When the Movement for Black Lives released a platform in August 2016 that supported the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement and identified Israel as an apartheid state engaged in a project of genocide against Palestinians, the Israeli government snapped into action.
Previously unreleased footage from Al Jazeera’s censored investigative documentary, “The Lobby – USA,” shows Israeli diplomats complaining about the Black Lives Matter “problem” and boasting about their cultivation of established black civil rights activists as pro-Israel proxies.
The footage also reveals how the Israel lobby orchestrated the sudden cancellation of a Black Lives Matter fundraiser at a New York City nightclub.
Recruiting black communal leaders into Israel’s war on Black Lives Matter
Just days after the Movement for Black Lives released its pro-BDS platform, Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter, James Kleinfeld (who appears as “Tony” in the documentary), attended the 2016 conference of the Israel American Council, or IAC.
Organized as a coalition of the most hardline Israel lobby groups in the US, from Christians United For Israel to the Israel on Campus Coalition, the IAC functions as the right-wing, pro-Likud supplement to AIPAC. With a massive cash infusion from pro-Israel oligarchs such as Sheldon Adelson and Adam Milstein, the IAC has emerged as one of the most powerful arms of Israel lobbying in America.
Kleinfeld attended a break-out session at the IAC conference that was packed with Israeli diplomats serving at consulates across the US. Their anxiety about the Movement for Black Lives platform statement was palpable.
“The major problem with Israel is with the young generation of the black community — Black Lives Matter starts there,” stated Judith Varnai Shorer, the Israeli consul general in Atlanta, Georgia.
Shorer boasted that she and other government officials were taking decisive measures to drive a wedge between established black community leadership and the new generation gravitating towards Black Lives Matter.
“I had last week a sit down dinner at my house for forty people which I considered the leadership of the black community,” the Israeli diplomat recalled. “Many very important people [were there]. They can be part of our doing and activities.”
Andy David, the Israeli consul general in San Francisco, California, described how he personally recruited Clarence B. Jones, the former lawyer for Martin Luther King Jr., as an advocate for Israel.
“He’s somebody that I reached out to,” David said of Jones. “He became a close and personal friend. Because of that relationship he published three articles in the Huffington Post explaining why their agenda was hijacked.”
The articles David was referring to were a series of editorials Jones published in the Huffington Post during August 2017. Jones wrote as a civil rights elder concerned that linking efforts against police violence to the Palestinian struggle would disrupt community relations with Jews. He did not acknowledge his apparent relationship to the Israeli government or any input from Israeli officials.
“While the Black Lives Matters Movement may want to encourage the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, we respectfully suggest that they should not make this a central or major issue in their current struggle for Police accountability for the repeated and successive shootings Blacks across America,” Jones argued.
While Jones’ editorials had negligible impact within Black Lives Matter circles, he represented an important asset for an Israel lobby that feared losing the support of black communal leadership. In 2014, when Jones was honored at the Israeli consulate in New York City, he claimed that “Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported Israel today.”
In his comments at the IAC conference, David, the Israeli consul general, claimed the former civil rights lawyer “wrote the draft speech for Martin Luther King – ‘I Have a Dream.'” Yet the accounts by Taylor Branch, the pre-eminent civil rights scholar and biographer of King, suggest that this was an exaggeration at best.
In the pages of Branch’s voluminous history of King from 1954-63, “Parting The Waters,” Jones is mentioned just once in connection the “I Have A Dream” speech — for his lawsuit against record companies that attempted to sell bootlegged copies of the address.
Branch’s accounts confirm Jones as confidant of King, but he appears to have functioned more as a strategist and paid legal counsel than as an ideological influence. The historian described Jones as “a California entertainment lawyer” known for his “handsome ebony face, sports car, tailored suits, colognes, European accessories, and brisk executive style…”
Touting his supposed friendship with Jones, the Israeli general consul, David, proclaimed, “Martin Luther Kind will turn in his grave if he saw the anti-Israel tendencies or policies that are starting to emerge within Black Lives Matter.”
An email from the Grayzone to Jones’ account at San Francisco State University, where he works as an adjunct professor, and a call to the Dr. Clarence B. Jones Institute were not returned.
Cancelling a Movement for Black Lives fundraiser
The censored Al Jazeera documentary also reveals how The Israel Project, a major Israel lobbying organization in Washington, arranged the cancellation of a Movement for Black Lives fundraiser at a New York City nightclub.
The fundraiser was to have consisted of a concert directed by Tony award-winning actress Tonya Pinkins at the small Broadway club, Feinstein’s/54 Below. However, just days before the show, the owners of 54 Below announced that they were cancelling the event due to the opposition to Israel expressed in the Movement for Black Lives’ platform.
Because “we can’t support these positions, we’ve accordingly decided to cancel the concert,” the club owners stated.
Eric Gallagher, the development director of The Israel Project, took credit for axing the event. “I don’t know if you saw that this club ditched a Black Lives Matter event,” Gallagher said to Kleinfeld, the undercover reporter. “One of our donors, we just put in a call to him and he put in a call to the place.”
Al Jazeera cancels “The Lobby – USA,” footage leaks out
In hopes of preventing the public from seeing the full breadth of its political subterfuge, including spying on American citizens in coordination with Israel’s Ministry of Strategy Affairs, the Israel lobby initiated a pressure campaign to prevent Al Jazeera’s release of “The Lobby – USA.”
The campaign consisted of visits by high profile Israel lobbyists Alan Dershowitz and Morton Klein to Doha, as well as threats from Congress to force Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act if it aired the documentary. Qatar has since donated $250,000 to Klein’s Zionist Organization of America and other hardline Israel lobby outfits.
An August 29 article by the Wall Street Journal reported that Dershowitz and Klein were among 250 influential pro-Trump figures targeted by a Qatari lobbying blitz after the wealthy kingdom fell under embargo by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Qatari royal family’s goal was to preserve its relationship with the Washington by cultivating support within Trump’s inner circle, especially among his most hardline pro-Israel political fixers.
Electronic Intifada reported in June that Qatar had decided to nix “The Lobby” over “national security concerns.” According to reporters Asa Winstanley and Ali Abunimah, Qatari royals fretted that that release of the documentary could be a factor in provoking the US to pull its Al Udeid Airbase from the Gulf country at a time when it was under diplomatic attack by Saudi Arabia and UAE, both close allies of Israel and the US.
Despite the ban, pieces of the documentary have begun to trickle out. This August 27, Electronic Intifada released footage identifying Adam Milstein as a moving force behind the malicious anti-Palestinian blacklisting operation known as Canary Mission. The report came on the heels of a Grayzone exclusive naming pro-Israel lawyer Howard David Sterling as the owner of Canary Mission’s web domain.
More recently, the Grayzone released footage from “The Lobby – USA” showing Emergency Committee for Israel executive director Noak Pollak teaming up with the right-wing Hoover Institution to pay protesters to heckle a 2016 conference of Students for Justice in Palestine.
Reporter Alain Gresh has published a detailed review of the censored documentary at Le Monde Diplomatique. He confirmed an Electronic Intifada report from this March that the film revealed Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs director-general Sima Vaknin-Gil describing the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) as an unregistered agent of Israeli intelligence in its war against the BDS movement.
“Data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organizations, money trail. This is something that only a country, with its resources, can do the best. We have FDD. We have others working on this.” Vaknin-Gil stated in footage contained in the film.
Haaretz editor Amir Tibon has also covered the exclusive reports on the suppressed documentary by Grayzone and Electronic Intifada.
In a recent interview on The Real News and on the Electronic Intifada, journalist Asa Winstanley called for Qatar to end its censorship of Al Jazeera and release the full contents of the network’s documentary investigation into the Israel lobby.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican Gomorrah, Goliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.
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