Censored Israel lobby film starts leaking

Footage from The Lobby — USA released by The Grayzone Project shows an astroturfed pro-Israel “protest.”

After The Electronic Intifada exclusively released the first excerpts from the censored Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby – USA last week, further details have emerged.

At The Grayzone Project, journalist Max Blumenthal released more scenes from the film showing how right-wing Israel lobbyist Noah Pollak faked a grassroots protest against Students for Justice in Palestine’s national conference in 2016.

In the undercover footage, a junior staffer from a right-wing think tank agrees that their protest is “astroturfing,” which he describes as “when you set up fake protests.”

Another describes it as a “foot soldier activity” which “we’ve been forced to do” by managers.

The first staffer complains that Pollak “did a really shitty job of getting me excited” for the protest. He summarizes that Pollak’s pitch amounted to: “Look, there are these jihadis who basically support suicide bombing, and they’re on a campus and you have to stop them.”

“It’s a chance to shout at Arabs,” another of the group says.

“Provoke everyone”

The footage then shows Pollak’s recruits taunting Palestine solidarity activists on campus with claims they support “terrorists” and “baby killers.”

Pollak leads the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel and writes for right-wing website The Washington Free Beacon.

In the released undercover footage he explains his motives: “We’re going to be more pro-Israel than you can even imagine. Just to, like, provoke everyone.”

He complains to the undercover reporter “Tony” that polling in the UK reveals “pure hatred of Israel” and puts this down to Britain supposedly letting “half of fucking Pakistan in.”

In the excerpts released by The Electronic Intifada last week, Adam Milstein is named as the funder of Canary Mission, an anonymous anti-Palestinian blacklisting website.

Milstein, a pro-Israel financier and convicted felon, denied the allegations in the film. His foundation released a statement asserting that “Neither Adam Milstein nor the Milstein Family Foundation are funders of Canary Mission.”

Milstein hit back by accusing The Electronic Intifada of being an “anti-Semitic propaganda website known for spreading vile lies about Israel.”

As I explained to The Real News Network, in the video above, Milstein is known for funding various anti-Palestinian organizations in the US, but the identity of the funder of Canary Mission had remained a mystery.

I told host Aaron Maté that for years Palestinian American students have been profiled on Canary Mission, and then soon after report being denied entry by Israel when they try to visit family and friends in Palestine.

After The Electronic Intifada’s revelations, the legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee told Middle East Eye that it may pursue legal action against Canary Mission now that its anonymity has been broken.

The civil rights group Palestine Legal also welcomed the “significant revelations that pierce the site’s veil of anonymity” that were reported by The Electronic Intifada and The Grayzone Project.

Last month, The Grayzone Project also revealed the identity of the owner of Canary Mission’s internet domain name – a wealthy pro-Israel lawyer named Howard Sterling.

Also last week, following The Electronic Intifada’s revelations about Milstein, veteran French journalist Alain Gresh published articles in Le Monde diplomatique and The Nation summarizing the contents of the four-part film The Lobby – USA.

Gresh explained that “thanks to a friend in the Gulf, I was able to watch all four episodes in their near-final version.”

Israeli “data gathering” in the US

Gresh corroborates The Electronic Intifada’s report in March which revealed details from the film for the first time, especially relating to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a right-wing, anti-Palestinian think tank.

The film shows that FDD acts as an agent for the state of Israel in its efforts to spy on American citizens who campaign for Palestinian rights.

The undercover footage shows the director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs explaining: “data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organizations, money trail. This is something that only a country, with its resources, can do the best. We have FDD. We have others working on this.”

Gresh states that the film includes commentary from The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah explaining: “if you had on tape a statement of a senior Russian or Iranian or even Canadian official saying that they were running covert operations, to spy on Americans, and using an organization like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies as a front … it would be a bombshell.”

Amir Tibon, a Haaretz journalist who has reported on Qatar’s efforts to court the US Israel lobby and its suppression of the film, also reported on the first leaked footage.

Writing on Twitter, Tibon said that the deal Israel lobby groups cut with Qatar to censor the film was a mistake and a serious own goal which “makes the whole thing much more mysterious and fascinates the imagination.”

As I told The Real News Network, Qatar should end its censorship of Al Jazeera, and let the network release the film now.

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Clayton Swisher, producer of the film series for Al Jazeera, said not long ago that he was confident the film would be released. And it appears he was right, even if that release has to come in small segments over time. Actually, it would have been a cagier move on the part of Qatar to allow the entire series to be screened like the UK documentary, "The Lobby". By now, the institutional amnesia would have kicked in and no one in mainstream media would be talking about it. But the piecemeal fashion under which these revelations are reaching us through video has the potential to generate a longer arc of interest. Eventually, enough information will come to light over a period of months to bring greater attention to bear on Israel's nefarious activities in the U.S. In particular, the possibility of lawsuits stemming from these disclosures could deliver surprising dividends. Because nothing runs like a long, complicated court case. This one involves espionage, attacks against American students, big money, corrupt donors, false flags, and human rights violations. Thank you, Canary Mission.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.