The Clarion Fund, the non-profit responsible for the incendiary films Obsession and The Third Jihad, has issued a statement suggesting that the failed bombing attempt in Times Square is proof of the fifth column it believes has infiltrated the United States with the aim of instituting sharia law.
In the press release, Raphael Shore, the Third Jihad producer at work at a new film in called Iranium, about Iran’s nuclear program, asserts, “From freedom of speech, to the nucear threat and a failed terror attack, we have been reminded this week just how dedicated radical Islamists are to the infiltration and destruction of our nation.” He then offers on-line viewing of The Third Jihad on Clarion’s web site for free (a $19.99 “value!”)
I wrote two years ago about Clarion’s ties to the fundamentalist Jewish group Aish Hatorah and its offshoot the media “watchdog” Honest Reporting, and how Obsession, which Clarion inserted into 28 million home-delivered newspapers shortly before the 2008 election, deeply troubled other Jews. I reported:
Now, the content of “Obsession” and its ties to Aish are leading some rabbis to strongly criticize the production — and Aish HaTorah itself —for, as they view it, using a broad brush-stroke to smear the entire Muslim community. Some fear the central role of Aish HaTorah officials in “Obsession” and two other films by the same producers puts Jews at the center of those promoting a “clash of civilizations.”
“Obsession,” said Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Alexandria, Va., is “the protocols of the learned elders of Saudi Arabia.”
Rabbi Moline, named by Newsweek this year as one of the country’s top 25 pulpit rabbis, added, “The integrity of our own Jewish community requires that people speak up critically” about the film.
Hadar Susskind, Washington director of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, American Jewry’s official umbrella group for domestic issues, termed the content of “Obsession” as “troubling.”
“I don’t think the film is a fair presentation of the issue, nor do I think that was the filmmakers’ goal,” said Susskind, whose group is composed in part of local Jewish community relations councils in cities nationwide. The apparent role of Aish HaTorah in the production has left many of those councils, which work with other local groups, including Muslims, anxious that the film might be perceived as “something being promoted by the Jewish community,” he said.
Atlantic Monthly staff writer Jeffrey Goldberg, a longtime critic of Islamist extremism, termed “Obsession” “the work of hysterics … designed to make naive Americans believe that B-52s filled with radical jihadists are about to carpet-bomb their churches, and are only awaiting Barack Obama’s ascension to launch the attack.
“The tragedy of ‘Obsession’ is not that it is wrong,” he wrote in his blog. “The tragedy is that it takes a serious issue, and a serious threat — that of Islamism — and makes it into a cartoon.”
At the web site Jews On First, which follows the religious right, a number of analysts contributed to Rebutting Obsession, which as the name suggests, cuts through the film’s ahistorical, conspiratorial, and propagandistic claims. Writing around the same time in the London Review of Books, Adam Shatz described the Clarion Fund as:
a front for neoconservative and Israeli pressure groups. It has an office, or at least an address, in Manhattan at Grace Corporate Park Executive Suites, which rents out ‘virtual office identity packages’ for $75 a month. Its website, clarionfund.org, provides neither a list of staff nor a board of directors, and the group still hasn’t disclosed where it gets its money, as required by the IRS. Who paid to make ‘Obsession’ isn’t clear – it cost $400,000. According to Rabbi Raphael Shore, the film’s Canadian-Israeli producer, 80 per cent of the money came from the executive producer ‘Peter Mier’, but that’s just an alias, as is the name of the film’s production manager, ‘Brett Halperin’. Shore claims ‘Mier’ and ‘Halperin’, whoever they are, are simply taking precautions, though it isn’t clear against what. The danger (whatever it is) hasn’t stopped Shore – or the director, Wayne Kopping, a South African neocon – from going on television to promote their work.
The film has been promoted by numerous neoconservative, Jewish, and Christian Zionist outlets and activists, and no doubt Iranium will receive the same treatment, particularly if it is released around election time and could be used to question whether the Obama administration is doing enough to combat Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
In the meantime, though, the notion that, as Clarion’s spokesperson told me in 2008, “radical Islam here in America” and is engaged in “subversive activities to squash liberties and freedom,” creates some buzz for Iranium. About the links between Clarion’s films, the foreign policy reporter Eli Clifton, a contributor to Rebutting Obsession, wrote recently, “the Clarion Fund participates in rewriting history to portray Muslims as irrational and suicidal participants in a global movement to destabilize and dominate the west. The depth of Clarion’s willingness to contribute to Islamophobic hysteria and promote conspiracy theories was made clear in The Third Jihad. . . . I have no doubt that Iranium will live up to the reputation of Clarion’s previous films, but this time it seems that its agenda is to push the U.S. towards a confrontation with Iran.”