The “Israel First” Industry & CEO Profiteering

Israel Lobby: The Bully, Blackmail & Blacklist Politics against Critics of Israel and its Zionist Appendages

During the first half of the 20th century, socially conscious Jews in the United States organized a large network of solidarity and charity associations financed mostly through small donations, raffles, dues by working and lower middle class supporters.

Many of these associations dealt with the everyday needs of Jewish workers, immigrants and families in need. Some were linked to labor unions, social democratic and leftist parties. Their leaders were in many cases leaders who worked long hours engaged in resolving problems and intervening in local crises. They drew a paycheck – (when funding was available) – comparable to a skilled worker. A few women’s groups like the Hadassah went door to door in predominantly Jewish commercial districts, hitting up Jewish and non-Jewish storekeepers with raffle tickets to purchase beds in Hebrew hospitals in Palestine/Israel. The predominant ethic was improving the livelihood of Jews in America, joining with the America left and labor groups in united fronts against fascism and domestic, ethnic and racial supremacist organizations. Up until the establishment of Israel, Zionist organizations were a small minority in the Jewish community, especially among working class Jews.

Growing up in a multi-ethnic working class community (Lynn, Massachusetts) most of our Jewish friends and neighbors were workers and small shopkeepers: house painters, bookeepers, carpenters, truck drivers (Gatso Feldman), window repairers (a long white bearded rabbi), junk collectors (Stone) on a horse drawn wagon calling for business with his whiskey hoarse voice (“rax, rax, rax”), butchers, bakers, drug store owners, tailors (“Sam you made the pants too long”), fur and leather workers (Goldie Goldstein) and a few owners), warehousemen. On the shady side there were poolroom hustlers (Marty Z), prostitutes (Sophie K) and gangsters (Louie F). In the mid-1950’s Jews and non-Jews were engaged in a punch-out with the (anti-Semitic) Feeneyites on Boston Common.

But by the late 1940’s changes began to take place under the pressure of events: as my Jewish college friend Paul L tells it One day the photo of Karl Marx, at the front of his Yiddish classroom was taken down and replaced by one of Theodore Herzl the founding father of Zionism. The reasons were two-fold: Joseph McCarthy the anti-communist was coming to town to interrogate and blacklist United Electrical Workers leaders at the local giant General Electric plant. Secondly, the founding of Israel converted the Yiddish social democratic directors from leftists to Zionists and Zionists were not on McCarthy’s agenda. By the mid-1950’s, the right turn among the Jewish labor associations was visible – literally! One night after our studies, I met up with two Jewish friends and we walked to Peter’s bar (10 cent beers with a rancid taste). On our way, my friends argued leftwing politics - Paul for social democracy, Lenny for Trotskyism – I was the audience and potential adherent. As we passed the store window of the Workingman’s Circle (a Yiddish pro-labor organization) Lenny stopped and triumphantly pointed to a sign in the window – a marine recruitment poster! Paul was crushed.

At 14 years, I went to work at my father’s fish store in neighboring Revere, where the vast majority of customers were Jews, many immigrants from Vilnius. Though there were several Jewish owned Jewish fish markets – my father competed successfully based on his daily trip to Atlantic Avenue piers in Boston to purchase fish caught the night before by Italian fishermen living in the North End.

Of the thousands of customers I recall only a couple of cases of Jewish supremacism: one well known “yenta” (crabby lady) came in to the store, asked prices, then announced that “for those prices I can buy from a Jew” – she was sent on her way with a shower of insults from my father and his part time Jewish fish cutter employee Julius – the Bolshevik from Vilnius!

The Great Transformation

Over the past fifty years a far-reaching transformation has taken place within Jewish organizations, among its leaders and their practices and policies. Currently Jewish leaders have converted charities, social aid-societies and overseas programs for working class Jews into money machines for self-enrichment; converted charities funding health programs for Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism into the funding of colonial settlements for armed Zionist zealots intent on uprooting Palestinians; and organized a powerful political machine which buys Congress people and penetrates the Executive in order to serve Israeli military aims. From defending human rights ad fighting fascism, the leaders of the principle Jewish organizations defend each and every Israeli violation of Palestinian human rights – from arbitrary arrests of non-violent dissidents to the detention of children in ‘cages’. Israel’s Kafkaesque prolonged administration detention without trial is approved by contemporary leaders. In the past Jewish leaders especially labor and socially engaged activists, joined forces with Leftists in opposition to political bigots, McCarthyite purges and blacklists. Today’s leaders practice the very same bully, blackmail and blacklist politics against critics of Israel and its Zionist appendages.

Big Bucks: The Israel First Industry

In the past Jewish leaders of social aid organizations received modest salaries, not too different from that of a skilled worker. Today the leaders of the major Jewish “non-profit” organizations are millionaires drawing between $800,000 and $200,000 a year plus lucrative allowances for “business expenses” (travel, housing, meals, etc) which add another 30% to their income.

The moderately social liberal Jewish weekly The Forward recently completed a survey of the salaries of Jewish “not-for profits” leaders, with the aid of a Jewish professor from the Wharton School of Business (University of Pennsylvania). Among the leading profiteers was Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) $688,280, Howard Kohr of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) $556,232, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) $504,445, Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) $435,050, Janice Weinman of Hadassah $410,000, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (PMJO) $400,815, Mark Helfield of the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society $268,834 and Ann Toback of the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, $185,712. These salaries and perks put the Jewish leaders of non-profits in the upper 10% of US income earners– a far cry from the not too distant past. According to the analysis by the Forward and the Wharton team, most leaders (CEO) are vastly overpaid – “earning more than twice what the head of an organization of their size would be expected to make”.

While the membership has declined in many organizations, especially among working and lower middle class Jews, the funding has increased and most important the plutocratic leaders have embraced a virulent militarist foreign policy and repressive domestic policies. Forward describes Abraham Foxman as “diverting the ADL from its self-described mission of fighting all forms of bigotry in the US and abroad to putting the ADL “firmly on the side of bigotry and intolerance”. We can add that the ADL was convicted of spying on political groups and has been active in pressuring academic institutions to fire professors and civic organizations to cancel events critical of Israel and the “Israel First Industry” in the US.

The response of the Jewish readers of the Forward’s survey was one of indignation, disgust and anger. As one reader commented; “The economic disconnect between their salaries and the average incomes of those who contribute to their charities is unacceptable”. Another indignant reader made a one word comment, “gonifs” (thieves in Yiddish). Many responded by cutting off future donations. One formerly orthodox reader stated; “I would rather give to a street beggar than to any of these”.

The drop-off of donations by lower-middle class Jews, however, will have little effect in reducing the salaries of the non-profit CEO’s or changing the politics of their “non-profits” because they increasingly depend on six and seven digit contributions from Jewish millionaires and billionaires. Moreover, the contributions by big donors are linked to the politics of repression at home and securing multi-billion dollar military aid and trade programs for Israel from the US Treasury. The billion- dollar donors have no objection to funding millionaire leaders – as long as they concentrate their efforts on buying off the US Congress and aligning their politics with Israeli war aims. Foxman will continue to be “overpaid” for running a small declining membership organization that does not fight bigotry if he secures big bucks from rich rightwing Zionist donors who measure his worth by his success in sabotaging the White House – Iran interim agreement and securing new Senate sanctions against Iran.

Likewise in 2013, AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr pocketed $556,232 in salary plus $184,410 for “expenses”, ($740,647 in total) for dedicating most of his budget and lobbyists to fighting for US sanctions against Iran, supporting US wars for Israel in the Middle East, funding Jews only settlements in Palestine and securing US vetoes of UN resolutions critical of Israeli war crimes.

David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee ($504, 445 plus expenses) has devoted most of the AJC’s time and resources to pressuring Congress and the Executive to follow Netanyahu’s demand for harsher sanctions on Iran. Harris is an inveterate liar and slanderer. According to the Foward. “On July 1 (2013) a few weeks after Hassan Rohani was elected as Iran’s new President, Harris charged that Rohani was implicated in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires. This was a week after Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor (and an ardent Jewish Zionist) had informed the Times of Israel editor David Horvitz that Rohani was neither under indictment nor accused of any involvement”.

The Great Transformation among American Jewish charitable organizations is evidenced by the shift (1) from social aid for working Jews, poor immigrants and elderly Holocaust victims to political influence peddling at the service of a highly militarized Israeli state, (2) from engaging in social welfare for American Jews to political lobbying for military transfers to Israel, (3) from grassroots leaders sharing life styles and struggles with their rank and file donors to millionaire CEO’s entertaining Zionist billionaires and banging tables for Israel at the White House and paying off Congressional influentials, (4) from reaching out and aligning with Americans active for peace with justice in the Middle East to embracing every tin horn monarch and dictator who signs off on Israeli annexation of Palestinian land.

The key to the transformation is located in the ideological and structural transformation among the leaders of the Jewish organizations. The rise to prominence – centrality – of billionaire/millionaire Zionist donors have put in place leaders who mirror their Israel First outlook and who have similarly enriched themselves. Secondly, the Great Transformation of Jewish charitable organizations has resulted from the ascendancy of an ethnic supremacist ideology which views others as inferior subjects to be ruled by the Higher Intelligence of Jewish political and business leaders; and which orders, that the ‘disobedient’, be castigated as “anti-Semites” and punished by jail. Media ostracism, overt threats and most commonly denied employment. A key consequence of the rise to political power of the formerly socially conscious Jewish organizations, is the shedding of their popular mass base: members have resigned in protest over the CEO’s manipulative authoritarian leadership style. Expulsions and harassment have forced others to retire. But most of all the leaderships blind political submission to Israeli state policy and self-enrichment has alienated growing numbers of young socially active Jews as well as middle age Jews who are disenchanted with their gonif leaders.

As disenchantment grows, the organized groups and leaders act with greater discipline and aggression to preserve their false image as “representatives of the Jewish community”. Jewish dissidents are silenced or isolated. The CEO “leaders” and their rabbinical allies fuse ethno-supremacy, the menorah, the Israeli flag and the politics of Israel First into a powerful instrument of internal control. Lucrative salaries and personal enrichment at the service of Israel are not a crime: they are viewed as virtue; at least in the eyes of respectable … gonifs.

I remember the Jewish brother of a neighborhood friend who joined the Lincoln Brigade and fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. More recently I recall a student at Binghamton University telling me he was going to Israel to join the IDF. No doubt his “militancy” will translate into breaking the legs of protesting Palestinian school kids. Yes a ‘transformation’ has taken place but I must confess that I prefer Izzy Levine’s candy and comic book store where grammar school kids socialized, descendants of Sicilians, Odessa Jews, Afro-Americans and Spartan Greeks, over the current Judeo-centric CEO’s who run the Israel First industry. Izzy was a greater American than Abe Foxman political blackmailer, police informer and millionaire.

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Professor James Petras, Boiling Frogs Post contributing analyst, is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. Dr. Petras received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. You can visit his website here.

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  1. Thomas Wonsetler says:

    Thanks for this great article. I just watched 9/11 missing links yesterday and have been learning a lot more about the zionists and there supporters and there powerful role in corrupting our govdrnment and in the 9/11 attacks and starting wars in the middle eas etct. This important aspect of the big picture needs to be talked about and written about much more !

  2. Mike Strong says:

    Well written and Informative, thank you for the time and work you put into it.

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