by Marsha B. Cohen
The Forward recently released its annual list of top-earning heads of Jewish non-profit organizations and the results of an independent analysis revealing not only that they earned more than the top leadership of non-Jewish nonprofits, but that several were egregiously overpaid.
Not noted by the analysts is that most of them spend a considerable portion of their time clamoring for more and stricter sanctions against Iran, something that has little to do with their stated organizational mission statements that include social justice, equality, human rights, and the well-being of the Jewish people.
Several of these de facto Iran sanctions lobbyists earn more than the President of the United States ($400,000 per year). Five earn over half a million dollars a year.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), #2 on the Forward list, was paid $751,054 in 2012. Hier was ranked “by far the most overpaid CEO” according to the Forward‘s Salary Survey, earning more than twice what a head of an organization the size of SWC is expected to make. The Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance opened in 2003 “to challenge visitors to confront bigotry and racism and to understand the Holocaust in both historic and contemporary contexts.” But illustrating the old adage that “when you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” Hier has been in the forefront of promoting analogies between contemporary Iran and Nazi Germany. Amid warnings that a 2006 rumor that Jews in Iran would be forced to wear yellow badges was untrue, Hier’s corroboration of its veracity reportedly served as the basis for the Canadian National Post publishing the bogus claim as though it were fact. (Jim Lobe was among the first to spot and discredit the National Post story, leading to its retraction.)
Hier has repeatedly denounced the idea of negotiations with Iran, mocked Iranian leaders, and accused Iran of emulating North Korea in its negotiations with the 6 world powers known as the P5+1. He has also placed the SWC in the forefront of opposition to a negotiated deal with Iran and in favor of imposing new sanctions as soon as possible.
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is #5 on the list with a 2012 salary of $688,280. Forward‘s Salary Survey found Foxman to be overpaid by 70%. The National Director of the ADL since 1987, Foxman has been accused in recent years of diverting the ADL from its self-described mission of fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry in the U.S. and abroad to putting the ADL “firmly on the side of bigotry and intolerance.” From dabbling briefly in Islamophobia during the Park 51 “Ground Zero Mosque” debate three years ago to the detriment of his organization, Foxman has since attempted to redeem himself by climbing on the Iran sanctions bandwagon.
After what was supposed to be an unpublicized meeting between the White House and the heads of prominent hawkish Jewish groups, Foxman, who was among them, seemed to confirm reports that Jewish organizational leaders, himself included, were willing to take a “time out” from vigorously campaigning for new and more crushing Iran sanctions. Less than two weeks later, however,Foxman blasted the Obama administration for an agreement Foxman claimed would not only roll back the sanctions regime prematurely but also “legitimize Iran as a threshold nuclear state.” While he said he wanted to give the Obama administration “a chance to demonstrate that they could make real progress on this issue,” Foxman took issue with “some of the points of the tentative agreement to be acted upon November 20 in Geneva.” Refraining from enacting additional sanctions was a “luxury” the U.S. did not have,” Foxman said.
On Dec. 6 Foxman told Haaretz that he was embarrassed “by how our government has accepted the threats of blackmail by the Iranians against even discussing new sanctions.” Berating the Obama administration’s “hysterical” reaction to the prospect of new anti-Iran sanctions, Foxman fumed, “I would have liked them to tell Tehran: we are a democracy, and you can’t tell our legislators or us what we can or cannot discuss.” Foxman has never expressed criticism of Israeli leaders for telling Americans and U.S. legislators what they may and may not discuss. On Thursday, Foxman came out in strong support of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act which the White House has vowed to veto.
Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) since 1990 (#7), received a salary of $563,372 in 2012, an overpayment of 93% according to the Salary Survey. A cursory glance at the RJC website reveals the organization’s vitriol against Iran diplomacy and Democrats, foremost among them President Obama. Several times a week the RJC sends out e-mails touting the need for more sanctions and skewering the notion of any diplomatic approach to Iran. The RJC’s Chairman of the Board of Directors is multi-billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who recently proposed that the U.S. attack Iran with nuclear weapons.
Howard Kohr, the Executive Director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) since 1996 and its CEO since 2013 (#8), pocketed at least $556,232 in 2012 from AIPAC, and, according to AIPAC’s IRS 990, $184,410 in additional compensation. While the public face and voice of AIPAC is usually its president (a philanthropic board of directors activist chosen for a two-year term), it is Kohr who actually runs the organization.
During Kohr’s 17-year tenure, “the Iranian threat” moved to the forefront of the AIPAC policy agenda. AIPAC was a driving force behind the formative Iran Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 and has claimed credit for the passage of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act in 2009. In 2011, Kohr dismissed the “the Arab Spring” as a diversion and called upon AIPAC activists to refocus members of Congress on the centrality of the Iran issue. In June 2012, AIPAC declared the talks between Iran and the P5+1 a failure and demanded the acceleration of “crippling economic sanctions” by Congress.
AIPAC has since maintained its support for tightening sanctions, notwithstanding the historic Nov. 24 interim agreement between Iran and world powers. An AIPAC Policy Memo issued on Nov. 25 insisted that Iran should not be allowed any uranium enrichment capability whatsoever — a non-starter for Iran. It also demanded that Congress press the administration to fully enforce existing sanctions, prohibit any increase in Iranian oil sales, limit the repatriation of Iranian funds to $3-4 billion, sanction companies attempting to re-engage with Iran’s economy, and closely monitor humanitarian aid destined for Iran.
Kohr recently suggested that AIPAC could back away from confronting the Obama administration on sanctions and instead direct its energies toward shaping the terms of the final deal with Iran. Nevertheless, two of AIPAC’s favorite senators from both parties, Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), are at this moment actively working with AIPAC to push for new sanctions, notwithstanding the warnings by the Obama administration that additional sanctions will violate the interim accord and put the entire diplomatic process at risk. In the House, Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Eric Cantor (R-VA), both among the top recipients of largess from AIPAC-linked pro-Israel PACs, have also threatened to impose new sanctions on Iran, though Hoyer appears to have acquiesced to appeals from the administration to hold off for now (see Jim Lobe’s recent piece).
AIPAC also pays $466,912 salary to Vice CEO Richard Fishman, who was managing director until 2013. Fishman also serves as executive director of the America Israel Educational Foundation (AIEF), a tax exempt organization that brings members of Congress on “educational” junkets to Israel.
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for the past 23 years (#11), also tops the half million mark with a salary of $504,445. Iran has also moved to the center stage of the AJC’s agenda in recent years. Harris’s niche in a crowded field is alleged Iranian support for terrorism. On Jul. 1, a few weeks after Hassan Rouhani was elected as Iran’s new President, Harris charged that Rouhani was implicated in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires; this was more than a week after Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor in the AMIA case, had informed Times of Israel editor David Horovitz that Rouhani was neither under indictment nor accused of any involvement. Harris was the first of Jewish head honchos invited to the White House in late October to deny that any agreement had been reached with Jewish groups about lessening their pressure for sanctions.