AIPAC paid $60,000 to group that peddles anti-Muslim conspiracy theories


WASHINGTON (JTA) – An AIPAC affiliate paid $60,000 during its campaign to thwart the Iran nuclear deal to a group that engages in anti-Muslim extremism.

Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, which was launched in the summer of 2015 to rally opposition to the Iran deal, paid the money to the Center for Security Policy, according to a report Wednesday by LobeLog, a Middle East policy news and analysis site.

An American Israel Public Affairs Committee official confirmed the payment to JTA and said it was for an ad. The official did not describe the ad or where it appeared, but Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran ran ads from July 2015 through September of that year in a failed bid to have Congress nullify the deal.

The Center for Security Policy and its director, Frank Gaffney, have drawn fire for sweeping generalizations about Muslims and Islam, including from Jewish groups. In November, the Reform movement and other liberal Jewish groups urged Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer, not to accept an award from Gaffney’s group because of his statements, which the Reform described as “anti-Muslim bigotry.”

The Anti-Defamation League stopped short of asking Dermer to turn down the award but decried “baseless claims or stereotypes” propagated by the Center for Security Policy.

Gaffney accuses officials in the U.S. government and elsewhere of acting on behalf of radical Muslims, often with scant evidence or because of tenuous associations. He has suggested that former President Barack Obama, a Christian, is a Muslim, and joined in condemnations of a Muslim community in Tennessee seeking to expand its mosque, calling the Muslims there “stealth jihadists.” Attacks on the Muslims in Murfreesboro have included violence and elicited expressions of support for the community from Jewish groups.

Gaffney is close to Steve Bannon, a top strategic adviser to President Donald Trump. In a New York Times report last month on people who have shaped the administration’s views on Islam, Gaffney described what he sees as a decades-long conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate all levels of American society, likening those he said were adherents of the Islamist movement to “termites.”

The Center for Security Policy also was adamantly opposed to the Iran deal, and its supporters would have been receptive to appeals to lobby congressmen to oppose the agreement. Additionally, the think tank, which advocates for increased defense spending, and Gaffney, a top Pentagon official under President Ronald Reagan, have longstanding ties to the defense and security establishment. Advertising in its published materials would reach important influencers in those communities.

The AIPAC official noted that the $60,000 was a fraction of the $20 million budgeted to defeat the deal, which Israel’s government, AIPAC and most Republicans opposed.

The deal traded sanctions relief for a rollback in Iran’s nuclear program. The Obama administration said it was the best means of keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; opponents said it facilitated the acquisition of nuclear weapons because some of its restrictions would lapse in a decade.

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