The Jewish Donors Behind the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

In case there are still doubts about the Jewish nature of neoconservatism, a recent article “Documents Shed Light On Those Underwriting The Foundation For Defense Of Democracies”  by Eli Clifton at Think Progress should clear things up. The FDD supports all the past and future wars in the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Iran. It supports “the Bush administration’s militant “war on terror” and policies espoused by Israel’s right wing Likud party.” Yet the FDD statement of purpose completely omits any mention of Israel. Touring their website would lead one to believe that there is no connection at all to Israel or anything Jewish.

All of the identifiable donors to The Foundation for Defense of Democracies are Jews, including a host of well-known Jewish activists like Edgar M. Bronfman ($1,050,000)  and Michael Steinhardt ($850,000) who co-founded the Birthright Israel program that brings Jewish young people to Israel for a dose of Jewish patriotism. Haim Saban, who is a pro-Israel fanatic but usually supports left-wing causes in the Diaspora, donated $10,000. I’m shocked that a liberal like Saban would contribute to an organization that is so prominent in Republican circles.

Indeed, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies is headed by Clifford May, who was “the Director of Communications for the Republican National Committee from 1997 to 2001. In his position, he oversaw activities such as strategic planning, press, radio, television, online services, speech writing, and advertising. He worked as the editor of Rising Tide, the official Republican Party magazine. He also was Vice Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition. May is a regular commentator at Fox News on terrorism.”

The father of Douglas Feith contributed $200,000. Feith, a major architect of the disinformation campaign that eased the path to war in Iraq, has strong links to the Israeli right and to the West Bank settler movement (see here, p. 47ff). Other prominent Jewish neocons employed by FDD are Michael Ledeen (see previous link, p. 29ff) and Reuel Marc Gerecht.

But despite the obvious Jewish backbone of FDD, they give great prominence to non-Jews who serve as window dressing masking the Jewish backbone of the organization. When asked about the donor list, May stated “most of the original group of donors were introduced to me by Jack Kemp, FDD’s founding chairman, and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a founding member of FDD’s board of directors” — an unverifiable statement given that both are dead. The public image being conveyed is that FDD is not at all Jewish.

This is reinforced by FDD’s “Who We Are” page which states that “Those affiliated with FDD come from many backgrounds.”

Our Leadership Council of Distinguished Advisors includes former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former State Department Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky, Forbes CEO Steve Forbes, former National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane, former Ambassador Max Kampelman, Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey.

Six of the nine are  not Jews. In the case of the Jews involved, there are strong personal and ethnic ties to Israel. But exactly why these non-Jews are involved is, as usual, difficult to say. It’s not the sort of thing where one can trust personal statements. However, one obvious suggestion is that a major factor is that being involved with the neoconservative infrastructure is a great career move. This is a very well-endowed organization with close ties to the media and to the Republican Party. No surprise that ambitious non-Jews would want to get involved.

As with the other Jewish intellectual and political movements, non-Jews have been welcomed into the movement and often given highly visible roles as the public face of the movement. This of course lessens the perception that the movement is indeed a Jewish movement, and it makes excellent psychological sense to have the spokespersons for any movement resemble the people they are trying to convince. That’s why Ahmed Chalabi (a Shiite Iraqi, a student of early neocon theorist Albert Wohlstetter, and a close personal associate of prominent neocons, including Richard Perle) was the neocons’ choice to lead postwar Iraq. There are many examples—including Freud’s famous comments on needing a non-Jew to represent psychoanalysis (he got Carl Jung for a time until Jung balked at the role, and then Ernest Jones). Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict were the most publicly recognized Boasian anthropologists, and there were a great many non-Jewish leftists and pro-immigration advocates who were promoted to visible positions in Jewish-dominated movements—and sometimes resented their role. Albert Lindemann describes non-Jews among the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution as “jewified non-Jews”—“a term, freed of its ugly connotations, [that] might be used to underline an often overlooked point: Even in Russia there were some non-Jews, whether Bolsheviks or not, who respected Jews, praised them abundantly, imitated them, cared about their welfare, and established intimate friendships or romantic liaisons with them.” …
This need for the involvement of non-Jews is especially acute for neoconservatism as a political movement: Because neoconservative Jews constitute a tiny percentage of the electorate, they need to make alliances with non-Jews whose perceived interests dovetail with theirs. Non-Jews have a variety of reasons for being associated with Jewish interests, including career advancement, close personal relationships or admiration for individual Jews, and deeply held personal convictions. For example, as described below, Senator Henry Jackson, whose political ambitions were intimately bound up with the neoconservatives, was a strong philosemite due partly to his experiences in childhood; his alliance with neoconservatives also stemmed from his (entirely reasonable) belief that the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a deadly conflict and his belief that Israel was a valuable ally in that struggle. Because neoconservatives command a large and lucrative presence in the media,
thinktankdom, and political culture generally, it is hardly surprising that complex blends of opportunism and personal conviction characterize participating non-Jews. (See here, pp. 11-12)
The FDD may be considered a paradigm of a successful Jewish activist organization: Well funded and closely tied to the media and to the political elites that run American foreign policy. But, like the SPLC, the public face of the organization completely downplays its Jewish essence.
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