The Forward reports that a hugely popular pro-Israel speaker and writer, Hen Mazzig, has been secretly working directly for the Israeli government. It appears that his actions may have violated U.S. espionage laws.
By Alison Weir
The Jewish Forward reports that a hugely popular pro-Israel speaker and writer, Hen Mazzig, has been secretly working directly for the Israeli government. It appears that his actions may have violated U.S. espionage laws.
A pro-Israel organization lists Mazzig among “The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life, 2018.”
According to the Forward, Mazzig’s op-eds “have been published in nearly every Israeli and American Jewish publication (including the Forward), and his speeches to students across North America and Europe, have garnered him legions of fans, including more than 18,000 Twitter followers.”
The publication reports:
“A Forward investigation has revealed that he also worked directly for the Israeli government. He doesn’t seem to have told anyone that, however — neither the sponsors of his speeches, nor the students who listened to them. Because he kept quiet, and because those payments are related to his political work in the United States, he might have violated an American anti-espionage law, according to experts consulted by the Forward.
Experts cited by the Forward say that Mazzig seems to have violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), an American anti-espionage law. This law requires individuals and groups working on behalf of a foreign government to divulge that fact.
Attorneys say Mazzig should have registered as a foreign agent. Mazzig admitted to the Forward that he was a paid contractor for the government of Israel, and said that Israel’s official government advertising agency hired him to inform them about issues on American campuses.
FARA has recently been invoked against a Russian graduate student in the U.S., who has been imprisoned for three months, mostly in solitary confinement, despite the fact that she appears to be innocent of the charges.
It is unknown whether U.S. authorities will charge Mazzig with violating the FARA requirement.
An attorney who specializes in FARA cases told the Forward: “The policy behind FARA is, yes, lobbying will happen. The key is for the American people to know when it comes to foreign influences, who’s pulling the strings.”
The Forward reports that The Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel organization that often uses lawsuits to chill pro-Palestinian activism, demanded that the Forward delay publishing the article until lawyers could speak on Mazzig’s behalf. The Forward accordingly held the story for three and a half days, but did not hear further from Mazzig’s lawyers.
The publications and organizations such as campus Hillel groups that have been featuring Mazzig say they didn’t know he was employed by the Israeli government. According to the Forward, student organizers “say they don’t remember Mazzig disclosing his contracting work, either beforehand or during his speeches.”
The Forward points out: “Over the last decade, and particularly in the last few years, the amount of money spent by outside groups to influence the Israeli-Palestinian debate on campus has risen sharply.
“In addition to American Jewish donors heavily increasing their funding for pro-Israel campus advocacy groups, foreign governments and other unaccountable entities are also inserting themselves into the collegiate fray.”
A paper trail provided by the Forward indicates that Mazzig may have been working under Israel’s notorious Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which sponsors diverse secretive operations.
Kela Shlomo – Solomon’s Sling
An Israeli organization named Seventh Eye reported last month that the Ministry of Strategic Affairs has been working with pro-Israel American nonprofits on a project called “Kela Shlomo” (translated as “Solomon’s Sling”). The Forward describes this as an effort “to fund anti-BDS activities outside of Israel that won’t be attributable to the government itself.”
Seventh Eye reports: “‘Kela Shlomo’ is an [Israeli] organization with a special corporate structure. Its legal envelope is civil: its founders have established it as a public benefit company, and its shareholders are former senior civil servants.”
The article points out that “the entire purpose of the organization is to implement government policy through a budget that combines the government budget and income from private donors.”
Ha’aretz has also reported on the initiative: “The Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Affairs established an external body – a private company for the benefit of the public called ‘Shlomo Kela’ – to which the government decided to transfer NIS 128 million two weeks ago, in addition to 128 million from private donors from around the world. This is according to the ministry, among other things, in order to carry out ‘mass awareness activities’ within the framework of “the struggle against Israel’s delegitimization campaign” around the world.
Among the project’s members is Sagi Balasha, a former CEO of Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli-American Council.
Central Fund of Israel
Seventh Eye reports that two American organizations have donated millions of shekels to Kela Shlomo. “The central body of the two is the Central Fund of Israel, which is managed by the American Marcus family, one of whose sons was recently interviewed by Israel’s Channel 11.”
Its principal officers are listed on its 2016 990 tax form as Arthur Marcus, president (now deceased); Jay Marcus (his son), vice president; and Jeff Most, treasurer. Dr. Linda Kalish Marcus, Mitchell Elkin and Michael Fischberger are board members.
While Its address is listed as 980 Avenue of the Americas, Third floor, New York, NY (a Marcus textile company) and its phone number is given as 506-148-2718, it appears that the Marcus family lives much of he time in Efrat in the West Bank, a right wing Jewish-only colony built on land confiscated from three nearby Palestinian villages.
According to an Israeli eulogy for Arthur Marcus, the organization transferred $20 million of tax-deductible U.S. money to Israel.
One Israel Fund
The other American organization donating to Kelo Shlomo /Solomon’s Sling, according to the Forward, is the One Israel Fund.
The tagline for the organization says: One Israel Fund – Building and Securing the Heartland Of Our Nation.” While the organization refers to “our nation” as Israel, it is a registered nonprofit in the U.S. It lists an American address (445 Central Ave, Cedarhurst, New York) and raises money from American taxpayers. This money, sent to Israel, is deducted from the taxes individuals pay to the U.S.
Kelo Shlomo (also spelled Kello Shlomi) is expected to provide a speedy, coordinated response “to efforts to stain Israel’s image around the world, for example, in the event of a military operation, terror attacks [sic] or UN votes against government policies.”
“This would be done by launching online campaigns, lobbying, engaging organizations abroad and bringing delegations to Israel.”
Israel outsources work to agents abroad
Seventh Eye reports: “Much of the activity is outsourced, as a result of a declared strategy that in order to succeed in the mission, the government’s involvement in the ‘mass awareness activities’ it initiates should be disguised. This outsourcing is carried out by agents in Israel and abroad who make up… the ‘pro-Israel network.'”
One of Hen Mazzig’s U.S. sponsors has been the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA).” It’s unknown whether any CAMERA officials were aware of Mazzig’s paid employment by the Israeli government. Nor is it known to what degree CAMERA itself may work with the Israeli government.
CAMERA’S website states that the organization was founded in 1982. Among its earliest members were prominent Washington-area residents Saul Stern and Bernard White. Its Advisory Board included U.S. Senators Rudy Boschwitz and Charles Grassley, Congressman Tom Lantos, journalist M. Stanton Evans, Ambassador Charles Lichenstein, Pastor Roy Stewart, and Rabbi David Yellin.
CAMERA created chapters in major cities, including New York, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and in1988 a Boston chapter and office, founded and led by Andrea Levin, who has served as associate editor of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
The Executive Board has included some top Boston business leaders, including the co-founders of Timberland and Staples.
CAMERA’s current head is Levin, named in 2002 as “America’s fifth most influential Jewish citizen.” Its membership now numbers over 65,000.
In addition to the Boston headquarters the organization also has offices in Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Israel. Among CAMERA’s authors was columnist Charles Krauthammer. It now has assets of close to $8 million, and Levin receives an annual salary of over $260,000.
New projects initiated by CAMERA:
The CAMERA Fellows Program recruits student leaders across the US as well as from Spain, South Africa and Latin America who present educational programs on their campuses to inform fellow students about Middle East realities. The Fellows monitor their student newspapers, write Op-Eds and help counter distorted characterizations of Israel in the campus arena.
Launched in early 2011 the CAMERA Campus Activist Project (CCAP) promotes creation of pro-Israel groups on campuses where there is little or no such activity.
Revista de Medio Oriente, CAMERA’s Spanish language counter part, challenges misinformation in the Spanish language world, whether in Spain’s media or in Latin American coverage.
The British Project addresses major media in Britain, such as the Guardian, the Independent, and the BBC, which have global reach and all too often have problematic Middle East coverage.
The Christian Project focuses on distorted Middle East coverage in Christian publications and sponsors programs in the Christian community.
So far it is unknown whether the U.S. justice department will investigate Hen Mazzig and his network of American enablers following the Forward’s revelations. Past history suggests that this will not occur – unless enough American demand it.
So far, no U.S. media seem to have reported the Forward’s findings.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.