A Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff once said: ‘If the American people understood what a grip Israel has on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens certainly don’t have any idea what goes on’… An attack on a U.S. Navy ship… Top officials in a secretive office in the Treasury Department… A U.S. ambassador and his senior assistant… Wars for Israel… Where does it all end?
By Philip Giraldi, Council for the National Interest
Referring to Israel during an interview in August 1983, U.S. Navy Admiral and former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Thomas Moorer said “I’ve never seen a President — I don’t care who he is — stand up to them. It just boggles the mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn’t writing anything down. If the American people understood what a grip these people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens certainly don’t have any idea what goes on.”
Moorer was speaking generally but he had something specific in mind, namely the June 8, 1967, Israeli attack on the American intelligence ship, U.S.S. Liberty, which killed 34 American crewmen and wounded 174 more. The ship was operating in international waters and was displaying a huge stars and stripes but Israeli warplanes, which had identified the vessel as American, even strafed the life rafts to kill those who were fleeing the sinking ship. It was the bloodiest attack on a U.S. Naval vessel ever outside of wartime and the crew deservedly received the most medals every awarded to a single ship based on one action. Yes, it is one hell of a story of courage under fire, but don’t hold your breath waiting for Hollywood to make a movie out of it.
President Lyndon B. Johnson had ordered the recall of U.S. carrier planes sent to aid the stricken vessel, saying that he would prefer the ship go to the bottom rather than embarrass his good friend Israel. Then came the cover-up from inside the U.S. government. A hastily convened and summarily executed board of inquiry headed by Admiral John McCain, father of the senator, deliberately interviewed only a handful of crewmen before determining that it was all an accident. The sailors who had survived the attack as well as crewmen from Navy ships that arrived eventually to provide assistance were held incommunicado in Malta before being threatened and sworn to secrecy. Since that time, repeated attempts to convene another genuine inquiry have been rebuffed by congress, the White House and the Pentagon [and the media]. Recently deceased Senator John McCain was particularly active in rejecting overtures from the Liberty survivors.
Israeli spying gets Israel $10 billion
The Liberty story demonstrates how Israel’s ability to make the United States government act against its own interests has been around for a long time. Grant Smith of IRMEP, cites how Israeli spying carried out by AIPAC in Washington back in the mid-1980s resulted in a lopsided trade agreement that currently benefits Israel by more than $10 billion per year on the top of direct grants from the U.S. Treasury and billions in tax exempt “charitable” donations by American Jews.
If Admiral Moorer were still alive, I would have to tell him that the situation vis-à-vis Israeli power is much worse now than it was in 1983. He would be very interested in reading a remarkable bit of research recently completed by Smith demonstrating exactly how Israel and its friends work from inside the system to corrupt our political process and make the American government work in support of Jewish state interests. He describes in some detail how the Israel Lobby has been able to manipulate the law enforcement community to protect and promote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s agenda.
Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence: safeguarding Israel’s interests
A key component in the Israeli penetration of the U. S. government has been President George W. Bush’s 2004 signing off on the creation of the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (OTFI) within the Department of the Treasury. The group’s website proclaims that it is responsible for “safeguarding the financial system against illicit use and combating rogue nations, terrorist facilitators, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators, money launderers, drug kingpins, and other national security threats,” but it has from its founding been really all about safeguarding Israel’s perceived interests. Grant Smith notes however, how “the secretive office has a special blind spot for major terrorism generators, such as tax-exempt money laundering from the United States into illegal Israeli settlements and proliferation financing and weapons technology smuggling into Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons complex.
The first head of the office was Undersecretary of Treasury Stuart Levey, who operated secretly within the Treasury itself while also coordinating regularly both with the Israeli government as well as with pro-Israel organizations like AIPAC, WINEP and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Levey also traveled regularly to Israel on the taxpayer’s dime, as did his three successors in office.
Levey left OTFI in 2011 and was replaced by David Cohen. It was reported then and subsequently that counterterrorism positions at OTFI were all filled by individuals who were both Jewish and Zionist. Cohen continued the Levey tradition of resisting any transparency regarding what the office was up to. Smith reports how, on September 12, 2012, he refused to answer reporter questions “about Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, and whether sanctioning Iran, a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, over its internationally-inspected civilian nuclear program was an example of endemic double standards at OTFI.
[Editor’s note: Cohen has been close to Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz and his family from high school. “He practically lived in my house,” Dershowitz says. Dershowitz got Cohen his first job – working for the prominent Washington attorney Nathan Lewin.]
Adam Szubin and Sigal Pearl Mandelker
Cohen was in turn succeeded in 2015 by Adam Szubin who was then replaced in 2017 by Sigal Pearl Mandelker, a former and possibly current Israeli citizen. All of the heads of OTFI have therefore been Jewish and Zionist. All work closely with the Israeli government, all travel to Israel frequently on “official business” and they all are in close liaison with the Jewish groups most often described as part of the Israel Lobby. And the result has been that many of the victims of OTFI have been generally enemies of Israel, as defined by Israel and America’s Jewish lobbyists. OTFI’s Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List (SDN), which includes sanctions and enforcement options , features many Middle Eastern Muslim and Christian names and companies but nothing in any way comparable relating to Israel and Israelis, many of whom are well known to law enforcement otherwise as weapons traffickers and money launderers . And once placed on the SDN there is no transparent way to be removed, even if the entry was clearly in error.
Here in the United States, action by OTFI has meant that Islamic charities have been shut down and individuals exercising their right to free speech through criticism of the Jewish state have been imprisoned. If the Israel Anti-Boycott Act succeeds in making its way through congress the OTFI model will presumably become the law of the land when it comes to curtailing free speech whenever Israel is involved.
The OTFI story is outrageous, but it is far from unique. There is a history of American Jews closely attached to Israel being promoted by powerful and cash rich domestic lobbies to act on behalf of the Jewish state. To be sure, Jews who are Zionists are vastly overrepresented in all government agencies that have anything at all to do with the Middle East and one can reasonably argue that the Republican and Democratic Parties are in the pockets of Jewish billionaires named Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban.
Neocons pushed Iraq War, now target Iran
Neoconservatives, most of whom are Jewish, infiltrated the Pentagon under the Reagan Administration and they and their heirs in government and media (Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol) were major players in the catastrophic war with Iraq, which, one of the architects of that war, Philip Zelikow, described in 2004 as being all about Israel. The same people are now in the forefront of urging war with Iran. [More info on neocons pushing Iraq war is here]
American policy towards the Middle East is largely being managed by a small circle of Orthodox Jews working for presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. One of them, David Friedman, is currently U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer who has no diplomatic or foreign policy credentials, is a Zionist Jew who is also a supporter of the illegal settlements on the West Bank and a harsh critic of other Jews who in any way disagree with the Israeli government. He has contributed money to settlement construction, which would be illegal if OTFI were doing its job, and has consistently defended the settlers while condemning the Palestinians in speeches in Israel.
He endlessly and ignorantly repeats Israeli government talking points and has tried to change the wording of State Department communications, seeking to delete the word “occupied” when describing Israel’s control of the West Bank. His humanity does not extend beyond his Jewishness, defending the Israeli shooting thousands of unarmed Gazan protesters and the bombing of schools, hospitals and cultural centers. How he represents the United States and its citizens who are not dual nationals must be considered a mystery.
Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone
Friedman’s top adviser is Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, who is described by the Embassy as an expert in “Jewish education and pro-Israel advocacy.” Once upon a time, in an apparently more enlightened mood, Lightstone described Donald Trump as posing “an existential danger both to the Republican Party and to the U.S.” and even accused him of pandering to Jewish audiences. Apparently when opportunity knocked he changed his mind about his new boss.
Pre-government in 2014, Lightstone founded and headed Shining City, a Jewish advocacy group supported by extreme right-wing money that opposed the Iran nuclear agreement and also worked to combat the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. He is reportedly still connected financially with anti BDS groups, which might be construed as a conflict of interest. As the Senior Adviser to Friedman he is paid in excess of $200,000 plus free housing, additional cash benefits to include a 25% cost of living allowance and a 10% hardship differential, medical insurance and eligibility for a pension.
Nothing for Americans, everything for Israel
So, what’s in it all for Joe and Jill American Citizens? Not much. And for Israel? Anything it wants, apparently. Sink a U.S. warship? Okay. Tap the U.S. Treasury? Sure, just wait a minute and we’ll draft some legislation that will give you even more money. Create a treasury department agency run exclusively by Jews that operates secretly to punish critics of the Jewish state? No brainer. Meanwhile a bunch of dudes at the Pentagon are dreaming of new wars for Israel, and the White House sends an ignorant ambassador and top aide overseas to represent the interests of the foreign government in the country where they are posted. Which just happens to be Israel. Will it ever end?
Philip M. Giraldi is Executive Director of the 501(c)3 tax deductible organization Council for the National Interest. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer. Mr. Giraldi was awarded an MA and PhD from the University of London in European History and holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the University of Chicago. He speaks Spanish, Italian, German, and Turkish. An earlier version of this article was posted on Unz Review.
U.S. Ambassador’s Adviser Ran ‘Dark Money’ Nonprofit That Donated $1m to Right-wing Israeli Group
By Uri Blau, Ha’aretz
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s senior adviser is a rabbi who previously headed a U.S.-based nonprofit that donated over $1 million to the controversial Israeli right-wing organization Im Tirtzu in 2015.
An embassy spokesperson confirmed to Haaretz that Orthodox Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone is now serving as a senior adviser to Friedman at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
However, the embassy did not answer Haaretz’s questions about Lightstone’s previous role at Shining City, which donated 3.7 million shekels (about $1 million) to the Im Tirtzu organization during Israel’s last election year, 2015.
Im Tirtzu defines itself as a Zionist movement, but is best known for its media campaign at the end of 2015 when it branded various artists and human rights organizations as foreign agents.
In June, Haaretz revealed Lightstone’s involvement in Shining City, which is what is known as a “dark money” organization. The nonprofit was registered under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4), which gives a special tax-exemption status to nonprofits involved in promoting social welfare goals, and also enables them to use part of their capital to promote political objectives – without revealing their sources of funding.
Shining City was founded in Virginia in late 2014 to educate the public on “relations between Israel and the USA,” and America’s political relationships in the Middle East, according to organization documents. [more info here.]
It was registered by the Virginia law firm Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky. According to a December 2012 Bloomberg report, the law firm was previously involved in registering companies that donated over $250 million to campaigns connected to the 2012 U.S. presidential election, calling it a “nexus of Republican secret money and power.”
Shining City operated mostly during the 2015 Knesset election campaign in Israel, when the nuclear agreement between six world powers and Iran was under discussion in the United States. At the beginning of 2015, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to address Congress on why he was against the accord, the nonprofit promoted his speech on social media and lauded Netanyahu.
During that year Lightstone was listed as the executive director of Shining City, and the only one receiving a salary from it ($73,750).
Haaretz also traced U.S. public records indicating that Lightstone filed several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in the name of Shining City, being particularly interested in records concerning the Iran deal.
He asked the U.S. Treasury Department for “all the records from January 1, 2015 to December 4, 2015 concerning Treasury and other government entities regarding the implementation day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” He also requested a “signed copy of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached on July 14, 2015 by the P5+1, the European Union and Iran.”
Other records show that Lightstone was working as a consultant to a California-based Republican candidate to Congress, Denise Gitsham. [Lightstone also donated to Gitsham’s campaign in 2016.]
Though Shining City is still registered as an active organization, it is hard to find any mention of its current activities. Its official website has been taken down and there have been no tweets on its Twitter account since the end of 2015. Its Facebook page (Shining City Community) still shares posts, though, including statements by Netanyahu like this:
As Haaretz previously reported, Shining City had three directors in 2016 – Phil Rosen, Eliot Lauer and Andrew (Andy) Albstein. All are prominent New York lawyers and at least two of them are close to Netanyahu and the Republican Party.
In a conversation with Haaretz in June, Albstein called Lightstone “one of the nicest young men you will find. He is involved in education, pro-Israel.” Albstein added that he got to know Lightstone through their involvement with the same political figure “who is involved in pro-Israel activity.” However, he refused to name that person.
The actual source of Shining City’s funds is unknown, but Haaretz found that in 2015 it received contributions of more than $3.2 million, all from one organization: Americans For Jerusalem. That group, also a 501(c)(4), was founded under the name One Jerusalem and, according to its 2010 reports to the IRS, operated from the New York address of the philanthropic foundation of businessman and former Netanyahu associate Ronald Lauder. That same organization also donated directly to Im Tirtzu during 2015.
On his LinkedIn page, Lightstone says he was executive director at Shining City for eight months, from July 2014 to February 2015.
On his official page on the Orthodox Union website, meanwhile, Lightstone doesn’t mention his involvement with Shining City but does mention Ivanka Trump.
“Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, formerly Regional Director of New York NCSY, was appointed in April 2017 to serve as advisor [sic] to U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman,” it states. “Since receiving semicha from RIETS, Rabbi Lightstone has been fully engaged in all forms of communal work. A businessman at heart but a klal [people] person in reality, Rabbi Lightstone infuses his entrepreneurial spirit into all of his programs. Over the years, his programs have gained the acclaim of the likes of Ivanka Trump, Senator Joseph Lieberman and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office, among many others.”
In June, Im Tirtzu told Haaretz that most of its donors today “are Israelis, but we are pleased to find private donors from around the world as well (individuals and private foundations) who support our important activity and thereby try to strengthen the Jewish and democratic identity of the State of Israel. The guideline in the movement with regard to raising funds is non-acceptance of money from any foreign state entity or foundations that promote delegitimization of Israeli society.”
Haaretz contacted Lightstone several times in June, but he asked not to be interviewed or to discuss his involvement with Shining City.
“I am not associated with them anymore,” he said, adding that media stories at the time about his appointment as an adviser to Friedman were premature. “I don’t have a job at the moment,” he said.
Lightstone did not respond to phone calls from Haaretz this week for this article.