As Daniel just wrote, the sensational campaign by Im Tirtzu to discredit the New Israel Fund (NIF) and the Israeli human rights groups that it supports has received increasing attention from both US and Israeli media in recent days.
We’ve been looking at some of the publicly available documents about the Central Fund of Israel (CFI), the shadowy, U.S.-based group that has bankrolled Im Tirtzu, and, while we will offer a more complete report in the coming days, we’ve found that a notorious — not to say, bizarre — 32-year old multi-millionaire contributed generously — that is, some $280,000 worth of generosity — to the CFI in 2007 and 2008 alone.
Guma Aguiar is no stranger to the gossip columns in Israel.
The nephew of billionaire Thomas Kaplan, he grew up in Florida as an evangelical Christian before reportedly rediscovering his Jewish roots in 2003. Along with Kaplan, Aguiar appears to have funded the efforts of controversial Rabbi Leib Tropper to enforce more rigorous standards on Jewish converts.
According to Tablet Magazine, Aguiar emigrated to Israel in 2007 after he and Kaplan sold their natural gas company. Aguiar netted $200 million on the deal.
On Aug 25th, 2009, The Miami Herald reported that:
“On June 19, Aguiar was pulled over in his 2009 Bentley after a deputy saw him repeatedly drift across the double-yellow center line on North Dixie Highway in Oakland Park, according to the arrest report.
When stopped, Aguiar got out of his car and said, `Call my lawyer, I’m going to jail,’ the report states.
Aguiar admitted he was smoking marijuana, the car smelled of the illegal substance and the deputy found five grams of the drug as well as pipes stashed inside, according to the arrest report.
Once he was brought to Broward County Jail, Aguiar threatened other inmates and reportedly said, `I have money and could buy you, Mr. Deputy,’ according to an internal BSO memo.
The memo said Aguiar tried to head-butt a deputy and repeatedly resisted jail staffers.’’
In 2008 Kaplan and Aguiar had a falling-out. Kaplan claimed that Aguiar used a non-profit foundation they both controlled to distribute $7 million to rabbis ‘’to further his claim that he [Aguiar] is the Jewish messiah.’’
Aguiar’s messiah-complex appears to be a running theme.
Tablet’s Allison Hoffman reported on Jan 15 that:
“In September, Israel’s Channel 10 aired a documentary about the country’s newest hero, in which Aguiar offered a guided tour of an unoccupied apartment he owns in Jerusalem’s Old City, overlooking the Western Wall. ‘What did you think, I was going to be in Row 56 or something?’ Aguiar asked. ‘This is like VIP seats here—in case something happens’—he seems to be referring to the arrival of the Messiah—’I wanted VIP seats. If it never happens in our lifetime, then we have something to look forward to.'”‘
In 2009, Aguiar invested $4 million to become the sponsor of the Beitar Jerusalem football club, but his antics took a darker turn last month when he arrived at a Beitar match claiming to have just returned from meeting captured IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit in Gaza.
According to The Jerusalem Post:
‘’Aguiar’s family released a statement Thursday morning saying, ‘Guma Aguiar has been subjected for a prolonged period of time to intensive emotional pressures caused by malicious court cases in the United States concerning past business dealings with his uncle.’
His family said that he was the ‘victim of a campaign of invasive surveillance and false accusations that generated what amounted to psychological terrorism.’
On Wednesday evening, according to the statement, ‘Guma’s family entered him into a healthcare facility in Israel to obtain suitable examinations and treatment as needed. He will undergo tests for the next two weeks and his situation will be closely monitored by the Aguiar family.'”
It’s important to note that the CFI gives money to a number of right-wing Israeli causes so Aguiar’s contributions may not have directly funded Im Tirtzu.
Im Tirtzu, at least partially thanks to funding it received from CFI, has staged an ugly campaign calling for an Israeli ban on U.S. non-profits that assisted in the Goldstone report.
Of course, every country has a right to look suspiciously at money that originates from outside its borders and is designed to influence its domestic politics. In this case, it might be wise to look at how American money, such as the $280,000 given by Aguiar, reflects on the legitimacy of the anti-Goldstone campaign.
Akiva Eldar has reported that, among other benificiaries, CFI — contributions to which are, incidentally, tax deductible — funds settler militias and a yeshiva whose leader, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, has tried to justify the killing of gentile babies because of ‘’the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.’’
Phil Weiss and Adam Horowitz at Mondoweiss have been all over CFI for the last few months, but we hope to provide some additional details over the next week.