Viewpoint - August 30, 2018
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Censored film names Adam Milstein as Canary Mission funder
by: Asa Winstanley and Ali Abunimah
The Electronic Intifada
Israel lobby financier Adam Milstein has been identified as the funder of Canary Mission, the anonymous website that aims to tarnish the reputations of US supporters of Palestinian rights.
Milstein is named as the financier of Canary Mission by Eric Gallagher, a former employee of The Israel Project, in Al Jazeera's censored investigative film, The Lobby - USA.
The Electronic Intifada is releasing segments it has obtained of the film: one shows Gallagher telling an undercover Al Jazeera reporter about Milstein's role and the other shows Milstein talking about the need to "investigate" and "expose" critics of Israel, who Milstein believes are not only anti-Semites, but also "anti-Christian" and "anti-freedom" activists who "terrorize us."
The film also reveals that Israel lobby operatives who rely on information provided by Canary Mission "coordinate" their activities with the Israeli government.
The revelation could help explain more recent reports that Canary Mission profiles are being used by Israeli border officials to deny Palestinian Americans entry to their homeland.
As a broadcaster licensed in the UK, Al Jazeera operates according to the code set by the regulator Ofcom.
These rules require that Milstein and other pro-Israel figures featured in the film be given an opportunity to reply to allegations. Neither Milstein, Gallagher nor dozens of other pro-Israel figures who appear in the film responded to Al Jazeera's "right to reply" letters, the film states.
Despite intense efforts to find out who is behind Canary Mission, it is only Al Jazeera's investigative unit that has been able to identify Milstein as the website's driving force.
Last week The Grayzone Project reported that Howard Sterling, a wealthy lawyer and fervent supporter of Israel, owns the internet domain name used by the Canary Mission website. But Sterling, unlike Milstein, is relatively unknown.
McCarthyism for Israel
Alongside his associate Sheldon Adelson, Milstein is a high-profile figure in the Israel lobby.
Milstein's foundation funds such anti-Palestinian organizations as the Israel on Campus Coalition, StandWithUs, CAMERA, the AMCHA Initiative and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Milstein also funds the Israeli-American Council, a lobby group whose board he chairs.
An Israeli-born real estate mogul based in California, Milstein served time in federal prison for a 2009 conviction for tax evasion.
Canary Mission has targeted some 1,900 students and academics in its profiles since 2015, smearing them as "racist," "anti-American" and "anti-Semitic."
In the film, a Milstein associate states regarding Canary Mission: "Adam Milstein, he's the guy who funds it."
The admission was made by Eric Gallagher, who was then in charge of fundraising at The Israel Project, one of the organizations bankrolled by Milstein. Prior to that, Gallagher worked at the Israel lobby giant AIPAC.
Gallagher spoke to "Tony," the Al Jazeera reporter who went undercover as an intern with The Israel Project. Gallagher stopped working for The Israel Project after pro-Israel groups learned about Al Jazeera's undercover investigation.
"So Adam Milstein funds The Israel Project and he's funding the Canary Mission website?" Tony asks in the film.
Gallagher replies: "Yeah, which is interesting because it makes it seem as though we're a part of it [at The Israel Project]. But we're not."
Gallagher explains to Tony that he doesn't know who Milstein hired to run Canary Mission.
The Al Jazeera documentary shows that the Israel on Campus Coalition, another group funded by Milstein, operates in close coordination with Canary Mission.
Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, boasts in the film that "Canary Mission is highly, highly effective to the extent that we monitor the Students for Justice in Palestine and their allies."
The film also shows footage of Milstein and Baime in lengthy private discussions on the sidelines of a StandWithUs conference.
Baime discusses Canary Mission as an example of the Israel on Campus Coalition's secretive strategy of putting "up some anonymous website," promoted by targeted Facebook ads, to smear Palestine solidarity activists on campus.
Asked by Tony if he has any links to Canary Mission, Baime replies with a wide grin: "No, Canary Mission is totally anonymous. It's really hard to figure out who's behind it."
But soon afterwards, Baime inadvertently admits to a direct role.
Speaking of the need to respond to publications including The Electronic Intifada which expose the work of anti-Palestinian organizations, Baime says, "Fuck them, we're doing it back. I mean, not 'we' but, um, just some anonymous group."
Baime explains his reticence to openly claim credit for these types of operations, emphasizing that "we do it securely and anonymously and that's the key."
"If one of these terrorists on campus wants to disrupt a pro-Israel lecture or something and like unfurl a banner or whatever else, we're going to investigate them," he says. "That stuff becomes very useful in the moment and there are any number of ways to push it out."
Baime also describes his organization's cooperation with the strategic affairs ministry, Israel's covert agency for fighting the Palestine solidarity movement around the world - particularly the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS.
The ministry's director general is Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former senior officer with Israel's military intelligence. It is staffed by officers from Israel's various spy agencies whose identities are mostly classified, although some have been exposed.
Spying for Israel
For information sharing, "we did add the Ministry of Strategic Affairs to our operations and intelligence brief," Baime's deputy Ian Hersh explains in the film.
Hersh said this link with Israel relates to how "we get information about what's going on on American college campuses."
Baime also confides to Tony, who is British, of his ties with the Israeli government, explaining that "my view and the view of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which we coordinate with sometimes, we communicate with sometimes, is, um, like Europe is lost and it's basically over and like they're turning a lot of attention now to the US because they feel we're on your path."
According to Baime, their strategy is to "drip out a new piece of the opposition research" every few hours. "It's psychological warfare. It drives them crazy," he states.
Baime describes the approach as "modeled on General Stanley McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq."
The Israel on Campus Coalition has a "very high tech" research operation, Baime states, which amounts to "a million and a half [dollars] or more. Probably it's like even $2 million at this point. I don't even know, it's huge."
Baime's admissions raise questions about whether the Israel on Campus Coalition and individuals associated with the work he describes are acting as agents of a foreign state without registering, as required by US law, with the counterintelligence division of the Department of Justice.
In footage viewable at the top of this article, Adam Milstein explains the strategy in similar terms, though he does not admit to any direct role in Canary Mission.
"We need to expose what they really are. And we need to expose the fact that they are anti everything we believe in. And we need to put them on the run," Milstein states. "We're doing it by exposing who they are and what they are, the fact that they are racist, the fact that they are bigots, they're anti-democracy."
Tony asks if the targets of these tactics should be labelled as anti-Semites. Milstein replies: "Not just anti-Semites, it's too simple. We need to present them for what they really are. They're anti-freedom, they're anti-Christian."
Canary Mission began publishing profiles of student activists in 2015.
As reported by The Electronic Intifada in June this year, its McCarthyite harassment campaign has targeted nearly 2,000 students and academics.
The profiles smear Palestine solidarity activists - often students of Palestinian heritage - as anti-Semitic, with the explicit aim of harming their future career prospects.
In the film, Baime explains the effect of the strategy on its targets: "They either shut down or they spend time responding to it and investigating it, which is time they can't spend attacking Israel. That's incredibly effective."
Many of those targeted by the website "have reported being questioned by current and prospective employers and schools about their support for Palestinian rights," Palestine Legal has stated.
Others have been put on leave, denied bank accounts, received death threats and been denied entry by Israel, including to the occupied West Bank, the civil rights group says.
The film is a follow-up to The Lobby, Al Jazeera's undercover investigation of pro-Israel groups in the UK, broadcast in January last year.
Since the UK's broadcasting regulator vindicated that film in October, it became increasingly clear that the Qatari government has banned Al Jazeera from broadcasting the sequel.
The film has been censored even though it addresses matters of considerable public interest, including covert efforts on behalf of a foreign state to spy on, harass or prevent Americans from engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.
In March, The Electronic Intifada was the first to publish details of the film's contents.
With this video it is the first to publish excerpts from the censored documentary.
Original Article: Censored film names Adam Milstein as Canary Mission funder
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