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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Philos Project

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The Philos Project, an advocacy organization that was founded with support from right-wing “pro-Israel” donors like Paul Singer,[1] purports to “promote positive Christian engagement in the Middle East.”[2] The group’s advocacy on behalf of Christian initiatives often dovetails with its promotion of hawkish U.S. policies in the Middle East.[3] The group appears to have been launched in late 2014. The earliest publication on its website dates to October 2014, an article penned by Robert Nicholson, an ardently "pro-Israel" evangelical Christian who serves as Philo’s executive director.[4]

Commented one critic shortly after Philos was launched: “The Philos Project stands as an object lesson in the eagerness with which neoconservatives try to create the perception that their views are shared by a vast, diverse constituency, which in this case is warning Christians about the imperial designs of Iran and the dangers of a nuclear deal between it and the P5+1.”[5]

Philos declares its aims as being in part to revive an “intellectually rigorous Christian approach to foreign policy, especially as it relates to the Middle East” and to educate “Christians on the theological, historical, and political issues surrounding Israel and the Jewish people.”[6]

The Philos Project’s activities include fully-funded trips to Israel for young Christians in order to “educate and empower a new generation of Christian leaders to facilitate long-term change in the Middle East.”[7] The group also has an “article digest” section on its website which features pieces by Philos writers which, among other things, argue for the use of U.S. ground troops against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria,[8] defend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,[9] and criticize efforts to reach a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear dispute.[10]

The group has also purchased advertisements on Twitter that warn about alleged threats from Iran. According to one tweet issued in early 2015: “Iran is known to sponsor #terrorism. Iran wants a nuclear bomb. What could possible go wrong? #StopIran.”[11]

Philo’s executive director, Robert Nicholson, has staunchly opposed the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. He wrote in March 2015: “If United States wants to preserve any shred of moral authority in global affairs, we must act swiftly and decisively to halt Iranian aggression. We must vehemently oppose any deal that allows Iran to get anywhere near nuclear weaponization.”[12]

Nicholson also writes for a number of rightist “pro-Israel” outlets like Mosaic and the Seth Klarman-founded Times of Israel. In a 2013 piece for Mosaic, he described his support for Israel. “Rather than just another religious or national grouping, I see the Jews as a community appointed to play a special role in the cosmic order,” he opined, “so long as evangelicals and Jews share an interest in protecting Israel, they should, despite their perfectly appropriate differences, do everything they can to build a strategic alliance based on the mutual imperative of defending the world’s only Jewish state against those who would seek to destroy it and those all too ready to lend a helping or acquiescent hand.”[13]

In a December 2013 Times of Israel op-ed, Nicholson also linked what he referred to as “today’s widespread opposition to Israel” to “deep-seated dislike for the Jewish people” and “opposition to the Judeo-Christian moral order.” He added: “Many secular humanists and members of other religions are resentful of the dominance that this moral order maintains, and believe it to be the root cause of all the world’s problems. For them, the State of Israel symbolizes the continuing stranglehold of Judeo-Christian values on humanity, and, as such, they long for Israel—and anything else connected to biblical religion—to be extinguished from the earth.”[14]

Funding and Supporters

The Philos Project has close associations with a number of neoconservative activists, including Foreign Policy Initiative co-founder and former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq Dan Senor, who sits on the group’s board of directors. A March 2015 report also revealed that hardline “pro-Israel” billionaire Paul Singer is a “core funder” of Philos.[15]

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Sources

[1] For more on the projects supported by the Paul Singer Foundation, see “Jewish Funders Network International Conference,” March 16-19, https://jfn2015.pathable.com/organizations/168484.

[2] Philos Project, “About.” http://philosproject.org/about/.

[3] Eli Clifton, “The Jewish Billionaire Behind a New Christian Anti-Iran Group,” LobeLog, March 6, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/the-jewish-billionaire-behind-a-new-christian-anti-iran-group/.

[4] “Beyond the Giants,” Philos Project, October 21, 2014, Robert Nicholson, http://philosproject.org/beyond-the-giants/.

[5] Eli Clifton, “The Jewish Billionaire Behind a New Christian Anti-Iran Group,” LobeLog, March 6, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/the-jewish-billionaire-behind-a-new-christian-anti-iran-group/.

[6] Philos Project, “About.” http://philosproject.org/about/.

[7] Philos Project, “Leadership Institute,” http://philosproject.org/pli/.

[8] Earl Tilford, “Three Lessons for Winning Against ISIS,” Philos Project, March 16, 2015, http://philosproject.org/three-lessons-for-winning-against-isis/

[9] Jim Fletcher, “How Bibi Sees the World,” Philos Project, March 11, 2015, http://philosproject.org/bibi-sees-world/.

[10] Jessica Own Payne, “Why is the Iran Deal a Bad Deal?” Philos Project, March 9, 2015, http://philosproject.org/why-is-the-iran-deal-a-bad-deal/.

[11] Eli Clifton, “The Jewish Billionaire Behind a New Christian Anti-Iran Group,” LobeLog, March 6, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/the-jewish-billionaire-behind-a-new-christian-anti-iran-group/.

[12] Robert Nicholson, “Why We Should Worry About Iran,” Philos Project, March 2, 2015, http://philosproject.org/worry-iran/.

[13] Robert Nicholson, “Evangelicals and Israel,” Mosaic, October 6, 2013, http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2013/10/evangelicals-and-israel/.

[14] Robert Nicholson, “Four reasons to hate the Jewish state,” The Times of Israel, December 20, 2013,http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/four-reasons-to-hate-the-jewish-state/.

[15] Eli Clifton, “The Jewish Billionaire Behind a New Christian Anti-Iran Group,” LobeLog, March 6, 2015, http://www.lobelog.com/the-jewish-billionaire-behind-a-new-christian-anti-iran-group/.

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Philos Project Résumé

Contact

The Philos Project

79 Madison Ave 7th Floor

New York, NY 10016

Founded

2014

Mission Statement

“The Philos Project seeks to promote positive Christian engagement in the Middle East by: proclaiming friendship with those in the region who support liberty and justice for all peoples; reviving an intellectually rigorous Christian approach to foreign policy, especially as it relates to the Middle East; educating Christians on the theological, historical, and political issues surrounding Israel and the Jewish people; and empowering the church to advocate for real peace in tangible ways.”

Key Staff

  • Robert Nicholson: Executive Director
  • Luke Moon: Deputy Director

Board of Directors

  • Richard Land
  • Mark Tooley
  • Dan Senor

Related:

Philos Project News Feed


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