The Settler Behind the NIAC Smears

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.]

—–Original Message—–
From: Iconsult [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 10:17 AM
To: Iconsult
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.]

Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. I find it interesting that AIPAC and the neo-conmen have the temerity to criticize NIAC without any substantive evidence. In particular given that former Senator William Fulbright, in the 1970s, and former senior CIA official Victor Marchetti, in the 1980s, contended that AIPAC itself should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. FARA requires those who receive funds or act on behalf of a foreign government to register as a foreign agent.

    AIPAC is a registered American lobbying group and claims it is only funded by private donations. Nevertheless, consider the scandal in 1992 which prompted then AIPAC president David Steiner to resign after he was recorded boasting about his political influence in obtaining aid for Israel. Steiner also claimed that he had, “…met with (then Bush U.S. Secretary of State) Jim Baker and I cut a deal with him. I got, besides the $3 billion, you know they’re looking for the Jewish votes, and I’ll tell him whatever he wants to hear … Besides the $10 billion in loan guarantees which was a fabulous thing, $3 billion in foreign, in military aid, and I got almost a billion dollars in other goodies that people don’t even know about.”

    Furthermore, imagine the outcry, if hypothetically NIAC were involved in passing U.S. govt. secret documents to the Iran consulate? And contrast the relative minor coverage of the 2005 AIPAC spy scandal, in which AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman were fired by AIPAC amid an FBI investigation into whether they passed classified U.S. information received from Pentagon employee Col. Lawrence Franklin to the government of Israel. They were later indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to Israel, and Franklin received a 12 year prison prison sentence.

    Also, according to FBI files made public in federal court proceedings, AIPAC operatives including Alan Makovsky were selling highly classified policy-related documents obtained during defense briefings for passage to Israel and Turkey. These materials were used to strategize the future invasion and division of Iraq well before 9/11. Makovsky is now working for pro-Israeli think tank the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy.

    The tragedy of this AIPAC vs. NIAC/J Street affair is that it distracts the U.S. government and press from solving America’s own substantive economic, military, and domestic problems. AIPAC is largely to blame for these unnecessary ‘passionate attachment foreign influence cancers’ eroding the health of the American polity, in that it uses the large financial resources from members (and possibly Israeli govt. sources) to ‘buy’ U.S. politicians and their votes on issues related to Israel. Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group, and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990. Between the 2000 and the 2004 elections, the 50 members of AIPAC’s board donated an average of $72,000 each to campaigns and political action committees.

    In contrast to the Jewish-American lobby, Cuban-American lobby, and to a lesser extent the Armenian-American lobby, we need more more groups of ‘hyphenated-Americans’ like NIAC. In contrast to the ‘Jewish-, Cuban-. and Armenian-‘ American lobbies, which abuse the American political process to gain disproportionate sway over American elections and foreign policy, in effect holding American politics hostage – we need more education ‘hyphen-American’ groups like NIAC which stay out of politics. NIAC instead is transparent concerning their funding, and promotes educating politicians on issues pertaining to, and peaceful dialogue between their ‘hyphen-‘ of national origin & the U.S.

    In summary, America needs to return to the basics of the American Founding Fathers, we need a “Project for the OLD American Century” to work to dismantle the American empire, which not only drains our nation of blood and treasure, but tempts our millionaire presidents and Congress (of which 237 of 535 members are millionaires) to place their own financial and power-holding interests above that of the voters and also tempts them to void the Constitution.

    Thus, I close with these admonitions from President George Washington’s Farewell Address, which warns Amerians against perils of foreign influence:
    “…In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded, and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest…
    …So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation…
    …As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak toward a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter. Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens), the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests…”

  2. Timmerman hasn’t been “investigating the dark side of national security” (as his website avers), he IS a part of that dark side!

    I am continually amazed by the low level of public awareness, or at least public anger, over how much influence Israel and its supporters have over U.S. policy. Back in 1939-41, the Isolationists fretted loudly and at length about British influence in the U.S. Yet Israeli influence today far exceeds anything the British were able to achieve (yes, U.S. aid to Britain from 1940 on was huge, but keeping Hitler from dominating Europe was clearly in the U.S. interest, while aiding and abetting Israel in the Middle East clearly is not). The Isolationists had major outlets for their views, in the press and on radio. Today, major media in the U.S. largely deny anti-Israeli opinion a voice. This I think explains the low level of public anger, but why is it happening? Why aren’t American interests given at least an equal airing, or, to put it another way, why is it that American and Israeli interests are so often presented as essentially the same?

    An analagous situation prevails re China, a country that is generally treated in a most anodyne fashion in the major media – even the uprising in Tibet, though widely reported, contained almost no China-bashing. In this case one knows why: the Chinese own $6 trillion of U.S. debt. Israel, however, has no such lever to manipulate the U.S. government and media.

  3. As usual you American cultural imperialists know best. Ultimately it’s all NONE of your business and it’s up to the Iranian people…no matter what you agenda mongering ideologue westerners think, want and say.

  4. REPLY TO Beli –
    Actually the silent majority of Americans prefer to heed the advice of our Founding Fathers and avoid foreign entanglements other than peaceful commercial, educational and cultural exchanges.

    In the overall scheme of things, this vast silent American majority, who in these difficult economic times are only 2 or 3 paychecks away from bankruptcy, don’t really care about, or even know the details of, Third World travesties like the Rwandan genocide, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Balkans conflicts, terrorist attacks by Sunnis against Shias and vice versa, and so on ad infinitum…

    Thus, if every Palestinian and Israeli kill each other off down to the last man standing, or if every Sunni and Shia mosque gets blow up by internecine Islamic terrorism (what ever happened to the Al-Azhar Shia Fatwa promoting peace and unity between Sunnis and Shias?), or more recently if the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers win or lose their fight for autonomy (they lost last spring), then U.S. interests would not be affected.

    The brutal truth is that it’s a cruel world and always has been, but nonetheless, each nation’s primary duty is to take care of its own citizens and defend itself.

    In summary, besides the American Revolution there are other examples of popular uprisings against authoritarian and/or colonial authoritarianism. Thus, if millions of people in any given country are suffering under such regimes, and unless they are happy being complacent sheep, then its their own duty to organize among themselves and rebel, and then implement per their particular cultural and socio-politial background an acceptable form of government. So the majority of us Americans agree with Beli and would like for the Iranians (and Cubans and Afghans…) to solve their own problems.

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