Emergency Committee for Israel

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The Emergency Committee for Israel is a neoconservative front group that 'seeks to provide citizens with the facts they need to be sure that their public officials are supporting a strong US-Israel relationship.'[1]According to board member William Kristol, the ECI is the "pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community," aimed at countering what co board member Gary Bauer has called "the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States."[2]

History

The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) is one among several astroturf Israel lobby groups aimed at amplifying the alleged ‘Iranian threat’ to American voters to rouse support for Israeli interests ahead of the midterm elections.[3] The group's Executive Director, Noah Pollack, is described by David Frum as a gifted Israeli propagandist:

...the real news is the group's director: Noah Pollak, a friend of mine, and a brilliant advocate for rethinking Israel's self-defense in a new media era. As a blogger, he proposed that the Israeli Defense Forces launch their own YouTube channel... It's long been a thesis of mine, to adapt Clausewitz, that modern warfare is PR by other means. Pollak understands this truth (wrote his Yale thesis on it)[4]

Eli Clifton revealed the ECI website domain was registered to Republican Margaret Hoover, a former member of the Bush Administration and Fox News contributor who is part of a “neoconservative extensive echo chamber which seeks to create the appearance of a diverse coalition of grassroots groups calling on the US to prevent Iran from going nuclear by any means necessary."[3] After following up on Clifton's claims, Richard Silverstein reveals that the domain registration was 'curiously' changed after Clifton's report so Hoover's identity is now concealed.[5]

Clifton notes the ECI’s official website announcement was plugged by the Weekly Standard's blog and that they aimed their first media campaign at Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) for: “raising funds for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), signing a letter which accused Israel of participating in “collective punishment” in Gaza, and for refusing to sign on to a letter to ‘affirm support for Israel.’”[6] The ECI commercial against Sestak has already been aired by major mainstream media news outlets and will appear on cable television. It is also scheduled to be played during a Philadelphia Phillies game.

The emergence of Israel lobby front groups like the ECI at this time is important because they are part of a concentrated effort by neoconservatives to maintain their grip on US foreign policy (aimed at enforcing and enhancing the ‘special relationship’ between the US and Israel) by creating the appearance of a voter base appealing for neoconservative goals through media campaigns.[7]

Funding

The ECI refuses to disclose its funding sources and isn't legally required to because it is a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization.[8]

Criticisms

The ECI’s attack on Sestak has prompted analysts to ask how any of Sestak’s actions can be equated with sympathizing with terrorists and express shock at the blatant way in which the ECI pledges its allegiance to Israel under the guise of protecting American interests.[9]

W. Patrick Lang

Retired senior US military officer, Colonel W. Patrick Lang, has asked why the people behind the ECI have not been registered as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act:

They are openly advertising that they are serving as a lobby for Israel. And, by the way, as a string of law suits against AIPAC, and an FEC ruling against ADL make clear, foreign agents, whether individuals or organizations, cannot interfere, in any way, in U.S. electoral affairs. So, we have a very strong legal case here, of illegal Israeli interference, using people who ought to be forced to register as Israeli agents.[10]

Stephen Walt

According to Harvard University Professor Stephen M. Walt:

The ironies here are remarkable. For starters, you have some of the same geniuses who dreamed up and sold the Iraq War -- one of the dumbest blunders in the annals of U.S. foreign policy -- joining forces with someone who thinks U.S. Middle East policy ought to be based on his interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. They're going after a retired three-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, who also happens to have a Ph.D. in political economy and international affairs from Harvard. Given their track record over the past decade, this is actually a stunning endorsement of Sestak's candidacy. Criticism from these folks is like having Lindsay Lohan complain about your lifestyle choices, or having BP president Tony Hayward offer advice on environmental safety and public relations.
What is even more ironic is the group's paranoid name: the "Emergency Committee." Its members must think Israel is in real trouble, but what they don't seem to realize is that it is their advice that has helped lead to its current difficulties. Israel has been following the Likudnik/neoconservative/Christian Zionist program for several decades now, with vocal backing from the likes of Kristol, Pollak and Bauer, and the United States has been providing it with unconditional support for this self-destructive course.[11]

Glenn Greenwald

Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald was disturbed by the fact that CNN gave a platform to ECI Executive Director Noah Pollack before they even had a website up:

And CNN's Campbell Brown -- wife of neocon Dan Senor -- bestows instant legitimacy on them by inviting its Executive Director, Noah Pollak of Commentary, to appear on her show before they even have a functioning website (it just became functional yesterday) to agitate for an attack on Iran and promote the Netanyahu line. So overnight, there's a new, well-funded group, embraced by the media, devoted to punishing Democratic politicians who stray from full-fledged support for Israel.[12]

Richard Silverstein

Liberal Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein points out the telling irony in ECI board member William Kristol's characterization of AIPAC as 'too liberal' while describing the ECI:

Ben Smith’s reporting on this story for Politico features this incredible quotation from Kristol in which he actually claims that Aipac’s politics are too liberal (a view shared by the way with Shelly Adelson, if you’ve read his devestating New Yorker profile):
“Then there’s AIPAC, which is a wonderful organization, but one that’s very committed to working with the administration, so they pull some punches publicly.”[13]

J Street

Jeremy Ben-Ami of the liberal Israel lobby group J Street has called ECI's ad attacking Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy 'a frightening example of how pro-Israel advocacy as practiced by far-right neocons like Bill Kristol and right-wing Christian Zionists like Gary Bauer has come unhinged.'

According to their ad, it’s apparently “anti-Israel” for a member of Congress to sign a letter urging that Israel do exactly what the Prime Minister of Israel has now done — namely, ease the terms of the closure of Gaza so that weapons are kept out, while humanitarian and other supplies are allowed in.
What’s next for the Emergency Committee? An attack ad against Prime Minister Netanyahu?...By increasing the fear and ill will around Israel in American politics, they are doing far more to undermine Israel’s security than to save it.[14]

Principals

Board

Advisors

Associations

Contacts

Location

Eli Clifton and Jim Lobe's investigative work has revealed that the ECI appears to be operating out of the same office as the once influential Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

"It seems that the new Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) is based out of the same office as the old Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), suggesting that, Yes, Virginia, the same people who led the march to war in Iraq are behind the new Emergency Committee"[15]

References

  1. ‘About’, Emergency Committee for Israel website, accessed 13 July 2010.
  2. Ben Smith, 'Group to oppose President Obama's Mideast policy', Politico, 12 July 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 Eli Clifton, 'Former Bush Administration Official Heads Up Latest Astroturf Group Pushing For Attack On Iran', Lobelog.com, 11 July 2010
  4. David Frum, 'Emergency Committee for Israel', The Atlantic, 13 July 2010
  5. Richard Silverstein, 'Jewish Neocons Gear Up for Midterm Elections…Let the Good Smears Roll' Tikun Olan, 13 July 2010
  6. Eli Clifton with Ali Gharib, 'Familiar Neocons And Christian Zionist Head Up New “Emergency Committee For Israel”', Lobelog.com, 13 July 2010
  7. Eli Clifton, 'The People Behind ‘Keep Israel Safe’ And ‘Stop Iran Now’, Lobelog.com, 7 July 2010
  8. Ben Smith, 'Group to oppose President Obama's Mideast policy', Politico, 12 July 2010
  9. Alex Pareene, 'Bill Kristol will protect Israel with attack ads against Democrats', Salon.com, 12 July 2010
  10. Pat Lang, 'FARA and the Emergency Committee for Israel.', Sic Temper Tyrannis, 14 July 2010
  11. Stephen M. Walt, 'Bill Kristol's 'Emergency Committee?' Give me a break' Foreign Policy, 13 July 2010
  12. Glenn Greenwald, 'Marc Thiessen and the myth of the American Jewish voter' Salon.com, 13 July 2010
  13. Richard Silverstein, 'Jewish Neocons Gear Up for Midterm Elections…Let the Good Smears Roll' Tikun Olan, 13 July 2010
  14. Eli Clifton, Emergency Committee for Israel Launches Second Attack Ad, Lobelog.com, 5 August 2010
  15. Eli Clifton with Jim Lobe 'Emergency Committee Based At Old Committee For The Liberation Of Iraq' Lobelog.com, 15 July 2010