Major pro-Israel giver funding Jihad Watch

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A woman who with her husband has contributed large sums to pro-Israel and Jewish groups is the principal funder of a leading foe of the Ground Zero Islamic center.

Jihad Watch, which is organizing a rally against the planned Islamic center timed for the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — the center is planned for within three blocks of the site of the attacks in lower Manhattan — is funded by the Freedom Center, a conservative group based in Los Angeles.

An investigative report on the online version of Politico on Saturday said it confirmed that the "lion’s share" of the $920,000 funneled through the Freedom Center to Jihad Watch over the last three years originated with Joyce Chernick.

Aubrey and Joyce Chernick, Politico reported, over the years have contributed to, among other groups, the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles; the Anti-Defamation League; the Zionist Organization of America; MEMRI, a group that distributes translations of inflammatory Arabic language material; the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a group that tracks what it depicts as the threat of radical Islam; the American Jewish Congress; CAMERA, a group that tracks what it says is anti-Israel bias in the media; the Central Fund for Israel, a clearinghouse for monies directed to pro-settler groups; and a number of conservative think tanks.

Aubrey Chernick at one time also was a trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

A number of the groups, including the Investigative Project, the ADL and the ZOA, have positioned themselves as opposed to the site of the Islamic center. Other Jewish groups, led by the Reform movement, have been outspoken in supporting the center’s bid to build in the Ground Zero area.

Jihad Watch, founded by Robert Spencer, in recent months has taken on board Pamela Geller, the New York-based blogger who launched efforts to stop the center’s building.

Jihad Watch leads those groups contending that the imam who founded the Cordoba Initiative, the organization behind the planned center, is not a moderate attempting to bridge divides — as he and a number of Jewish backers claim — but instead is a radical.

The imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has spoken overseas on behalf of the U.S. State Department, under the Obama and Bush administrations. He has described the United States as a nation whose freedoms benefit Muslims.

He also eulogized Daniel Pearl, the Jewish journalist murdered in 2002 by Pakistani Islamists, by saying that such victims demand a response from Muslims that they, too, are Jews.

At times he has refused to outright condemn Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip, and among his associates he has some prominent Saudi Arabians.

Opponents of the Islamic center have demanded an accounting of its donors. Rauf to this point has raised few funds for the center.

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