It has been a great start to the summer as Islamophobes in Europe and North America continue to get dragged through the mud. On June 13, a US judge ruled that the publisher of The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi fake news site, must pay a Muslim comedian $4.1 million for falsely portraying him as a terrorist. Two days later, a UK judge declared that The Daily Mail, a notoriously Islamophobic site, owes an apology and £120,000 to the Palestinian charity Interpal for claiming that it was a terrorist organization.
However, as discussed in the previous article in this series on Islamophobia, these moments of success only scratch the surface of a complex global industry.
A prominent but sometimes forgotten stakeholder in the Islamophobia industry is Israel, both through its own policies and through the powerful Zionist lobby in the US. Israel’s influence on the spread of anti-Muslim bigotry is joined at the hip with its efforts to suppress pro-Palestinian scholarship and advocacy. A 2015 report by the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) found that Israel and its supporters had pumped over $300 million into Islamophobic, anti-Arab, and anti-Palestinian efforts at the time. Hatem Bazian, a lecturer at UC Berkeley and a prominent researcher on Islamophobia, has estimated that about 70% of Islamophobia funding in the US comes from Zionist sources.
Exploring and exposing the way this process works is very difficult, as the entire scheme relies on secrecy from the general public. One Canadian professor at the University of Lethbridge learned this the hard way in 2018. In 2016, Anthony Hall — a tenured professor who had taught Native American studies, liberal education, and globalization for 26 years — found himself suspended without pay for suggesting that there was a Zionist connection to 9/11 and that it is important to think critically about the narrative of the Holocaust. B’nai Brith Canada had jumped on the case and pressured the university to remove Hall, but he was reinstated in 2017. In June 2018, he apparently went too far: he said that the Zionists were funding Islamophobia. B’nai Brith again raised the alarm, and this time Hall was seemingly pressured into retirement by August.
It is precisely these extraordinary efforts to silence anyone who tries to trace Islamophobia to the Zionist lobby that should raise eyebrows about just how deep of a relationship this is. And this is why the contents of IJAN’s report are so important.
The main offenders identified in the report, titled The Business of Backlash: The Attack on the Palestinian Movement and Other Movements for Justice, were 11 donors whose foundations (not including their private wealth) are collectively worth over $10 billion. Many of them fund Islamophobia through the donor-advised funds discussed in previous Crescent articles, as an effort to make it difficult to trace their contributions back to them. And most of them could clearly benefit from stirring up negative views of Muslims, and they have invested heavily in oil and weapons technology.
One of the Zionist contributors are the Koch Brothers. Fred C. Koch was a US chemical engineer and entrepreneur who, in 1927, found an efficient way to refine oil into gasoline. This led to him setting up his own oil refinery. However, in 1929, it became known that Fred and his partner, a former employee of Universal Oil Products, had only made minor tweaks to Universal’s existing process and claimed it as their own.
Embarrassed in the US, Koch entered a market that his competitors in the US were reluctant to support: Soviet Russia under Stalin’s brutal regime. This kept Koch afloat as he built up his business in the US, ready to sacrifice anything for money. His eldest son, Frederick, was all but ostracized from the family for his interest in studying theatre, and his sons have said that their mother lived in fear of their father.
After Koch’s death in 1967, his sons fought bitter legal battles to control the business, and eventually two of them, Charles and David, succeeded (their brother Bill Koch has called them “the biggest crooks in the oil industry”). They expanded into other ventures, and today they own $115 billion in assets and Koch Industries is the second-largest privately-held company in the US (as of 2015). Koch Industries controls at least four oil refineries, six ethanol plants, a natural-gas-fired power plant, and 4,000 miles of pipeline. At one point, it was producing 5% of all oil burned in the US and also producing billions of pounds of petrochemicals, inserting itself into the production of everything from fertilizers and the plywood sold at Home Depot to Angel Soft toilet paper and Apple’s iPhones.
In addition to being one of the top 30 polluters in the US and repeatedly showing no concern for the health of residents in the areas they work in, Koch Industries is a major contributor to the Donors Capital Fund (discussed in the previous article), which they know funnels their money to Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian projects. These include the Clarion Project, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Stand With Us, the Israel Law Centre (which defends illegal Israeli squatters and war criminals), and more.
The Kochs must certainly be aware of where their donations are going, though publicly they put on the mask of progressive views and criticism of Israel. In May 2016, for example, they invited notoriously anti-Israel pundits to the Charles Koch Institute’s conference, even as they were funneling money to Zionist enablers and likely exploring the options for their first major ($150 million) investment in Israel, which came just a year later. It is important to note that the Koch family are not of Jewish or Israeli background; they are Christian Zionists of Dutch descent.
Another of the 11 major Zionist funders of the Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian machine is the Sheldon Adelson Family Foundation. In May of 2017, Sheldon Adelson owned $36.7 billion in assets. He owns Las Vegas Sands, the largest casino company in the world. The Adelsons’ contributions are focused mostly on pro-Israel efforts, particularly sending young American Jews on fully-paid “birthright” trips to Israel. However, they also support more general Islamophobic organizations, including the American Islamic Congress, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, and the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Adelson has also given as much as $250,000 to the Counterterrorism and Security Education and Research Foundation (CTSERF), which is yet another Islamophobic think tank. And in case this does not make it clear enough, he has also openly said that “all Muslims are terrorists.” He has also supported current presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a supporter of Indian PM Narendra Modi and his virulently Islamophobic rhetoric. She has also spoken about “radical Islamic ideology” and countries with “Islamic extremist” populations, and Adelson has stood by her despite — or perhaps, because of — all this.
There is much more to discuss on this topic, so this will continue in upcoming articles. It is important to point out here that the many links between Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian efforts is one more reason why the Palestinian struggle for justice should be a pressing concern for all Muslims. Those who enable and maintain the illegal colonization of Palestine are often the same people who are sending harassment and even violent right-wing extremists to our doorsteps, such as recent shootings in masjids in Quebec and New Zealand.