A pro-Israel think tank has pulled out of involvement with “The Obsession Project,” just a few days after a Muslim advocacy group filed a complaint about the effort.
The Washington, D.C.-based Endowment for Middle East Truth had agreed to write a policy paper and lead an educational outreach effort subsequent to the distribution of 28 million DVDs of the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” The DVD distribution was funded and arranged by the Clarion Fund, and EMET was not involved with that portion of the project.
EMET founder and president Sarah Stern initially told JTA on Friday that she had been taken advantage of by the group and had never spoken with Ari Morgenstern, who was quoted in press reports as speaking for EMET and the Obsession Project.
But the communications strategists for the project, Baron Communications LLC and 30 Point Strategies, shared e-mails and phone records that showed Stern had at least four telephone conversations earlier in the week with Morgenstern. In addition, they produced an e-mail from Sept. 22 which showed Stern approving of a press release and other materials announcing EMET’s participation. Another e-mail a day later from Stern included a lengthy note backing the project’s mission and the sign-off “Soldier On!”
Stern now does acknowledge having spoken to Morgenstern and approving involvement with the project, but now says she “made a mistake” in not getting approval from EMET’s board before agreeing to became a partner. She said she still supports efforts to encourage Americans to watch “Obsession.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 23 to investigate the distribution of the DVDs and whether it was intended to influence the election – even though the film includes no partisan political content. The DVD were inserted into dozens of newspapers in swing states. The Muslim group claims that Aish HaTorah International is behind the project. A spokesman for Aish HaTorah denied the organization was involved, but said employees of the group may be involved in their free time.