Ever wonder who is behind the well-oiled Palestinian propaganda operation that reaches out to every media outlet and every college campus in sight? Who pays for Palestinian efforts to lobby Congress to overlook its campaign of homicide bombing? Who finances glowing histories of the PLO's role in stabilizing the Middle East? Who funds studies about how Yasser Arafat can better manipulate public opinion in the United States? Look no further than your own tax return.
This week, in response to a question from our news agency, the U.S. government has finally acknowledged that the U.S. Aid For International Development (USAID) indeed funds the Palestine Academic Society For the Study of Academic Affairs (PASSIA), the PLO lobby group in Jerusalem which trains PLO media professionals in the art of transforming the image of the Arab-Israeli struggle into an Arab David against an Israeli Goliath.
USAID reports directly to the White House, which makes that allocation of particular significance to U.S. taxpayers. This funding arrangement was made possible back in 1997, under an agreement reached between the PLO and the man who was then the U.S. Consul in Jerusalem, Mr. Edward Abington. Immediately upon leaving his position as consul in Jerusalem in 1997, an employee of the U.S. State Department, Abington was hired by the PLO to be their paid lobbyist and official foreign agent in Washington, D.C., where Abington continues to lobby for the PLO under the framework of Bannerman and Associates. There's nothing like paying back a friend who helps you out.
From 1997-2004, USAID has given (or is scheduled to give) the PASSIA lobby a total of $1.7 million. According to the report sent by USAID, which appears at: http://www.usaid.gov/wbg/partners.htm, USAID funds are used in the following way:
"PASSIA conducts two activities under this agreement. In a series of training seminars, PASSIA provides skills and capacity to young Palestinian professionals in areas such as fund-raising, strategic planning, advocacy, and training of trainers." Such “trainers” may even be exported to the U.S. to teach pro-Palestinian “activists” at the Third National Palestine Solidarity Conference “Hate Fest” at Ohio State in early November - all on the American taxpayer’s dime.
On February 7, 2002, a staffer of the U.S. House International Relations Committee had provided our news agency with a list of Palestinian Arab agencies that were supported by USAID. That list included PASSIA, then the leading PLO media and lobbying training center.
The U.S. State Department and USAID had chosen to respond to these disclosures by declining any formal comment about U.S. funding of PASSIA, even though every one of its study program booklets printed since 1998 reads "kindly supported by USAID" just above the copyright.
However, last August a USAID spokesman acknowledged that it had been funding PASSIA since 1997, albeit with the proviso that no funds would be used to lobby the U.S. Congress. In that statement, USAID also mentioned that the U.S. government also applied rigorous standards of financial accountability to the funds that it remitted to PASSIA.
However, the PASSIA spokespeople tell a different story about how they use USAID funds:
David Nassar, former field director of the Arab-American Institute of Washington, D.C. (AAI), now directs the PASSIA "Civil Society Empowerment" project. He also authored and collated the corresponding booklets. Nassar says that the USAID-PASSIA program was designed specifically "to meet the specific needs of Palestinian society."
And what are those "specific needs"? On page seven of the booklet entitled "Advocacy and Lobbying,” published in January 2002, David Nassar asks, "What are the large groups that your audience in Palestine are to fall into?" Answer: "Everyone from the Chairman on down. PIC members and the press." He states flatly that the average reporter "often does not respond but write(s) what they are told to write." Readers of this American taxpayer-funded exercise are instructed to, "hit their targets as we (AAI) do in the U.S. all the time", where, "the goal does not necessarily have to be identified."
One such "target" is on page 13: The United States Congress, which "cut aid to the Palestinians for not improving the way in which the PA deals with suicide bombers (italics mine)." The objective was, "To do whatever we needed to stop this resolution," sponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein, D-CA, and Mitch McConnell, R-KY.
On page 16, we learn that the last thing Mr. Nassar did before leaving the United States "was to organize four press conferences in the State of Ohio. Because the Members of Congress from that State have contributed to violence in the Middle East by rejecting the Palestinians’ calls for freedom, one of the words we really wanted to make sure was in there." Only afterwards did they determine "who should be a source and look for a credible messenger. Because it is important (if the Palestinians) are to win to provide the idea that everybody wins."
In other words, PASSIA receives funds from USAID to lobby the U.S. Congress and openly says so.
Tendentious "education" booklets produced by PASSIA with funds from USAID can be exemplified by their widely circulated booklet "Media and Communication Skills." It begins with the clearly Palestinian revisionist version of Israeli/Palestinian history:
"The first challenge rose with the Balfour declaration of 1917, which called for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine: a clear violation of the rights of the Palestinian people.
"The second challenge was to restore the Palestinian self-identity and resist the expansion of Jewish settlement in Palestine.
"The third challenge arose when the Arab League involved itself in making major decisions relating to the future of the Palestinians . . . .
"The fourth challenge was the most difficult; namely to achieve unity after the dispersion of the Palestinians following the War of 1948. The aim of the State of Israel, since its declaration, was to create entities and prevent unity or direct communication between areas where Palestinians existed within the cease fire line."
It is interesting to note that under the heading, "Israel Occupation in 1967," Mr. Nassar writes: "The impact of the Israeli Occupation on the development of the Palestinian civil society was minimal due to the practices of the military authority.” This is in direct contradiction to the claims made by leaders of the intifada, who lead the incessant violence, incitement and terror against Israelis.
However, in the next paragraph, Nassar goes on to state, "The establishment of the PLO in the mid 1960's contributed to the success of the attempts to create and re-structure civil institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the institutions were forced to function under abnormal conditions and severe military occupation restrictions far away from the Palestinian leadership . . . (T)he intifada emerged due to local deteriorating political and economic conditions. This resulted, amongst other things, in the increase of foreign aid to local institutions."
From reading this USAID-funded description of the PLO, one would think that the PLO was a branch of the Peace Corps.
In chapter two, “Palestinian Civil Society and the Policy Process” by Dr. Nabil Khatib, Director of the media center at Birzeit University, we learn that it is not just Israel but the (then) existing Palestine National Authority (PNA) that PASSIA holds in its sights:
"Whilst the media is not supposed to have any predetermined interest in a particular issue…(the media) only aims (sic.) at defending the general objective and the general good, one has to take into account that this is not always the case. Sometimes we need as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), to make use of the international media in order to exert pressure on both the PNA and the Israeli government by developing an international public opinion.
"In the particular [not generic] case of Palestine, we have now neither self- rule, nor autonomy, that in our case, the self-rule has the potential to lead to statehood.
"In order to influence the general policy in one way or another, all CSOs should know how to influence the media. The best known way to do this is to come up with a hidden agenda (italics mine), and deciding on the most suitable time to release information to the media in order to direct the media towards a predetermined slogan, a defined demand. The best method for exerting pressure, is to transform a problem into a public opinion issue, using the media."
Thus does PASSIA undertake a Madison Avenue approach to terrorism with U.S. tax dollars. This U.S. taxpayer-funded "how-to" manual was written in 1998.
When it comes to media manipulation, PASSIA'S job was made easy for them. As the booklet continues into chapter 6, a "discussion" is recounted. The participants are moderators Dr. Khatib and Rami Khouri of Jordanian television, Tudor Lomas and two Western journalists: Eric Weiner, of National Public Radio (NPR) - another U.S. taxpayer funded enterprise - and Lyse Doucete of the BBC.
Readers are first told by Weiner that, "being balanced, according to their mandate, can be frustrating" and urges the audience/reader "to present your stories on a human level and not rely on the facts." Present tear-jerkers in which Israelis "have to justify their existence, which makes it easier to get through to us."
Ms. Doucete, who refers to homicide bombers as "honor" killers, believes "her job is to translate" rather than simply report the news, because "Israel is led by a Prime Minister who believes that it is not Israel's policy that is wrong, just that they have to explain it better." And so she admonishes the Palestinians, "if you want to beat the Israelis, you have to beat them at their own game." Thereupon follows eight pages of clear instruction on how the Palestinians can manipulate the press to their own advantage. Weiner again: "The fact that you have 1,000,000 pounds from the British government is not particularly interesting. But, if you explain why it is going to make such a difference by saying, ‘Did you know that since the closure was imposed we haven't been able to get paper through to Bethlehem?’ . . . we are far more likely to be interested."
And still more from Doucet: "You should also know how to pick your target. Always be smart about where you pitch your story, and pitch it at the right time . . . It is true that Israel is treated with kid gloves and not held to the same standards as Iraq when it comes to UN resolutions."
In terms of financial responsibility of PASSIA, this organization is registered under The Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations in the Israel Ministry of Interior, along with all other Jerusalem-based organizations. A review of PASSIA's publicly accessible financial records show that PASSIA does not mention USAID as a funding source, nor does it even record the income of USAID in its annual recorded income.
When queried, the Registrar responded to an inquiry from the U.S. House International Relations Committee in May 2002, in which he stated that, indeed, USAID allocations do not appear anywhere in the records of PASSIA.
PASSIA asked for more time to submit its records, and most recently showed an average annual income of $250,000.
This past week, the Registrar for Non-Profit Organizations reported once again to a query from the U.S. House International Relations Committee in which he indicated that PASSIA has not recorded U.S. AID funds on its books. So much for U.S. requirements for rigorous standards of financial responsibility.
The House of Representatives cannot get an accurate accounting of PASSIA's USAID funds, but it is the U.S. taxpayer who deserves an explanation: Why are his tax dollars being used to manipulate his own government in favor of suicide bombers?**Israel Resource News Agency, based at the Bet Agron Int'l Press Center in Jerusalem, is affiliated with the Center for Near East Policy Research, located at 52 Beard Way, Wellesley, MA 02482, USA.