Why is “terror expert” attacking US solidarity groups?

Young man and woman carry signs bearing solidarity messages

A concerted effort is underway in the US to silence critics of the Israeli occupation and US aid to Israel.

Steve Rhodes Flickr

Discredited journalist Steven Emerson, who traded in a career with national news outlets for the his Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), is trying to entangle an American non-profit organization in a shroud of secretive conspiracy theories intent on branding it a “supporter of terrorism.”

Emerson has crowned himself the “expert” on terrorism through his production of scurrilous blog posts and videos that he tries to pass off as credible reports. Now he’s targeting the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the organization for which this writer works, and by extension, Students for Justice in Palestine.

After students convened their a national SJP conference in October 2011, Emerson posted an article on his blog, calling SJP a “radical student organization” (“SJP’s ‘Dialogue’ Goes Nowhere”) The accompanying graphic shows a large iceberg labelled with SJP at the top connected to AMP, which is shown lurking under the surface with the bulk of the iceberg.

“AMP’s support for Students for Justice in Palestine is troubling, given AMP’s radical rhetoric and its ties to extremist groups,” Emerson writes. And after AMP concluded its national convention in November, Emerson posted yet another attack, whose headline borrowed from the convention theme — with a dangerous twist. Emerson changed “A New Era of Activism” to a “New Era of Terror Support” (“American Muslims for Palestine’s Web of Hamas Support”).

Emerson attacks SJP and AMP because of their success in raising awareness about Israel’s continual violations of international law and abuses of Palestinians’ human rights. AMP was co-founded by Dr. Hatem Bazian, a professor of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Bazian also co-founded the first SJP chapter at Berkeley in 1993.

AMP is now on the radar of Zionist groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). Bazian, an outspoken advocate of Palestinian human rights, has been under attack for much longer.

Emerson, whose articles are quickly picked up and parroted around the Internet by sycophantic bloggers, cannot argue the facts with AMP and that’s why he resorts to inflammatory, deceptive and dangerous rhetoric to smear the organization and its founder.

Meanwhile, Emerson makes millions of dollars falsely branding Muslims and pro-Palestine advocates with the deadly label of “terrorism supporters.” Though he calls himself an expert on Arabs and terrorism, Emerson’s background is in sociology and he does not know Arabic. He was all but run out of the field of journalism after his “expert analysis” on the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 turned out to be dead wrong, after he told CBS News it had a “Middle Eastern trait” because it “was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible” (“Steven Emerson’s Crusade,” Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, January/February 1999).

“Pervasive bias”

Peer review of Emerson’s works would ring the death knell for any self-respecting journalist, whose career is almost solely dependent upon the reliability of his or her reporting.

Adrienne Edgar, reviewing Emerson’s book Terrorist: The Inside Story of the Highest Ranking Iraqi Terrorist Ever to Defect to the West in May 1991 for The New York Times, was one who questioned Emerson’s objectivity. The book offers “a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias,” she writes, adding that “Palestinian violence is invariably portrayed as terrorist, while Israeli violence is always characterized as self-defense.”

Journalist Jane Hunter complains of the same pro-Israel bias in Emerson’s work in an article published by the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting in 1992. Emerson’s work “is sometimes nimble in its treatment of facts, often credulous of intelligence sources, and almost invariably supportive of the Israeli government,” according to Hunter (“Steven Emerson: A journalist who knows how to take a leak,” October/November 1992).

Even Ethan Bronner, who can hardly be described as partial toward the Palestinians, criticized Emerson’s book, American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us. In 2002, when Bronner was assistant editorial page editor, he wrote, “In truth, it is hard even now to know exactly what to make of Emerson’s contentions.”

Though he viewed some parts of the book favorably, Bronner wrote, “Emerson may not be a scholar, and he may sometimes connect unrelated dots. He may also occasionally be quite wrong” (“Suspect thy neighbor,” 17 March 2002).

It was in American Jihad where Emerson first planted a lie about Bazian that, despite the Berkeley professor’s repeated refutation, has survived in several forms and mutations to this day.

Manufacturing anti-Semitism

In Appendix C of American Jihad, Emerson contends that in May 1999, Bazian told a gathering, “In the hadith [saying], the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews. They are on the west side of the river, which is the Jordan River, and you’re on the east side until the trees and stones will say, oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him! And that’s in the hadith about this, this is a future battle before the Day of Judgment.”

Throughout American Jihad, Emersion makes copious use of citations to back up his assertions. Appendix C alone has 79 footnotes. However, Emerson does not include one citation for the 1999 event or for the hadith Bazian allegedly quoted. There is no indication that Emerson attended the event and heard the quote himself or that someone else reported it. Bazian has repeatedly refuted Emerson’s allegation, most prominently on The O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly in 2004.

“It’s a fabrication,” Bazian told O’Reilly. “I would never use that statement. It’s a statement that comes from Islamic historiography. It’s a part of hadith collections, references to the end of time. And I in general don’t use that in any type of speech or discussion.”

The Detroit News’ Nolan Finley, in October 2002, repeated Emerson’s lie. From there, the fabrication has taken on a life of its own and is often trotted out in attempts to vilify Bazian and discredit his work.

But the hadith doesn’t just plague the Berkeley professor. It’s also a statement that Islamophobes like to attribute to Muslim leaders in general, as a sure-fire way to discredit them. The money trail Emerson never lets the facts get in the way of a good story. The same is true when it comes to the image he’s crafted of himself as a selfless crusader, who declined marriage to pursue his “vocation.” He’s a man so intent on his mission that “the unused portion of his bed at home is strewn with court documents, telephone records and bio-terror updates,” The Washington Post reported in 2001 (“The man who gives terrorism a name,” 14 November 2001).

At least two profiles by The Jerusalem Post and The Washington Post paint Emerson as a selfless individual who is bent on exposing “Middle East terrorism” out of a sense of duty to the American public. Emerson has claimed that he chose to “remain independently poor,” instead of accepting a lucrative three-year contract with CNN.

Roughly two months after the 11 September 2001 attacks, The Washington Post ran a profile on Emerson that perpetuated the selfless persona by calling “The copper-haired Emerson, 47 … an unpaid consultant-in-chief.” Emerson may be many things. Unpaid is not one of them.

According to IRS 990 forms, which are required by the US federal tax agency to show an organization’s eligibility for tax-exempt status, Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) paid him nearly $5 million through his SAE Productions in 2008 and 2009. Emerson is SAE Production’s sole employee.

The tax forms also state IPT receives private donations as the bulk of its funding. A recent report by the Center for American Progress showed seven foundations gave almost $43 million over ten years to five major disseminators of Islamophobia.

Three of those five — including Emerson and IPT — are staunch supporters of the pro-Israel Zionist agenda. In fact, IPT received about $560,000 from a small number of Islamophobic and right-wing sources, such as the Donors Capital Fund ($400,000), the Russell Berrie Foundation ($100,000), and from Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, which donated $250,000 in 2007 and 2008, states the 2011 Center for American Progress report “Fear, Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.

In addition, IPT received large sums of money through the Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation.

“An examination of CTSERF’s 990 forms showed that, much like the Investigative Project, all grant revenue was transferred to a private, for-profit entity, the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals,” according to the Center for American Progress.

Links to Zionist outfit

The scope of Emerson’s work over the years, as well as the funding trail that emanates from Zionist sources, expose Emerson and the IPT as vociferous advocates for Israel and its racist occupation policies.

Nothing shows this more than a trail of emails between the Israeli consulate in Boston and the pro-Israel David Project, which collaborated in attempts to stop the construction of a mosque in Boston in 2004. The emails were part of the discovery of a lawsuit stemming from the incident.

In May 2004, Anna Kolodner, the executive director of the David Project, wrote she would ask Emerson for information relating to a lawsuit being planned against the Islamic Society of Boston.

On 4 August 2004, Kolodner wrote, “As a result of collaboration with Steve Emerson’s office, we have a comprehensive document regarding the individuals/organizations/history etc., of the mosque, which will be the backbone of the media campaign. … Filing the lawsuit would be the initial lead/newsworthy component of the media angles.”

Then in September 2004, Kate Frazer of the Israeli consulate’s political affairs office, sent an email verifying that she had been working on a number of documents, one that was to be a magazine article, and another, the “ ‘local proof’ document with bullet points and the sections we discussed, (i.e., people and associations, ideology, funding and actions).” This is the list purportedly Emerson supplied.

These emails have not been independently verified, but they were discussed in an article by Andrew Cochran, published by the IPT in 2008 (“Caught in the act: smear attempt on Steven Emerson boomerangs,” 13 March 2008).

The emails came to light because of a press release issued by Paul Kendall from the organization Justice and Liberty for All, also in 2008. Kendall contended the emails show Emerson worked directly with the Israeli consulate to stop the Boston mosque (“Paul Kendall: Did an ‘expert’ on terrorism conspire with a foreign government to violate the constitutional rights of American Muslims?”, PR Newswire, 4 March 2008).

The emails do not show direct communication between Emerson and the Israeli consulate. They do, however, show that the David Project was at the center of the efforts to stop the mosque. The David Project communicated with the Israeli consulate and with Emerson, but not necessarily at the same time.

Nonetheless, Kolodner’s praise of Emerson for his help seriously calls into question his motivations and suggests he is on a personal crusade. Over the years, Emerson’s mission has been to thwart Muslims in general and to defame and discredit anyone working to promote Palestinian human rights, specifically.

As long as there are advocates for Palestinian human rights, there will be Zionist-funded ideologues like Emerson trying to shut them down. The best protection against these scurrilous attacks is to educate ourselves about their motivations and funding trail and then expose them to the American public. The more we know about them, the less power and influence they wield.

Kristin Szremski is an independent journalist and currently the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine.




Well put article, these kinds of attacks makes it really hard for palestinian youths to go to school and be able to hold their heads up high while your average American is conditioned to percieve them as "terrorists" or "radicals"!