Could Ground-Zero Mosque’s Backers Be Worse Than AIPAC’s?

Former American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffer M.J. Rosenberg told the Israel lobby to “pull the plug” on activities fanning the “anti-Muslim explosion that has seized this country over the past month.” The former insider charges organizations such as AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and assorted neocon outfits with having “set the stage” for hysteria by demonizing Muslims in the name of “advancing their Middle East Agenda.” This strategy has been decades in the making.

Many in the mainstream media play roles assigned by the lobby long ago. Glenn Beck consulted missile-defense-advocate-turned-expert-on-Islam Frank Gaffney to answer key questions about the planned Islamic center. “Who are the people behind this?” “Where are they getting the funding?” These are valid questions that can also be asked of AIPAC. Files from a newly declassified investigation into pro-Israel lobbying in the U.S. released by the National Archives and Records Administration on July 23, 2010, reveal some very unsettling answers.

Does the “Ground Zero Mosque” have a budding “father of the atomic bomb” backing it, or an aspiring proliferator such as A.Q. Khan? AIPAC certainly does. According to Israel and the Bomb author Avner Cohen, in 1958 Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion secretly designated Democratic Party fundraiser Abraham Feinberg to be the key “benedictor” for organizing and raising private American donor funding for the clandestine Israeli nuclear weapons program – in direct opposition to the sitting U.S. president’s nuclear non-proliferation drive. In 1960 Feinberg began a series of payments [.pdfs] to AIPAC, then only recently renamed [.pdf] from the American Zionist Council for Public Affairs, the lobbying division of the American Zionist Council (AZC). In return, the AZC helpfully ran U.S. publicity [.pdf] promoting Dimona as a peaceful research facility rather than a nuclear weapons production site.

AIPAC founder Isaiah L. Kenen penned an article called “No Bombs Possible” in his AZC-subsidized [.pdf] Nov. 2, 1961, Near East Report newsletter to Congress and activists. Kenen wrote, “Meanwhile, many asked whether the Israel reactor could really produce sufficient plutonium, a nuclear weapon component, to construct a bomb. Science editor William L. Laurence of the New York Times deflated these reports, on Dec. 25, when he wrote that ‘the plutonium produced in a small nuclear reactor of 24,000 thermal kilowatts is very minute indeed … and ‘completely useless for bomb material.’ The basic facts, if fully understood, would make it clear why only great industrial nations, particularly the United States and Soviet Russia, can be full-fledged members of the ‘atomic club.'”

AIPAC and Feinberg’s well-financed Dimona PR deception, boosted by overseas funding, was a complete success in fooling the American public. Today mainstream news pundits advance theories that the “Ground Zero” mosque could be all “mobbed up” with crime family or wise guy funding through unknown and murky international hawalas. It’s an effective strategy, because such ties are usually hard to verify.

Thanks to the passage of time, AIPAC’s own ties are not.

Mob accountant Meyer Lansky’s associate Aaron Weisberg was a Las Vegas investor who testified reluctantly in the tax-evasion case of notorious mobster Joseph “Doc” Stacher. Beginning in 1955, Weisberg provided many rounds of AIPAC startup funding at $500 a throw straight [.pdfs] from the Sands Casino, which he partially owned. According to E. Parry Thomas, who helped clean up Las Vegas by forcing all shadowy backers to stand before casino licensing boards, “Aaron Weisberg had 20 [percent] and he probably owned only half of it [the Sands] because he was Meyer Lansky’s man. This went on everyplace.”

But Weisberg was small potatoes next to John Factor (a.k.a. Iakov Faktorowicz) known to friends and enemies alike as “Jake the Barber.” Factor shaved English investors of an estimated $8 million through stock frauds. In the U.S. he colluded with Al Capone to fake his own kidnapping in order to frame and take down a rival. Like Weisberg, Jake the Barber became a “straw buyer” for a Chicago criminal ring’s purchase of the Stardust Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Factor’s infamy was well known by the time AIPAC eagerly swept up [.pdf] the Barber’s $1,000 investment late in 1959. It may have been a winning bet. Just before his immanent extradition from the U.S., Factor received a rushed, mysterious presidential pardon on Dec. 24, 1962, from John F. Kennedy.

Today, pundit Lanny Davis demands “transparency” from the “Ground Zero” mosque’s leader, Imam Rauf. Davis noted that he “has refused to repudiate Hamas as a terrorist organization.” But what of the AIPAC’s shadowy arms-smuggling donor and the ties of its founder?

When three trucks containing 80 tons of highly explosive WWII surplus cyclonite blocks along with a cache of 5,200 U.S. Navy combat knives were seized in New York by police in 1948, it quickly became apparent it was a clandestine illegal shipment bound for Jewish fighters in Palestine. The size, scale, and front companies of the Haganah smuggling network [.pdf], organized in direct violation of U.S. arms embargoes and the War Assets Administration, are only slowly emerging into the history books. Zimel Resnick bailed his captured business associate out of jail after this key front company operative running 199 tons of explosives was caught. Running with arms smugglers apparently paid off. By 1956, AIPAC began locking and loading [.pdf] Resnick contributions twice the size of Weisberg’s quarterly contributions from the Sands.

And what of AIPAC’s founder?

A recently declassified 1970 file [.pdf] held by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and reluctantly released under Freedom of Information Act appeals about the foreign agent activities Isaiah L. Kenen reveals he may have been an “insider source” for information about the Jewish Defense League. This intel was stove-piped directly to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Secret Service, and the attorney general. The redacted documents are unclear about whether the JDL’s activities targeting the Soviet Union were considered at the time to be those of an ally, target, or dangerous nuisance. The value of AIPAC’s role as an FBI source on the JDL seems to have been short-lived, even during the Cold War. By the mid-1980s, as the Jonathan Pollard spy affair was breaking, AIPAC itself was moved back from the “asset” to “liability” column as a domestic espionage target, while a Department of Energy study concluded, “For more than a decade, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) has been one of the most active terrorist groups in the United States. … Since 1968, JDL operations have killed 7 persons and wounded at least 22.”

There is no record that Isaiah Kenen ever repudiated the JDL.

Thanks to the long-term PR efforts of AIPAC, its executive committee organizations, and captured departments of U.S. government agencies, Muslims are fast becoming one of the most reviled, targeted, and disenfranchised groups in America. Hard-liners in the Israel lobby want to replace the Soviet Union with another fearsome enemy the U.S. and Israel can appear to “ally against.” That’s why all Americans should review the Israel lobby’s own troubling past before clambering aboard its freshly painted anti-Islamic bandwagons.

Many important questions about AIPAC remain to be answered.

The U.S. Department of Justice still has no response to public concerns about why the lobbying division of an organization it secretly ordered to register [.pdf] as a foreign agent in 1962 has been allowed to continue engaging in illegal activities in concert with a foreign government. The IRS is at long last beginning to question the false claims of Israeli “charity” fronts principally set up (like their Haganah network forebears) to launder tax-deductible donations into West Bank settlement building and other illegal endeavors. The IRS would do well to review the tax status of the core enabling organization still engaging in precisely the kinds of activities one might expect from such mezzanine-level funding.