Over the past several weeks, we have learned that the Obama administration believes it is at war with Israel. The war is not a shooting war, but a political war. Its goal is to bring the government to its knees to the point where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu loses power or begs Obama and his advisers to shepherd Israel through a “peace process” in which Israel will renounce its rights to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
One component of this war is espionage. Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that Israel is a top target for American espionage.
The other component of the administration’s war against Israel is political subversion. Over the past week, the administration has campaigned against the NGO bill sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. If the bill, which was approved by the government, becomes law, it will require political NGOs that are principally financed by foreign governments to identify as foreign agents in their official communications and interactions.
Last week, State Department spokesman James Kirby lambasted the bill at an official briefing. Among other things, Kirby rejected Shaked’s claim that her bill is less restrictive than the US’s own Foreign Agents Registration Act. Kirby offered no substantiation of his claim.
Earlier this week, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro met with Shaked. Following their meeting, the US Embassy published two statements attacking the NGO law. In one of them, the embassy sought to substantiate Kirby’s claim regarding FARA. By the embassy’s telling, FARA relates only to agents whose action are directly guided by foreign governments, while Shaked’s NGO bill relates to entities that receive financing from foreign governments whether or not their actions are directed by the government financiers.
The embassy’s claim is deeply misleading.
As attorney Lori Lowenthal Marcus explained this week in The Jewish Press, in practice, the burden of proof that US entities are not directed by foreign governments that fund them falls on the entities, not on the US government. In her words, the US law “uses ambiguous words and tests which are far more likely to lead to over-broad applications and chilling of speech than does the straightforward Israeli proposal’s standard.”
Moreover, whereas Shaked’s proposed NGO law would fine entities that fail to abide by reporting restrictions, under FARA, US entities that fail to abide by the restrictions of the law can face both fines and up to five years in prison.
The duplicitous nature of the administration’s assault on Shaked’s bill is all the more obvious when we consider how senior US officials view these politicized organizations.
Currently, the State Department is slowly fulfilling a federal court order to publish the emails Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton sent from her private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Over the past several weeks, the department has published a number of emails regarding Israel that reveal the depth of hostility Clinton’s closest advisers harbored toward Israel.
Last week, one such email demonstrated that Clinton’s senior anti-Israel advisers viewed radical Israeli-registered NGOs as agents for the administration to use in order to carry out covert anti-Israel policies.
The email in question is a letter Clinton received in December 2011 from retired ambassador Thomas Pickering. Clinton asked her chief of staff to print out his letter.
Pickering’s illustrious career reached its peak during Bill Clinton’s administration. Clinton’s husband appointed Pickering, a former ambassador to Israel, to serve as undersecretary of state for policy planning, the third-most senior position at the State Department.
Pickering retired in 2001, at the end of the Clinton years. Since retiring, he has enjoyed the status of elder statesman among the American foreign policy elite. He has also been a loyal supporter and lobbyist for Iran, and a signatory on numerous plans to stick it to Israel.
In his letter to Clinton, Pickering recommended using leftist NGOs – including Peace Now, which he mentioned by name – to destabilize the political situation on the ground in Israel.
Pickering set out a plan, which in his view would force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ask the Americans to initiate a new diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
Pickering’s plan involved organizing a protest movement of Palestinian and Israeli women to “bring continuing pressure to change minds at the top.”
On the Palestinian side, Pickering said, “there might be peaceful demonstrations against all aspects of the occupation on the Palestinian sides – roadblocks, land confiscations, new settlement activity, around military government installations and perhaps in Area C, which they do not control.”
These actions Pickering wrote, “could create the kind of action which no army can easily use force to deal with…. With all and only women demonstrating peacefully under the eyes of the world, the chances are much less force will be used against them, since that action has its own consequences.”
In other words, Pickering sought to organize provocations of IDF units “under the eyes of the world,” in which IDF soldiers would be portrayed as being mean to Palestinian women. These women for their part would provoke them to be mean by interfering with military operations or disrupting the lives of Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria.
Pickering made no bones about the covert nature of this US anti-Israel subversion. He warned Clinton, “Most of all the United States, in my view, cannot be seen to have stimulated encouraged or be the power behind it for reasons you will understand better than anyone.
“I believe third parties and a number of NGOs on both sides would help.”
That is, Clinton’s confidante, the elder statesman who organized a lobby on behalf of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, called for the secretary of state to use radical Israeli NGOs as US agents to carry out a covert US operation against an allied government.
A notable aspect of Pickering’s plan is his underlying assumption that the US-organized demonstrations would be filmed and used against Israel in the court of public opinion.
For the past several years, the US government has funded B’Tselem’s video project.
According to NGO Monitor, in 2014 the US paid some $68,000 for the project which provides video cameras and photographic training to Palestinians. The goal is for them to film IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians in fraught situations and call their morality and legitimacy into question.
It was his recognition that cameras are the new weapon of Israel’s enemies that caused Gilad Ach, a 32-year-old master’s student at Tel Aviv University, to form his own NGO – Ad Kan. Ad Kan’s goal is to penetrate radical Israeli NGOs to expose their problematic activities.
In a bit of bad timing for the administration, last Thursday, the same day Kirby launched the administration’s public assault against Shaked’s NGO bill, and just before Pickering’s email to Clinton was published, Uvda, Channel 2’s investigative news magazine, broadcast a report revealing some of the findings that Ach and his colleagues have uncovered in Ad Kan’s three-year operation.
Over the past three years, Ad Kan employees have seeded themselves inside radical Israeli NGOs and surreptitiously filmed their operations.
The footage broadcast last week on Uvda showed senior “human rights” operatives for B’Tselem and Ta’ayush, Nasser Nawajah and Ezra Nawi, plotting to bring about the arrest, torture and murder of a Palestinian by the Palestinian Authority’s US-trained and -funded security services.
The Palestinian in question was, as far as they were concerned, marked for torture and murder because he was hoping to sell his land to Jews in the South Hebron Hills around the Israeli community of Sussiya.
One of the strangest aspects of the Uvda report was the radical Left’s response to it. By and large, leftist groups refused to condemn what Nawi and Nawajah were doing. B’Tselem, which is supposed to fight for Palestinian human rights, said that it is legitimate to turn Palestinians who wish to sell their property to Jews over to the PA, despite the fact that the PA’s penalty for such actions is death.
Beyond what their refusal to condemn solicitation of murder and torture says about their commitment to Palestinian human rights, the radical Left’s silence reveals just how key Nawi and Nawajah are to their operations.
In a word, Nawajah and Nawi are superstars of the radical Left in Israel and throughout the Western world. Last July, Nawajeh published an op-ed in The New York Times. In it, he accused Israel of denying the property rights of Palestinians in the exact area where he and Nawi plotted the murder of a Palestinian who sought to exercise his property rights by selling his land to Israelis.
As Liel Liebowitz reported in the Tablet online magazine, in 2007, after Nawi was arrested at a violent protest against the IDF, 20,000 people, including the who’s who of the radical Left in Israel and in the US, signed a petition demanding his immediate release.
Leading members of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement in the US, including Jewish Voices for Peace, have financed Nawi’s activities.
Pickering recommended using NGOs to organize protests. Ad Kan exposed how this is done.
On Monday, Channel 2 broadcast Ad Kan surveillance footage showing a Breaking the Silence employee paying Nawi and his Ta’ayush colleague Guy Botavia for organizing a demonstration against IDF soldiers. Botavia serves as the head of Ta’ayush’s video project.
In the same report, Ta’ayush activists are filmed paying Palestinians in cash for participating in the demonstration, in which they threw rocks at IDF soldiers.
In a conversation this week with The Jerusalem Post, Ach claimed that without the NGOs, the Palestinians would not be demonstrating. “I asked one of the Palestinians if he would be rioting if the NGO wasn’t paying him. He said no.
“I asked him what he does when he isn’t rioting.
He said he’s a construction worker in Modi’in Illit, [an Israeli settlement beyond the 1949 armistice lines]. That is, five days a week, Israelis pay him to build settlements, and the rest of the week, other Israelis pay him to throw rocks on soldiers.
“This guy only works for Israelis – either to build or destroy,” Ach wryly noted.
One of the common claims the far Left has made in response to the Uvda report is that if the report is all Ad Kan managed to learn in three years of planting moles in these groups, then clearly there is nothing to expose.
But Ach explains, what Ad Kan has revealed to date is merely the tip of the iceberg.
And so, as the Obama administration ratchets up its political war against Israel in its final year in office, we can expect to learn that like the administration itself, the NGOs the administration is so concerned about protecting have and will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of demonizing Israel and destroying its good name in the Western world.