Feb 13, 2019
A censored documentary has surfaced online, detailing alleged Israeli lobbying campaigns in the United States. The documentary, filmed by Al Jazeera, exposes how pro-Israeli organisations monitor the activities of American students and try to influence US lawmakers.
Electronic Intifada, an online news publication covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has obtained a never-released Al Jazeera investigation into how pro-Israeli advocacy groups influence US politics.
The four-part documentary, titled The Lobby — USA, was filmed by an Al Jazeera undercover journalist, called “Tony”, who infiltrated the Israeli lobby during a five-month operation and earned the trust of its leaders.
Tony is said to have volunteered for the Israel Project, a US-based nonprofit, which he learned had contacts in numerous news agencies, such as Bloomberg, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and BuzzFeed, who worked on “neutralising the undesired narratives”.
This effort to get “special treatment” from the United States is allegedly spearheaded by senior officials in Israel, including Sima Vaknin-Gil, director general of Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry.
“If we want to win, we have to change our ways,” she was quoted as telling a gathering of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington, DC. “And this is waging a holistic campaign against the other side.”
According to the film, this effectively means dragging Israel’s political opponents out of their “comfort zone” and discrediting the messenger rather than discussing the message. Specifically, this refers to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, a campaign pressuring Israel to stop its alleged mistreatment of Palestinians.
A project called “Israel Cyber Shield” was rolled out in the US; it effectively is a cyber intelligence unit that spies on the activists of the BDS movement using state-of-the-art Israeli intelligence systems.
The investigation claims that pro-Israel groups, such as the Israel on Campus Coalition, are monitoring the activities of American students, including those on social media, and alerting their partners in intelligence circles if something worrying “pops up”.
The Israeli Embassy in the US, according to a recorded conversation with its former director of community affairs, is also working with several groups that train faculty, providing these groups with “funding and connections”.
And a funny story took place at a meeting of a pro-Israel advocacy group, when a journalist from the Algemeiner newspaper offered Tony to go undercover and spy on BDS activists on campus to report about “any potential level of danger or difficulty”.
Moreover, apart from US campuses, major effort is concentrated on wowing US congressmen who have influence on foreign policy — and the documentary hints that Washington and Tel Aviv enjoy such a good alliance for a reason.
The undercover reporter worked for David Ochs, the founder of HaLev, an organisation that helps young Jewish professionals attend the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — one of the most influential lobbyist groups in the United States.
Jim Moran, a now-retired representative from Virginia, was quoted as saying that those who have AIPAC backing and support Israel are more likely to get elected to Congress.
Ochs cited a fundraiser organised by an AIPAC-linked pro-Israel advocacy group for Anthony Brown, who is currently serving as the US Rep. from Maryland. “This is the biggest ad-hoc political group and definitely the wealthiest in DC,” he said. The gathering was attended by senators and congressmen from both parties.”
The meeting was apparently held to buy support from US lawmakers with under-the-table cash donations. Ochs is heard as saying: “It’s the AIPAC group. It makes a difference. It really, really does. It’s the best bang for your buck and the networking is phenomenal.”
“Congressmen don’t do anything unless you pressure them. They kick the can down the road, unless you pressure them. And the only way to do that is with money.”
While the White House is concerned with foreign interference in its domestic affairs, accusing Russia and China of attempts to sway public opinion, recent claims that pro-Israeli lobbyists buy the favour of US lawmakers have prompted accusations of anti-Semitism.
On Monday, freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar ignited a Twitterstorm and drew condemnation from a plethora of public figures, including Nikki Haley and Chelsea Clinton, after tweeting “It’s all about Benjamins baby” and “AIPAC”, in reference to the Israeli lobby in the US.