judaism stands for the JCF was funding Islamophobia, we were horrified and immediately contacted the JCF and said hey, what’s going on around here? They said Well we just have to do what their donors tell them to do, which, as has been pointed out, is not true. And so we asked for a meeting and they never got back to me. I went to a conference that they sponsored with a number of other Jewish organizations and spent the entire day talking with the people in attendance and almost everyone there was shocked and didn’t want any part of this. When I asked to meet with the JCF people who were there, Sue Dyckman in particular, they hid and they would not meet with me. So I am proud to say I have taken my charitable money out of JCF and I encourage anyone who might have a penny in there or know anybody who has any money, spread the word, and take it out, because obviously that’s the only thing that will get their attention.”

Victor Kovner related his success in federal court in defending the MTA advertising policy that eliminated anti-Muslim ads from subways and buses.

I have been practicing law for several decades. I cannot recall anything as satisfying as beating Pamela Geller.

What the Jewish Communal Fund is doing is outrageous. They will say ‘We aren’t making the choice. These are our donors.’ There is no reason, as was pointed out earlier, that they have to transfer these funds to obvious hate groups. They can simply give it back to their donors. It is shocking that they continue to behave in this manner. All they are doing is slurring, smearing the Jewish community as a whole to associate with these vicious, fascist, racist groups. And we must, as Jews, speak up against what they are doing. It is totally senseless and counterproductive. Or as I say in another context, their argument is bullshit.”

Organizers of the Defund Islamophobia campaign say they won’t stop protesting till the JCF stops funding these groups. I wrote to the JCF seeking a response and got none. We will keep you posted.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-06.

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24 Responses

  1. eljay on December 4, 2019, 1:08 pm

    … One speaker at the Nov. 14 protest carries establishment clout: Victor Kovner is a founder of the liberal Zionist organization J Street …

    Kovner said the Communal Fund “is slurring, smearing the Jewish community as a whole to associate with these vicious, fascist, racist groups. And we must, as Jews, speak up against what they are doing.” …

    Oblivious to the irony of his comment, “liberal Zionist” Kovner proceeded to extol the virtues of kinder, gentler Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism and to crap on anti-Zionist Jews who he views as traitors to The Cause.

    • Donna Nevel on December 4, 2019, 3:59 pm

      (This is a response to the comment above.) I have listened carefully to what Victor Kovner said, and he said nothing that was remotely what you accused him of. The entirety of his remarks were about why the Jewish Communal Fund shouldn’t fund Islamophobia.

      • eljay on December 4, 2019, 8:14 pm

        || Donna Nevel: (This is a response to the comment above.) I have listened carefully to what Victor Kovner said, and he said nothing that was remotely what you accused him of. … ||

        I didn’t quote him and I didn’t accuse him of anything. He may very well be against Islamophobia but because he’s a Zionist he must be (because every Zionist is):
        – a supporter of Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism; and
        – an opponent of anti-Zionist Jews.

  2. joshkarpf on December 4, 2019, 1:15 pm

    I’m shocked, shocked, that there is Islamophobia in the Jewish community.

    • Talkback on December 4, 2019, 5:57 pm

      Seriously? How do you explain Israel’s inhumane and racist treatements of the Palestinans? Too much love?

      • joshkarpf on December 5, 2019, 12:53 pm

        Talkback, it’s sarcasm, per the gambling scene in “Casablanca”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjbPi00k_ME

      • Mooser on December 5, 2019, 7:47 pm

        “How do you explain…”

        Could Zionists possibly think that this inhumane treatment is a way to heal psychologically from Jewish historical trauma? ( By ‘transference’, you might say)

      • Yitzhak9 on December 5, 2019, 10:45 pm

        Israel’s treatment doesn’t have to with “racism” or “Islamaphobia”
        If anything, you will find obviously more anti-Jewish sentiments in Muslim countries. I mean look at how Jews were treated in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, etc.
        There’s a reason why there are zero Mizrahi Jews left in the countries they previously lived in. They were nearly killed and had to flee simply because they were Jewish.
        The highest levels of antisemitism today are found through the Middle East/North Africa.
        You had pogroms in the Middle East like Farhud in 1941 and even the Mawza Exile as early as the 1600s in Yemen.
        Islam is a particularly anti-Jewish religion.
        Muslims have been as antisemitic as Europeans were but it goes unchecked because they aren’t white.

      • Talkback on December 6, 2019, 1:06 am

        Ups, sorry. But that was only your second commen here, no?

      • Ellen on December 6, 2019, 3:31 pm

        Yitzkah9 you might want to go beyond your little bubble of information and learn a broader history. Jews were welcomed and even encouraged to move to the Muslim Ottoman Empire in the 15th Century. They were given refuge and special status. The first of many synagogues built under Ottoman rule in Bursra in the 14th century still stands.

        The original synagogue built in Sarajevo was financed and sponsored by Muslim rulers. There remains an active and beautiful synagogue.

        There were Synagogues built in the New World (Charleston and Newport) long before something like a Catholic Church could even be thinkable.

        Why adopt only the narratives, histories of persecution for an identity? Any and all groups could do that.

  3. wondering jew on December 4, 2019, 8:41 pm

    Including MEMRI with the others is ridiculous. If they were caught maliciously mistranslating or fabricating quotes, then the inclusion might make sense, but if the quotes are real then they are documenting a real problem. Denying support for them by associating them with Geller and pipes is ridiculous, makes me think twice about condemning pipes and Geller.

    • annie on December 4, 2019, 10:16 pm

      yeah, they’ve been busted maliciously mistranslating https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/may/15/arabicunderfire

      • wondering jew on December 5, 2019, 9:52 pm

        One time in 2007 they translated something that was under dispute when Hamas Mickey Mouse asked the 5 year old if she wanted to be a shahid.
        If you think this is enough to put memri in the same category as pipes and geller, i think you’re wrong and preaching to those who hate zionism rather than those who hate islamophobia.

      • Mooser on December 6, 2019, 6:21 pm

        ” preaching to those who hate zionism rather than those who hate islamophobia.” “wj”

        And why are those two opposed groups? They’re not. A person who hates Islamophobia might very well be anti-Zionist, too.

      • oldgeezer on December 6, 2019, 11:12 pm

        @wondering jew

        Middle East Media Research Institute. memri

        At the very least we would have to agree that it’s selected name is a misnomer. I’m sure you can’t disagree. It excludes both English and Hebrew in it’s analysis. The most powerful state in the region.

        So nothing to do with the middle east really.

        It’s a biased organization set up to disseminate biased information with an agenda to benefit one particular state and group of people.

        It’s bias is clear by omission when compared to it’s stated purpose and therefore untrustworthy for any purpose. When they expose the vile, virulent and violent rhetoric espoused by Israeli polititicians, religious leaders and other community leaders then they may well regain some credibility after a long period of doing so.

        It’s garbage just like the ideology they adhere to.

    • Talkback on December 5, 2019, 8:29 am

      wondering jew: ” If they were caught maliciously mistranslating or fabricating quotes …”

      Well, that’s very unlikely, isn’t it!

      One of its founders was was a colonel at the Israeli military intelligence service, and later counter-terrorism advisor to Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir. And the other one an Israeli-American neoconservative political executive who participated in a study that led to the report, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, a paper prepared for the Likud party leader and then incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and suggested who a new approach to solving Israel’s security problems in the Middle East with an emphasis on “Western values” and the abandonment of traditional “land for peace” negotiations with the Palestinians.”

      So why would they even think about maliciously mistranslating or fabricating quotes … This accusation in itself is anti-semantic.

    • Mooser on December 6, 2019, 6:56 pm

      “Including MEMRI with the others is ridiculous” “wj”

      Sep 20, 2013 – “Daniel Pipes generously funds the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Middle East Media Research Institute, Endowment for Middle East …”

      “Daniel Pipes generously funds the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Middle East Media Research Institute, Endowment for Middle East Truth, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, and a number of other anti-Islam organizations, some of which have created more engines of the industry. For example, David Horowitz’s Freedom Center, also funded by MEF, spawned Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s American Freedom Defense Initiative and Jihad Watch.”

      Looks like Daniel Pipes and MEMRI are about one and the same thing.

    • hophmi on December 8, 2019, 9:21 am

      The entire premise that donor-advised funds represents the position or will of JCF is ridiculous. Everybody benefits from DAFs, including many left-wing and profressive organizations. It is not the norm for DAFs to restrict where people can donate their money.

      • echinococcus on December 8, 2019, 3:46 pm

        Hophmi has a very good point there. Unintentionally of course, just like his humor.

        As Weiss indicates, these are donor-advised funds.
        Which means that a lot of donors of the JCF do want their money to go to the Gellers and other organizations that Weiss calls “Islamophobic”.

        What is absurd is the protesting donors: if the above is true, then these protesting donors’ money is not directed to these organizations.

        To explore the alternative explanation, are these donors anti-Zionists and did they believe that the arch-Zionist organization JCF is not Zionist? Even more absurd!

        Did these pure, gentle souls believe that Zionism is *not* “Islamophobic”, as Weiss calls it?
        That is one step further in absurdity!

        Protesters protesting “Islamophobia” while themselves are Zionists or they are so completely off their rocker as to believe that JCF is anti-Zionist!

        Even more absurdity follows, showing that nonsense is not finite: now Weiss joins these protesters as if the “Jewish Community Fund” were something separate from Zionist organizations.

        So the real cause of the protest is the fear of appearing politically incorrect — one has to practice war against people of Middle-Eastern origin not openly, like Trump, but with mealy-mouthed brotherhood slogans while supporting the series of Yinon Plan-PNAC genocidal wars, with a vengeance, from the Democrat playbook (Trump bans bad, Libya-Syria-war and continuing mass murder good!)

        [Worth repeating ad nauseam: “Islamophobia” is an intentionally misleading propaganda term for racist hysteria against people of vaguely Middle-Eastern (or thereabouts) origin, no matter their actual or even nominal religion. Using it as if it were some legitimate technical term means participating in empire propaganda.]

      • oldgeezer on December 8, 2019, 6:14 pm

        @hophmi

        “Everybody benefits from DAFs, including many left-wing and profressive organizations. It is not the norm for DAFs to restrict where people can donate their money.”

        Well that couldn’t be more untruthful if you’d worked at it. It is the norm to restrict such things when it comes to a variety of laws. Tax laws/staus for one. Terrorism support number 2. Many more hoppy but enough to point out the lie inherent in your post. Racist undertakings such as Islamaphobia operations need to be put off limits. Their goal is to create discrimination in ways that violate the constitution and basic human rights.

      • Mooser on December 9, 2019, 12:30 pm

        “It is not the norm for DAFs to restrict where people can donate their money.” “Hophmi”

        I see your point, “Hophmi”.
        Always they make special demands of us, always the double standards we’re subjected to!
        Why should American Jews, who have done so much for America, be excluded from supporting the bigotry to which non-Jewish Americans are entitled?

      • echinococcus on December 9, 2019, 4:20 pm

        Old Geezer.

        Absolutely correct, legal requirements trump donors’ wishes. But that’s about law, while we’re talking about comedy.

        The point to observe here is that the donor so-and-sos do wish to direct their money to support racism, mayhem and murder, while “law implementation” for the hencoop is in the hands of the foxes.

        Also, what about the logic of Zionists protesting the fact that JCF (or its donor population) is Zionist? Or the logic of Zionists pretending to protest Zionist racism?

  4. pabelmont on December 8, 2019, 12:42 pm

    FWIW: This morning we coined a new term to replace “Islamophobia” in casual conversation: “Islamofoamia”, chosen to suggest “foaming at the mouth” or “foaming at the brain”.

    It is exasperating that the folks now called Islamic terrorists, Al-Qaeda and ISIS for example, were mostly created and manufactured by USA’s pro-oil imperialist war-fighting. So, we made them, by terrorizing them with bombs and drones and suchlike, and now we call them terrorists (but decline, ever so politely, to call the USA’s military “terrorists”, and then some of us “foam at the mouth” against that dreadful scourge, Islam.

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