Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration to the U.S. brought an outcry from across the political spectrum. The idea that the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination could propose a policy of outright discrimination based on religion was a shock to many. But even more surprisingly, his proposal appears to have had little if any impact on his poll numbers, where he still holds more than a 10-point lead over Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in second place. The roots of Trump’s Islamophobia, and the willingness of the GOP electorate to accept such a proposal, lie in a mainstream acceptance, if not support, of Islamophobia.
Surprisingly, the Jewish Communal Fund (JCF), based in New York City, bears a degree of responsibility for funding some of the most high-profile propagators of Islamophobia.
The JCF is a donor-advised fund, which allows donors to deposit money and receive an immediate federal income tax deduction. Then the group directs the funds to eligible non-profit organizations at the donors’ direction. But JCF won’t send money just anywhere. Their handbook warns that “all grant recommendations are nonbinding.” Moreover,
the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Communal Fund retains the right to deny any grant request where the purposes and activities of the recommended charitable organization are deemed to be adverse to the interests of the Jewish community.
Last month, I wrote in The Forward about JCF’s funding of well-known anti-Muslim advocate Pamela Geller. She is perhaps best known for running anti-Muslim advertisements on public busses, including one that read “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran.” Between 2012 and 2013, the JCF contributed $100,000 to her organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
But JCF’s funding of Islamophobia isn’t limited to Geller. An examination of the grants listed in JCF tax filings from 2001 to 2013 reveals approximately $1.5 million going to groups that largely exist to spread Islamophobic and anti-Muslim messages.
Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism
Between 2006 and 2013, the JCF contributed $477,190 to The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a group headed up by Steve Emerson. Emerson is best known for several high-profile gaffs following terrorist attacks. Earlier this year, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, Emerson inaccurately claimed that the city of Birmingham, England was a “Muslim-only city” where non-Muslims “don’t go,” leading British Prime Minister David Cameron to call Emerson “a complete idiot.”
This was just the latest in Emerson’s missteps. In 2013, he inaccurately said that the Boston Marathon bombings were perpetrated by “a Saudi national” and, when his assertion was proven false, claimed that the authorities were covering up the Saudi role. And in 1995, Emerson told CBS News that the Oklahoma City federal building bombing had a “Middle Eastern trait” because it was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.”
David Horowitz Freedom Center
Between 2005 and 2013, the JCF contributed $250,020 to the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Horowitz argues that the U.S. is facing a growing danger of “Islamo-fascism” and expresses a special vitriol for Palestinians, who he describes as “sick, nasty terrorists” who “can’t live alongside anybody who’s not… Muslim.”
In a National Review column last year, titled “Thank you, ISIS,” Horowitz asserted that “virtually every major Muslim organization in America is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the fountainhead of Islamic terror.” He went on to accuse Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of coming “from a family of Muslim Brotherhood leaders” and concluded by suggesting that Barack Obama is aligned with the Islamic world to destroy America. He wrote:
[U]nfortunately, the president is still asleep or, less charitably, is hostile to American purposes, is hostile to the military that defends us, and identifies more with the Islamic world that has produced these forces who would destroy us than with the country he is sworn to defend.
Daniel Pipes’s Middle East Forum
Between 2001 and 2013, the JCF contributed $659,060 to Daniel Pipes’s Middle East Forum. In the Washington Times last Friday, Pipes criticized Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims, but only to suggest that Trump got his wording wrong. Pipes wrote that Trump should have called for a ban on “Islamists” instead of “Muslims” because “they are the barbarians who ‘believe only in Jihad.’”
Pipes has a long history of making Islamophobic and anti-Muslim comments. In 2010, Pipes attacked Obama for speaking out against Florida Pastor Terry Jones’s plan to burn copies of the Quran, an act that senior Pentagon officials and the White House feared could lead to violence against Americans in the Middle East.
“Mr. Obama, in effect, enforced Islamic law, a precedent that could lead to other forms of compulsory Shariah compliance,” wrote Pipes.
And Pipes’s concern about Muslim immigration, coupled with blanket generalizations about Muslim immigrants, is a common thread through his writing. In his 2002 book, Militant Islam Reaches America, Pipes wrote:
All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most. Also, they appear most resistant to assimilation. Elements among the Pakistanis in Britain, Algerians in France, and Turks in German seek to turn the host country into a Islamic society by compelling it to adapt to their way of life.”
Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy
In 2001, the JCF contributed $10,000 to Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, which conducted a poll cited by Donald Trump that showed 25% of American Muslims agreed that violence against Americans is justified. But that poll had some serious problems. It was an opt-in survey of 600 Muslims, a fact Gaffney’s group didn’t disclose when it first released the poll. Opt-in is a style of polling that the American Association for Public Opinion Research warns is “subject to unknown error that cannot be measured.”
In 2011, Gaffney was banned from attending the Conservative Political Action Conference after accusing two of the event’s organizers – former George W. Bush administration official Suhail Khan and anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist – of being Muslim Brotherhood operatives.
Although JCF’s $10,000 contribution to Gaffney might seem small, the Middle East Forum, with its $659,060 in funding from JCF, has also been a generous supporter of Gaffney’s work. Between 2008 and 2012, Middle East Forum contributed $300,000 to the Center for Security Policy, according to publicly available tax filings.
The $1.5 Million Question That JCF Won’t Answer
JCF’s contributions to these groups raise questions about whether the fund—or the UJA-Federation of New York, which holds a “controlling financial interest” in JCF, according to UJA-Federation’s auditor’s report—are endorsing the statements and positions taken by Geller, Emerson, Horowitz, Gaffney, and Pipes.
JCF claims to retain “the right to deny any grant request where the purposes and activities of the recommended charitable organization are deemed to be adverse to the interests of the Jewish community.” Does that mean that the fund’s trustees believe that grants to anti-Muslim groups are beneficial to the interests of the Jewish community?
I called the Jewish Communal Fund to seek clarification. I was transferred to a spokeswoman who interrupted me after I introduced myself, saying, “I’ll have to call you back.” She abruptly hung up—and never called back.