By Maidhc Ó Cathail
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
In the course of his much-ridiculed albeit deadly serious ACME bomb speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asserted that “the medieval forces of radical Islam” stand in the way of Israel’s desire for “a Middle East of progress and peace.” As evidence of these freedom-hating, anti-modern forces supposedly “bent on world conquest,” Netanyahu cited the Sept. 11 besieging of U.S. embassies throughout the region.
The Israeli prime minister was repeating a theme he had been given the opportunity to develop earlier in an interview on prime-time American television. Addressed by NBC’s “Meet the Press” host David Gregory as “the leader of the Jewish people” (Gregory himself is Jewish), Netanyahu was asked whether he thought a “containment strategy” would work on Iran, as it had with the Soviet Union. Iran was different, Netanyahu responded, because its “rationality” could not be relied upon since it is “guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism.” To emphasize the purported threat of nuclear-armed mullahs in Tehran, the Israeli leader drew a terrifying mental picture for his American audience: “It’s the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today. You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?”
While there is much controversy about the reasons for the assaults on U.S. diplomatic missions on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, widespread Muslim outrage over a YouTube video insulting the Prophet Muhammad was clearly a factor in triggering at least some of the ensuing anti-American riots. In light of Netanyahu’s subsequent emphasis on these vivid examples of “fanaticism” to advance the narrative of an Iranian “nuclear threat” in an increasingly unstable region in which Tel Aviv remains Washington’s “one reliable ally,” it’s certainly worth exploring whether the deliberately offensive anti-Islam video may have been the work of pro-Israel provocateurs. As former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said on NBC’s “Morning Joe” regarding what position America should take toward the Muslim world, “If there are evil forces at work trying to provoke violence between us and you, we have the obligation to investigate and to crack down.”
In what appears to have been an artfully contrived red herring, initial reports did indeed point to an Israeli source of the provocative video. The Wall Street Journaland Associated Press—two media outlets often accused of pro-Israel bias—were suspiciously credulous of someone claiming to be an Israeli-American real estate developer who said he was the writer and director of “Innocence of Muslims.” This “Sam Bacile” gratuitously added that the production had been funded by “about 100 Jewish donors.” Almost immediately, the dubious story was debunked by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg—a former prison guard in the Israel Defense Forces whose reporting has at key junctures served to advance Tel Aviv’s interests—when a self-described “militant Christian activist” named Steve Klein assured him that “the State of Israel is not involved.” Absolving the Jewish state of any culpability, Klein eagerly pointed the finger at Egyptian Copts and American evangelicals. A self-satisfied Goldberg summed up the story in a tweet: “A group of Christians smearing Muslims libels Jews.”
Notwithstanding Goldberg’s terse dismissal of an Israeli connection, the Jew-libeling Christians actually turned out to have close ties to the pro-Israel Islamophobia network led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Spencer’s Jihad Watch group has been indirectly funded by Aubrey Chernick, a Los Angeles-based software security entrepreneur and former trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the influential think tank created in 1985 by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Spencer’s provocative writings on Islam are also publicized by The Gatestone Institute, whose founder and director Nina Rosenwald has held leadership positions in AIPAC and other mainstream pro-Israel organizations. In a July 2012 profile in The Nation magazine, Max Blumenthal dubbed the heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune “The Sugar Mama of Anti-Islam Hate.”
This past February, in a post on her Atlas Shrugs blog entitled “A Movie about Muhammad: An Idea whose Time Has Come,” Geller solicited funds for a film that would show “Muhammad’s raids, plunders, massacres, rapes, assassinations and other crimes.” According to the controversial pro-Israel provocateur, it was “a brilliant idea” by Ali Sina, whom she introduced as a “renowned ex-Muslim author, founder of FaithFreedom.org and SION Board member.” SION, whose similarity to Zion is hardly coincidental, stands for “Stop Islamization of Nations,” a group co-founded by Geller and Spencer which held its inaugural International World Freedom Congress in New York on Sept. 11 “to combat the Islamic supremacist war against free speech.” Ali Sina’s solicitation for funds assured readers of Geller’s blog that “given the subject matter” it could become “one of the most seen motion pictures ever.” Revealingly, he asked them, “Recall Danish cartoons?”—an earlier media-catalyzed provocation in which pro-Israel, anti-Islam propagandists such as Daniel Pipes cited freedom of speech as they incited Muslim outrage against the West.
Two years earlier, on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, Geller and her partners-in-provocation held a rally to protest the construction of an Islamic community center a few blocks from the site of the demolished World Trade Center. Among those who took part were a couple of extremist Coptic Christian activists who would later be involved in the making and distribution of “Innocence of Muslims.” Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, another Egyptian-American named Morris Sadek was filmed with a crucifix in one hand and in the other a Bible with the American flag sticking out of it, shouting “Islam is evil!”
As McClatchey reported on Sept. 15, it was Sadek who had triggered the anti-American outrage in the Muslim world with a timely phone call to an Egyptian reporter. On Sept. 4, the Washington, DC-based provocateur phoned Gamel Girgis, who covers Christian emigrants for the al Youm al Sabaa daily newspaper, to tell him about a movie he had produced. According to Girgis, Sadek wanted to screen it on Sept. 11 “to reveal what was behind the terrorists’ actions that day—Islam.”
As with most of the mainstream media’s coverage of the post-Bacile story, the McClatchey report made no mention of Morris Sadek’s ties to the Geller-Spencer Islamophobia network or his extreme pro-Israel views. On his blog dedicated to the “National American Coptic Assembly”—of which he describes himself as “a president”—Sadek provides an erratically punctuated outline of what he claims should be “The Coptic Position on Israel”:
We recognize the sacred right of the state of Israel and the Israeli people to the land of historic Israel.
“The right of Return” of the Jewish people to the land of their foremothers and forefathers is a sacred right. It has no statute of limitation. The return must continue to enrich the Middle East.
We recognize Jerusalem as simply a Jewish city, It must never be divided. She is, and shall always be, the united capital of Israel.
The future of the Palestinians lies with the Arab states. A Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria constitute an imminent danger to world peace.
The Chantilly, Virginia-based National American Coptic Assembly, Inc., a private company with a staff of two, has an estimated annual revenue of $97,000. Considering the fawning pro-Israel statements of its principal—not to mention his priceless contribution to Netanyahu’s relentless campaign to induce a U.S. attack on the “fanatics” in Tehran—it’s not too difficult to speculate as to the most likely source of that income.
Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship.