By Daniel Luban
Yesterday, I touched on some of the men behind the whisper campaign against the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) and its president, Trita Parsi. The leading perpetrator appears to have been Hassan Daioleslam, an Iranian-American journalist who is currently being sued by NIAC for defamation and who leaked documents he received in the discovery phase of the lawsuit to Washington Times reporter Eli Lake. Daioleslam is an unsavory character, said by multiple sources to be affiliated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK, or MKO) — a terrorist group (classified as such by the State Department) with close ties to the Saddam Hussein regime. Daioleslam, however, appears to have been only the public face of a group of Washington neoconservatives that included Kenneth Timmerman, an anti-Iranian hardliner notorious for having accused the Islamic Republic of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. Daioleslam and Timmerman discussed “destroying” Parsi as “an integral part of any attack on Clinton and Obama.”
But now more information is coming out. The anti-NIAC attacks have continued unabated the last couple days, although the group’s antagonists appear to be running low on material. (I remain amused by the conspiratorial attention being paid to the fact that Trita Parsi is “really” Swedish rather than American. Parsi, of course, makes no secret of his Swedish citizenship, as his attackers would have discovered if they had bothered to watch the first two minutes of, say, this interview.)
Earlier today, The Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb wrote a blog post passing on more (typically thin) allegations against NIAC; the main piece of new information concerned the group’s ties to George Soros. Less than half an hour later, former AIPAC staffer Lenny Ben-David sent out a gloating email to his contacts, entitled “confidential: some of the material I sent out over the weekend is getting published today” (my emphasis). It included the text of Goldfarb’s post. (The full email is included below the jump.)
Ben-David may be familiar to readers of this blog. After a long career at AIPAC, he retired and now lives in the West Bank settlement of Efrat. (See MJ Rosenberg, a former AIPAC colleague of his, for background on this unpleasant-sounding man.) But Ben-David achieved special notoriety last month for his role in the smear campaign against the pro-Israel group J Street — a campaign that shared many of the hallmarks of the current one against NIAC. Ben-David published an attack on J Street that was sleazy even by the standards of that campaign; his main criticism was that the group had the temerity to mingle with, and even accept donations from, people with Arab names. Evidently such things are not done in the settlements. Unfortunately for Ben-David, one of his targets — the New American Foundation’s Rebecca Abou-Chedid, smeared as an anti-Semite apparently due solely to her last name — fought back, and Spencer Ackerman also wrote a memorable demolition of Ben-David’s transparent racism.
In any case, it seems that we now know who Michael Goldfarb is getting his talking points from. Between Daioleslam, Timmerman, and now Ben-David, NIAC appears to have the right choice of enemies.
Ben-David’s email below the jump.
[UPDATE: Lenny Ben-David writes: “I did not send material to Goldfarb.” However, he did not explain the meaning of his email.]
[UPDATE II: Ben-David has responded at more length in the comments thread of my cross-post at The Faster Times. Readers can judge for themselves but I believe the substance of the post stands; he continues to refuse to explain what his original email could possibly have meant, other than that Goldfarb had published the information that he had provided.]
From: Iconsult [mailto:Iconsult@netvision.net.il]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 10:17 AM
Subject: confidential: some of the material I sent out over the weekend is getting published today
NIAC and J Street: Lobbying and Lying
By Michael Goldfarb, Weekly Standard Blog
NIAC and J Street might seem at first an odd alliance. J Street is “pro-peace, pro-Israel” and NIAC is pro-engagement, pro-Iran. But J Street isn’t all that pro-Israel, and NIAC will take any allies it can find in the fight against sanctions, so few and far between are such organizations in Washington.J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami co-authored an op-ed with NIAC chief Trita Parsi making the (extremely unpopular in the Jewish community) argument against sanctions. J Street invited Parsi to speak at their conference last month. And the two groups have together constructed and embraced a narrative that explains away all the questions about their credibility and legitimacy as the work of the same nefarious right-wing conspiracy.
But follow the money and the tie that binds seems to be George Soros, who provides substantial funding to both groups. Also, Morton Halperin, one of the top men at Soros’s Open Society Institute, sits on the boards of both J Street and NIAC. As Ben Smith reported Friday, Soros pays the salary of the NIAC staffer who runs the Campaign for a New Policy on Iran. Documents reveal that J Street participated in the discussions that determined the group’s agenda.
And there’s another thing the group’s have in common: they’ve both been caught telling their supporters they’ve taken one position while lobbying behind the scenes for the exact opposite outcome.
Jennifer Rubin notes two examples of this dishonest conduct. J Street declared publicly that it would not lobby against passage of a resolution in the House of Representatives condemning the Goldstone Report. (Neither would J Street support the resolution, of course. The group’s position was somewhere between oppose and support.) Yet this blog reported and Morton Halperin has not denied that either he or someone in his office was the author of a letter circulated to members of Congress and signed by Judge Goldstone. J Street, or at least one of its top advisers, was actively lobbying against the resolution and in support of Goldstone.
NIAC gets caught in a similar lie. Eli Lake’s Washington Times report details NIAC’s campaign to “create a media controversy,” in the words of one NIAC staffer, in order to scuttle the appointment of Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy. NIAC failed, but just last week NIAC put on its website a “Myths and Facts” page to set the record straight about the organization’s work:
NIAC is not the only organization that is under attack. In fact, almost every distinguished American policymaker, intellectual and administration official that supports Obama’s pro-engagement policy in the Middle East is being targeted. This includes:
* Ambassador Dennis Ross – Currently serving in the U.S. National Security Council…
So after trying to kill Ross’s appointment in a secret and perhaps illegal lobbying campaign, the group touts Ross on its website as a “distinguished policy maker” who is the victim of neoconservative smears. Now we know that the smears against Ross were being conceived and directed by the staff at NIAC, and all the while NIAC was playing the victim.
Trita Parsi has charmed his way into the very heart of the “progressive left,” and no progressive organization has been more easily or completely charmed than J Street. So what is a “pro-peace, pro-Israel” group doing allying itself so closely with a man who is himself so closely allied with a Holocaust-denying regime that daily threatens the existence of the State of Israel? And why is it that neither organization is able to represent in public the views that they so aggressively promote behind closed doors?
[Cross-posted at The Faster Times.]