BY: MARIKA ANNUNZIATA
James Anthony Kleinfeld, a British Jewish graduate student at Oxford University, became quickly involved in the most renowned US organizations pro-Israel. He was recruited by “The Israel Project”, which is responsible for the promotion of Israel’s image in the mass media. Welcomed with open arms due to his professional capabilities, he rubbed shoulders with the major players of those associations working unconditionally to defend the cause of Jewish “ethnocracy”, including the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He gained the trust of his interlocutors and their counterparts and their confidence was shocking.
How, he asked, did they go about influencing the US Congress? “Congressmen don’t do anything unless you pressure them, and the only way to do that is with money.” How did they counter Palestinian rights activists on university campuses? “With the anti-Israel people, what’s most effective, what we found at least in the last year, is you do the opposition research, put up some anonymous website, and then put up targeted Facebook ads.”
With even greater candor Kleinfeld’s contacts confessed to him that they were spying on US citizens with the help of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. It was founded in 2006 and has since reported directly to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. One official said “we are a different government working on foreign soil and we have to be very, very cautious.”
At the end of Kleinfeld’s internship at The Israel Project, he was offered a permanent position by his supervisor Eric Gallagher, but ‘Tony’ turned down the job. While his skills and qualifications were undeniable, he was of course an undercover reporter sent by Al Jazeera to investigate the pro-Israel lobby influence within the United States government. He filmed and recorded shocking conversations using a hidden camera and with the help of the Al Jazeera’s investigations team, he pieced together the ingredients of a sensational quest.
In 2017, Al Jazeera already published a detailed report on the pro-Israel lobby in the United Kingdom revealing the Israeli government’s involvement in Britain’s internal affairs and the pressure to dismiss Deputy Foreign Secretary Alan Duncan, who was allegedly pro-Palestinian (“The Lobby”).
The new documentary was expected to be a media event, but the debut of the survey on Al Jazeera channels was postponed since, without any official explanation. Different articles in the US Jewish media revealed that it would never be aired on Al Jazeera. Clayton Swisher, the Qatari media director of investigative journalism, vented his chagrin at the decision and announced his decision to take a sabbatical leave. “We made a documentary exposing the “Israel lobby”. Why hasn’t it run?” was published one month later.
Allegedly, Al Jazeera’s investigation had been sacrificed for the “greater good”- the squabble between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to obtain US support during the diplomatic crisis that began in June 2017. Then why not try to win the favor of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States and their influence on US policy in the Middle East?
For that reason, Qatar reportedly postponed the broadcast, winning a halt to the campaign against Doha by the Zionist Organization of America. The President of ZOA, Morton Klein, flew to Doha, where he stated was delighted to see the documentary buried. Pressure groups such as the Zionist Organization of America, who historically accused Qatar of funding Hamas and terrorism, agreed to alter the course of their politics in exchange for the documentary being set aside, hinting at the real burden of its revelations.
Either way, not everyone at Al Jazeera was willing to relegate the work of the investigative team to oblivion.
On February 15th, 2018, journalist Max Blumenthal pointed out on Twitter that the Israeli lobby flatly refused to discuss the results of the investigation comparing Al Jazeera’s investigative journalism to espionage, further discrediting Al Jazeera by dismissing it as a puppet of the Qatari government and insisting that the documentary’s subject was ‘the Jewish lobby’ rather than the pressure groups’ support for Israel. Thus, it avoided any discussion of the details of the documentary’s disclosure. Noah Pollak, the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, summarizing the line adopted by the Israeli lobby, said to a gathering of pro-Israel students: “You discredit the messenger as a way of discrediting the message. When you talk about BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), founded in 2005, you talk about them as a hate group, as a movement that absolutely endorses violence against civilians.
To discredit the messenger, as the documentary reveals, the pro-Israel lobby has built up an espionage network over the last few years to gather information on opponents’ private lives, careers and political convictions. These campaigns, based on personal information gathered about US citizens, would have not been possible without the resources of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Sima Vaknin-Gil, the Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is shown in the documentary saying “the fact that the Israeli government decided to be a key player means a lot because we can bring competencies that NGOs or civilian entities involved don’t have. We are the only actor of the pro-Israel network that can fill the gaps. We’ve got the budget and we can bring things to the table that are quite different.”
The truth is the play around the documentary goes back to the 2017 Gulf crisis. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, supported by the Egypt and later by Jordan, enforced an embargo on Doha that included thirteen demands, ranging from downgrading diplomatic relations with Iran, expelling Iranian military representatives from Qatar and limiting economic cooperation, to shutting down Al Jazeera and all affiliated stations, shutting down the Turkish military base under construction in Qatar and ceasing all relations with known and suspected terrorist groups, among the others, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brothers.
Despite rejecting the accusations and list of demands, in the months that followed the ultimatum, Qatar began to waver. Saudi Arabia even discussed the possibility of invading the smaller emirate, backed by US President Donald Trump’s stance against Doha.
In this tense context, Qatar decided to embark on a diplomatic and public relations offensive against Washington; its main target: the conservative circle closer to Donald Trump, which includes the pro-Israel lobby. Over the past year, Qatar managed to push back the hazards, which threatened its government’s autonomy and kept its opponents on the defensive.
Although every effort now seems to be smiling upon Israel, Qatar’s American supporters, despite all their resources, are getting nervous. What will be the price that diplomatic relations will pay?
Marika Annunziata holds a Master’s Degree in law from LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome with a main concentration in European and international law. Marika is currently a trainee attorney and is studying in order to further pursue diplomatic career in Italy.
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