Netanyahu Takes His Siege Against Human Rights NGOs to the US
Editor's Note: Scroll to the bottom for a recent interview with Max Blumenthal by GritTV's Laura Flanders.
As the anti-Goldstone, human rights-bashing Lawfare Project’s opening event on March 11 wrapped up, I asked its chairman, Columbia University Law School Dean David Schizer, for an interview. Schizer, who had just attacked the Goldstone Report from the podium, pointedly refused to speak to me and looked for the exit. As Schizer was leaving, he was politely confronted by Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke, who heads the school’s Program in Gender and Sexuality Law.
“Why didn’t you invite any speakers with an alternative perspective?” Franke asked Schizer.
His reply was curt. “We invited one or two but they couldn’t make it,” Schizer claimed before hurrying away.
Schizer was understandably nervous about his exposure. After all, he had just presided over a day-long conference during which Israeli human rights workers were labeled as traitors while Judge Richard Goldstone and human rights groups were compared to “anti-Semitic street gangs.” After several speakers had harshly condemned legal efforts against the construction of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Schizer appeared beside them to lend his credibility to their views.
Schizer attacks Goldstone
Held in the ornate NY County Lawyers Association meeting room in downtown Manhattan, where the walls were adorned with portraits of the pioneers of international jurisprudence, the Lawfare Project’s conference had the look of a non-partisan academic conference. However, the event was organized by a network of American Zionist groups and conservative operatives with apparent encouragement from the Israeli government.
As Scott Horton noticed at Harper’s, the Lawfare Project’s rollout event followed a remarkably similar conference in Jerusalem two weeks earlier. Both conferences followed legislation in the Knesset designed to force NGO’s to disclose their foreign donors so they can be more easily branded as a fifth column and to strangle human rights groups in Israel and occupied Palestine.
The presence of high-level Israeli officials like UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev at the Lawfare Project conference suggested that the Netanyahu administration was the hidden hand behind the event. If so, the Israeli government has deployed its American Jewish allies to take the fight across the Atlantic to groups like Human Rights Watch and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Both groups were attacked at the event as anti-Israeli and anti-American.
I arrived late in the day but just in time for a panel moderated by Pat Robertson’s longtime legal counsel, Jay Sekulow. Sekulow, a convert from Judaism to evangelical Christianity who has spent his career representing anti-gay and anti-abortion clients, appears to be playing a key role in the Lawfare Project.
Through his American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Sekulow reaps millions of dollars each year from Christian conservative donors. He uses that money to pay himself upwards of $600,000, provide a lavish lifestyle for his family, and procure the services of the PR firm, 5WPR, which represents other upstanding clients like Girls Gone Wild and the pro-settler Hebron Fund.
5WPR was handling the press list for the Lawfare Project and shuttling its speakers to and from media appearances. 5W Senior Account Executive Maggie Davis told me that through the firm’s relationship with Sekulow, she was arranging media appearances for Brooke Goldstein, founder of the Children’s Rights Institute, which happens to share a domain address with the Lawfare Project. Both websites were registered by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which played a direct role in planning the conference. Goldstein is now the lead spokesperson for the Lawfare Project, according to 5W’s Davis.