Neo-Con/Israeli Venture Behind 28 Million Anti-Obama DVD Campaign

This is a departure from our usual programming, but we considered it to be worthy of your attention. From Asia Times (hat tip reader Cash Mundy):

A group of hardline United States neo-conservatives and former Israeli diplomats were behind the controversial, allegedly Islamaphobic DVD which was recently distributed in US swing states ahead of November’s presidential elections.

The 60-minute movie,Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West , was an initiative of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), but produced by the Clarion Fund, an organization described as a “front” for Israeli group Aish Hatorah.

Some 28 million copies of Obsession are currently being inserted in newspapers and delivered by mail in key electoral swing states – such as Michigan, Ohio and Florida which, according to recent polling, could go either way.

Critics allege the movie Obsession is “hate propaganda” which paints Muslims as violent extremists and, among other things, explicitly compares the threat posed by radical Islam to that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s – at least two major metropolitan newspapers refused to run the movie because of its perceived bias.

“Despite the perilous state of American newspapers, the St Louis Post-Dispatch advertising department took an ethical stand and refused to distribute the DVD of a film that for two years has troubled American Muslims,” Tim Townsend, a reporter at Missouri’s most influential newspaper wrote this month…

While initial press reports about the mass distribution focused on the Clarion Fund’s financing role, it was EMET that organized and oversaw the distribution, EMET’s spokesman and a former press officer for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Ari Morgenstern, told Inter Press Service….

Like hardline neo-conservatives, EMET opposes any land concessions to Palestinians and takes other hardline positions identified with Israel’s right-wing Likud Party and the ”Settler Lobby” there. EMET’s website says, “We regard ourselves as ‘intellectual revolutionaries’.”

Two weeks ago, EMET sponsored a seminar series on Capitol Hill for the controversial multi-billionaire casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is a major donor to right-wing Zionist organizations in the US, such as the far-right lobby group, Freedom’s Watch and the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).

RJC efforts to persuade Jewish voters that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is aligned with radical anti-Israel forces in the Islamic world have drawn strong criticism from the mainstream Jewish press….

But EMET is not the only group involved in the controversy to have direct ties to Israel…

“It seems that the Clarion Fund, from what we can tell, is just a virtual organization that is a front for Aish Hatorah,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “They don’t have staff, they don’t have a physical address. Nothing.”….

Foreign nationals and companies, and domestic tax-exempt non-profit organizations, are prohibited by federal election law from attempting to sway US elections at any level through either contributions to campaigns or advocacy.

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  1. Anonymous

    Oh My God, the jews are trying to take over the world! I had really thought better of you! Any body can spin anything– I had really thought better of you. Did you forget that OBana’s first fund raiser was in China? Of course, the Chineese could not contribute (sure!). Don’t let you left leanings bind you to what is happenhing. Stick with economics, your are great and we all appreciate your insights.

  2. Anonymous

    The Jews aren’t “trying” to take over the world. They already have, you ignoramus.

    Oh, and Obama’s senior campaign staff is an endless line of Jews. His chief fundraiser is Penny Pritzker, from the wealthy Jewish Pritzker family from Chicago, and his chief strategist is a Jew by the name of David Axelrod.

  3. Anonymous

    Uh-oh – it’s those sneaky Jooooooos again.

    Stick to the markets pal, that’s why we’re paying you the big bucks.

  4. Anonymous

    nice work calculated risk..i am impressed…very impressed…not shocking to see why all three bloggers remained anonymous..such a topic is most end of the day, we must remember the sinister roles played by rothschild/warburg in creating our federal reserve central bank in 1913. jeckyll island…something tells me this topic will gain far more traction in the near future if things continue to deteriorate..

  5. Anonymous

    I’m with Yves… The Israeli tentacles into our political system are disgusting. Don’t about 2/3 of our lawmakers attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee meetings every year? What are we still supporting apartheid?

  6. Anonymous

    Good post – worthy of consideration. I live in Florida and two disks found their way to me. It is the worst kind of fear politics. “You and your family may die if you don’t vote for X.”

    Ironically, on the bright side, the financial crisis may force us to take a more objective approach to the election.

  7. Howard

    Thanks for your courage in exposing us to truth…. WHATEVER it may be.

    I am tired of my country being a pawn for other country’s wars including this Israeli front group EMET and RJC.

    New reader to your site.

    Thank you Naked Capitalism for caring about our country first!!

  8. Kevin

    Good post, Yves.

    This kind of interference in US domestic politics would not be tolerated or ignored if any other country or interest group attempted it.

    This could sway the election, and have far reaching economic and military consequences for the US. Entirely relevant to this excellent blog.

    Nothing to do with Jews or anti-Semitism — don’t be intimidated or misled by such tripe.

  9. Anonymous

    The old smear term “anti-Semite” doesn’t work anymore. That got stale about 20 years ago. The Jewish Supremacists and Zionists are going to have to come up with a new smear term that can be used to shut down debate, I suppose. Good luck with that. LOL

  10. Independent Accountant

    Are you for real? Mexico and Saudi Arabia intervene in US politics. Hell, the Saudis own Middle Eastern studies departments like: Columbia, Harvard and Georgetown. Mexico sends its citizens here to vote and like Israel grants dual citizenship. I haven’t seen the DVD in question, so cannot speak as to its accuracy. That said, as a matter of policy, I would give the Palestians nothing. Until 1948, there were no Palestinians, just Arabs.
    YS: Post on anything you like.

  11. Anonymous

    I love the way some people imply the article is anti-Semitic when the lobbying group in question has been denounced by Jewish groups! So Jews can criticize Israeli extremists, but no one else can? Please.

    And Independent Accountant, endowing a chair is permitted under US law. Trying to influence elections by running ads or promotions isn’t. And given that tenured professors by definition not very amenable to influence, query how much good endowing a chair does in practical terms anyhow. You’d have to stack the vote on who gets tenure to have impact on who takes up the post.

  12. Lewis B. Sckolnick

    Yves Smith

    You have a very Anti Jewish site pretending to be something else.

    How long do you think you would last a the Children’s Hospital in Tel Aviv?

    Keep your site.

    Lewis B. Sckolnick
    The Ledges
    Leverett MA USA

  13. Anonymous

    I do find it very disappointing that Yves chose to post this as the only example of election-related propaganda worth highlighting. There are numerous examples of Muslims and other groups trying to influence the political process. CAIR quoted here has many extremist positions.
    Some comments about “Jewish supremacists” and “Israeli tentacles” this post has triggered no doubt remind of the darkest times of history.
    I have not seen the film in question, but it does not sound untrue… Moreover, if someone mailed out, say, DVDs with Fahrenheit 911 in 2004, I would not find it ominous or offensive.

  14. Anonymous

    I love the way anything critical of any aspect of Israel is made out to be anti-Jewish. There is much more open debate about Israel and Palestine in Israel than there is in the US.

    This is a piece put out by a RADICAL Isreali group. And it is trying to reach 28 million Americans. This story isn’t picking on a trivial move. This has the potential to change the outcome of the election. The DVDs are being sent out in swing states.

    And 11:25 PM, equating Muslims with radical Islam IS untrue, as is trying to connect Obama with them. For instance, Indonesia is Muslim, a democracy, over 200 million people, and is moderate. Bali, one of their islands, is Hindu, for instance. Yes, they have some extremists (Jemah Islamiah) but they are not well regarded or supported by the public.

  15. Dave Raithel

    I caught Stephen Mansfield on C-Span Book TV the other day. He’s a McCain supporter (and an ordained minister.) He also says he has no doubt that Obama is a Christian. Here’s a link to Mansfield’s site:

    It should go without saying, but it still obviously needs saying: Judaism and AIPAC are not identical. There’s nothing about Yves Smith’s posts that suggest anti-Semitism unless one insists upon the identity.

    Lastly (for here, now): On the matters of technical detail, finance can be separated from politics. If that is all Yves Smith concerned herself with, then I’d never have got here. Some of us are most interested where finance/economics blurs with social policy, AND THAT is to invite social philosophy and politics. Really: when money’s involved, some people will do and say anything….

  16. Krakpotkin

    The sad fact that Israel was founded with a war of conquest the apparent losers of which have never given up is … a sad fact. Saddest most of all for the people over there on both sides of the Gaza Wall.

    It's a strange fact that baby Bush hired Likud lobbyists (the PNAC gang) to run foreign policy, even though most of them were life-long enemies of his father within GOP circles. Something oedipal perhaps going on in the void between Dubya's ears.

    The EMET gang are sophisticated propagandists. It's no surprise that they and the fascists at Jerusalem Post are out there preaching Islamic diabolicalism.

    But does the DVD explicitly defame Obama? (The Asia Times story doesn't mention his name.)

    Clearly both McCain and Obama went out of their way to bow to Israel in the debates tonight.

    (That is: Lehrer asked about the threat Iran posed to the US — and instead each candidate devoted his time to expounding the threat to Israel and the mideast generally.)

    I've worked in Congress and as a journalist. Washington is overflowing with propagandists of the Likudist worldview. (It's a shame the Israeli Left, which endorses Land for Peace, hardly has a voice.)

    This out-sized influence of a minor nation's militarists on the policies of what was — until Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith & Co took over the Pentagon — the world's most powerful nation is a peril to not only the US but the globe.

    Similarly re the influence of Cubans within the CIA and thus on the US government during the 60s in the wake of Castro's revolution.

    When minor nations somehow get their nails into major powers, the world shakes. Classical Athens was brought down by such: former colonists in Sicily.

    And a good deal of the world considers Israel an American colony.

    Discussing Israel's 60-year war with an old (jewish) teacher who survived a Nazi camp during the summer, I asked her if she thought the internationalization of Jerusalem was something the Wise Men of Israel (as she calls them) might ever consider.

    The notion shocked her at first. Then she came to think perhaps it might work. A grand gesture of peace.

    I've no other ideas, aside from containing Israel's perpetual war more or less within its boundaries.

  17. Yves Smith


    I do admit that the Asia Times piece did not mention Obama, and not having seen the video, I cannot assume it makes any specific charges. I probably should have set forth the logic below explicitly, rather than making assumptions.

    While I saw comparatively little of the Republican convention, I recall vividly Mitt Romney fulminating about how the Republicans, unlike the Democrats, were talking in the convention about radical Islam and had not forgotten about good versus evil. I therefore assume other speakers may have also demonized Muslim radicals.

    And you have various polls showing that a disconcertingly large proportion of Americans think Obama is Muslim.

    So at a minimum, you have the “Democrats are soft on radical Islam” meme and worse, the “Obama is Muslim” meme. Either way, the fear mongering is an attack on Obama, and the fact that it is being distributed heavily in swing states is enough for me to believe that this isn’t merely an education campaign but it targeted at weakening the Democratic ticket.

  18. daveg

    Yeah, Zionist, Israel and neocons do not equal “jews”.

    Those who try to equate them are simply trying to confuse the debate as to prevent it from going forward.

    The zionists and/or neocon paid bucks to get this thing out there and it is worth a discussion as Iraq/Iran is one of the major issues of this election.

    I want to know when any big group is making such a big push as to understand the motivation and biases behind it so I can discount accordingly.

    Thanks for the post.

  19. daveg

    That is to say, lots of jews support Obama and are more reasonable on Israel and the middle east than the zealots behind this DVD.

    However, these people are very motivated and seem to have a lot of access to media and money. That is just a fact.

  20. Anonymous

    yeah I got one here in Colorado. On first look I equated it to an AOL CD and gave it to my two year old. She was thrilled to have it. I think it is in the backyard right now….

  21. Cicero Hood

    I appreciate the efforts by so many to bring this back down to earth from being yet another stupid knee-jerk “those damn Jews” thread and place it in context. I do find the connection between our neoconservative legislators, White House aides and lobbyists, and right-wing Israeli groups like Aish Hatorah and the Likud party interesting and disturbing, but not terribly surprising. What I’m not sure about is the idea that Israel is somehow controlling the United States through the neoconservatives. Is it not equally possible – and arguably more logical – that the U.S. through our neocons are controlling discourse and manipulating political events in Israel? There’s a sense that one hand is washing the other here.

    I don’t think Zionists control the United States; I submit that it is the other way around and that political elements in the United States are attempting to maintain control over Israel by keeping hardcore right-wing Zionists in power and well funded. In this regard, we do not only the beleaguered people of Palestine and the neighboring Mid East nations a great injustice, but the people of Israel as well, since they stand to gain nothing (rather, they are much more likely to eventually lose everything) through this mad policy of endless ideological war.

    Thank you for a thought provoking post and for providing this information. I will certainly think on this and share this with my friends.

  22. Anonymous

    I, too, thank you for posting this Yves, since this important story will be resolutely ignored by the MSM.

    Shame on those trying to silence you.

    Walt & Mearsheimer have done the US a great service by shedding light on the Israel Lobby and the way it distorts the political process.

  23. Francois

    “Oh My God, the jews are trying to take over the world! I had really thought better of you!”

    What kind of stupid and snarky comment is that?

    Oooh! I see; never mention or report anything that is not grade-AAA pollyana when it comes to certain topics huh?

    The infamous “if you are perceived being 1% against certain of us, you MUST be 100% against all of us?”

    No middle ground huh? NO DISCUSSIONS! No facts shall be reported!
    Erase critical thinking, NEVER EVER DARE to deviate from OUR doctrine?

    Well, sir, screw you very much!
    Regulars on this blog will be damned before being intimidated this way.

    Got that??

  24. Francois

    Now that I’ve vented my rage, two questions:

    1) Would such an attempt by any other group to influence US voters ever be tolerated?

    2) How is it that I have to come to a financial blog to learn about such a blatant disregard to our laws is going on as I write this post? Where is the mainstream media?

  25. doc holiday

    I’m scratching my head on this one, because these inserts are targeted at people who still subscribe to a media that is almost dead, i.e, newspapers are somewhat outdated and my understanding, is that subscriptions are decreasing rapidly, as internet blogging supercedes newsrags. Hence, if this is a clever marketing promotion, then who is the target audience that will open up the paper and be excited to watch an exciting and well produced 60-minute movie about shit that no one cares about? I assume most people will toss it in the trash and move to the sports section, thus, if these people were really from super smart race that had some weird-ass agenda, they really should take their cash and buy a celebrity like Palin for this infomercial.

    Nonetheless, this is just a little too weird and part of the fragmented polarity which is taking us all further into the stream of chaos!

  26. maff

    Yves – thanks for all the hard work and the content consistently of the highest quality.

    How socio-political influence couples with finance is right “on message” for this site’s philosophy.

    Since both Academia and lobbying are mentioned here I wanted to add that, in the UK, the national union representing University faculty members was discussing whether it might formally debate some sort of principled sanctions against Israel. Whether you agree or not it is shocking for me that our Union was told that it is now illegal in the UK to even debate this. The union refuses to release the text of its legal advice to its members. This stinks.

  27. Matt Dubuque

    Matt Dubuque-

    In terms of “radical Islam” I would simply point out that Republicans and Democrats alike need to QUICKLY remove their tongues from the mouths of Saudi royalty.

    That includes the Bush Family, the Clintons, the US news media and apparently the ENTIRE US Congress, save one or two members.

    15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. Their Interior Minister, in charge of counterterrorism, STILL proclaims 9/11 was a “Zionist plot”. How does this represent a “moderate” state?

    It is a FELONY for women to drive a car in Saudi Arabia and a crime for them to arrive in the emergency room without an escort. And of course they cannot vote.

    Possession of the New Testament is a crime in Saudi Arabia.

    By contrast, 40% of the Iranian legislature are women and Persia has chock full of women who are college professors, doctors, lawyers and architects.

    And while the Saudi monarchy is unelected, Ahmadenijad may well be voted out soon.

    If we are to hope for more moderate strains to develop within Islam, it is FAR more likely they will occur among the Shia than the Wahabbis.

    Matt Dubuque

  28. israeli

    As an Israeli and avid reader of this website, I am confused by the very existence of this thread, and some of the comments.

    First of all, I am personally very dissapointed with any Israeli, Jew, or anyone else who tries to imply that Obama is muslim, just as I hate those who try to imply Saddam was behind 9/11.

    But Yves,

    What I do not understand is why you chose this off-topic subject, this ONE off-topic subject, out of the infinite number of off-topic subjects that you could have chosen.


    Your blog post is perfectly fine with me, I take no offense. But I take offense from the title of your post when you say "neo-con and Israeli", you are drawing an equivalency between a political direction (neo conservatism) and a nationality (Israeli). As Warren Buffett says, you don't chose where you are born. I did not choose to be born in Israel. My parents lived there, they had sex and made a baby, and that was me, and then there was my brother. By making a conjunction between neocon & israeli, your title infers that all israelis think this way about Obama. I happen to admire Obama very very much despite being on the right-wing of the Israeli political spectrum, and despite my admiration of certain neocons, despite their HUGE Iraq gaffe. Your title should have said "Neocons and Israeli groups".

    Now the commenters,

    Just as economic/market history rhymes (bull markets and depressions) so does Jewish history. In the middle ages, Jews in spain lived totally well, they were integrated, overtly religious, and held high positions in the government. Just like in the US. When I see comments like what I am seeing here, it makes me and many other jews think about history. We know that history rhymes and we know there is a nonzero possibility that one day we will be driven away from the US. So we watch out for anti-Jewish people like some of the commenters, and may you go fuck yourselves.

    And one more thing,

    It sickens me to see the word "zionist" used in such a disgusting way. A zionist means a person who is of philosophical persuasion that Jews need a national home, a sovereign country of their own. THAT's IT. It doesn't mean anything else, and 99% of Israelis are zionists, even the left-wing hippies who march alongside Arabs, and even, in some casess alongside terrorists. In the 19th centruy there was a vigorous debate within the Jewish community. Zionist vs. non-zionist. This debate is long gone.

  29. Anonymous

    I have seen the DVD. I received a copy from a friend. It does not mention Barack Obama at all. Frankly, I don't understand why this is controversial. All this movie does is show clips of speeches & propaganda made by Islamist radicals. Anyone who has been to MEMRI's site ( has seen hundreds of such clips. BTW Yves, I would also like to thank you for posting this. I am Jewish, a grandchild of holocaust survivors, and a "floating voter." Posts like yours, and the comments in response to it, help me very much in making my voting decision, much more than the debate last night. After reading the post and comments, I will be voting for McCain.

  30. Anonymous

    I always saw Yves as left of center in his politics, which was fine because I want to see all sides of the economic debate. However I have always feared the undeniable nexus between left-leaning politics and anti-Semitism. Yves has stayed resolutely on topic until out of the blue he decided that distribution of Obsession was the one thing worthy of going totally off topic. To be frank, it does not do anything to assauge my standing fear.

    Some people have commented about the cowardice of people posting anoymously. I normally provide an ID for myself when commenting and stick with it. But this topic is different.

    There may be no danger from 99.5% of the commenters, but any time someone starts a thread with the words Zionist and neocon in it, it attracts a handful of folks that haven’t – shall we say – very good life balance. I have experienced having one of these types make me his reason for existence and it is not pleasant.

  31. Yves Smith


    I agree that the use of language has become imprecise in the US and probably offends some people in Israel. A term like “hardliner” is more accurate than Zionist. However (and please correct me if I am wrong), my impression is that the hardliners have wrapped themselves in the Zionist mantle, which only serves to muddle the debate.

    As for why feature this piece, the reason is that is appears to be getting no attention in the MSM. As far as I can tell, it is a sophisticated version of Swift-boating, one that the Democrats dare not dignify with a response (as the selling of the Iraq war proved, attempts to refute the “Al Quaeda was tied in with Saddam” canard actually strengthened the connection in the public’s mind).

    And you can see these divisive tactics are successful, per Anon of 1:00 PM. Hate mongering is effective, at least at the margin.

    The headline is accurate. It is an Israeli group aligned with the neocon effort. Now perhaps you might prefer if it said “neocon/radical Israeli” group, but the word “venture” makes clear this is a specific alliance.

    I thank you for taking the trouble to write. This is a heated topic, and Americans often make broadsides when discussing sensitive issues. But not talking only leads to festering resentment, which in the long run is worse.

  32. Yves Smith

    Anon of 5:54 PM,

    I fail to understand how a comment on the tactics of a radical right wing group that is trying to influence the elections is seen as anti-Semitic. If fundamentalist Christians had put out a similar video and I pointed to it, no one would see that as an attack on Christianity generally.

    As for the some of the aggressive comments above, what you are seeing in part is that AIPAC’s strategy of trying to stem any and all criticism of Israel is backfiring.

    Note that this post is NOT critical of Israel, but of the tactics of a group denounced in the US by moderate Jews. Yet my pointing to it is somehow read as anti-Semitic. I find that simply bizarre.

    And there is also a tacit assumption that I singled it out for nefarious reasons, I chose to run with it because, as stated above, I see this as an attempt to Swift-boat, and the Swift-boating DID turn the last election.

    To have something that has the potential to turn the election, particularly when the group behind it is violating US laws, go unmentioned is just wrong.

    Yes, I try to steer clear of politics because readers tend to go nuts, as some have in this thread. But things like this should not be shrouded in silence. This is a democracy and electorial jockeying is normally covered in excruciating detail. But this effort gets virtually no mention.

    And I also want to make clear that I am a Obama supporter by default. I was disinclined to back the Republicans after what the last eight years hath wrought, and the choice of Palin as VP makes voting for McCain simply unacceptable.

    Ezra Klein has some very good observations in this area. He also regularly writes about AIPAC.

    Cry Anti-Semite, And Let Slip the Dogs of Discussion

    What is Anti-Semitism? (you need to scroll to Oct. 5).

  33. israeli

    Ok Yves,

    Fair enough, but I still don’t see how this article is so important to you given that there is no evidence that the DVD discusses Obama at length. By the way, I am pretty sure that fundamentalist Christians are MORE responsible for the Obama = muslim myth than are neocon or Jewish groups. It’s just a guess of mine – an educated guess – based on what I know about evangelical media vs. Jewish media. The Jewish papers in our community clearly profile candidates and point out their religion of course.

    In any event, AIPAC and similar entities unfortunately piss me off. Ironically, the reason I’m pissed off at them is because when Sharon was PM they became his little puppies and advocated his policies, which at the time was to give gaza for free. So it’s Ironic because I hate them for having been more “left wing”. Actually, it’s not really a question of “left wing” as much as it is “stupid”. But of course my general beef with them is that they are too “rigid right wing”. That is to say, they have no brain. They are always either (a) a mouthpiece for the government or(b) a rigid right-wing group with views that belong in the 90’s. In this post-Arafat, post-911, sunni-vs-shia world, Jews need to be represented by people who understand the new landscape. Sunnis ought to be our allies.

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