Israel, Politics

5WPR & Pamela Geller join forces to attack New Israel Fund

5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian and Senior Vice President Juda Engelmayer have distributed a press release to Jewish journalists on behalf of Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim hate group, but Torossian denies the two have a working relationship.
“My company does not represent AFDI nor Ms. Geller,” Torossian wrote Jewschool in a March 4th email.
The press release promotes a new campaign by AFDI targeting donors to the New Israel Fund (NIF), the largest non-profit funder of civil society programs in Israel (notably human rights monitoring groups like B’tselem and Yesh Din), for what Geller and Torossian falsely claim is their support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

AFDI press release sent by Ronn Torossian to a Jewish journalist who requested anonymity.
AFDI press release sent by Ronn Torossian to a Jewish journalist who requested anonymity.
“We must shame these philanthropists who fund BDS groups—particularly the New Israel Fund,” the press release states. “We will continue to demand that any American Jew who supports the New Israel Fund withdraw such funding.”
Torossian’s clients include celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube, corporations like Duane Reade, pornographers like Girls Gone Wild, and right-leaning Jewish nonprofits like Aish HaTorah and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). He’s also a former activist with the Betar youth organization and Avi Weiss’ Amcha, groups which specialize in harassing Israel critics, as well as a cofounder of Yerushalayim Shelanu (“Our Jerusalem”), an organization which promotes Jewish settlement over the Green Line in occupied East Jerusalem.
In a 2008 entry at his Atlantic blog, Jeffrey Goldberg calls Torossian “the most disreputable flack in New York” and quotes him as once saying, “I think we should kill a hundred Arabs or a thousand Arabs for every one Jew they kill.” At the time, Torossian was helping Aish and the Clairon Fund distribute 28 million copies of an Islamophobic documentary called Obsession with the intent of terrorizing voters into supporting Republican candidates.
This past February 23, Torossian, who has contributed to Geller’s Atlas Shrugged blog, took to the pages of The Algemeiner demanding the termination of NIF donors from their roles in the Jewish institutional world. Specifically, Torossian targeted Alisa Doctoroff, President of the UJA Federation of New York, and Karen Adler, a member of the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and President of the Jewish Communal Fund.
“There is no spin that the UJA-Federation and JCRC can provide,” wrote Torossian, “for the fact that their leaders financially support…organizations that harm Israel. And they must be fired.”
The March 1 press release sent by Torossian and Engelmayer announces AFDI’s new national advertising campaign on city buses (AFDI’s raison d’être) featuring personal attacks against Doctoroff and Adler, as well as philanthropists David Hochberg, Carole and Saul Zabar (of the renown Upper West Side grocery), Sally Gottesman, and Edith Everett.
One of AFDI's ads attacking NIF donors.
One of AFDI’s ads attacking NIF donors.
Torossian’s op-ed came on the heels of a ZOA campaign to have NIF barred from the annual New York Celebrates Israel Day Parade, a demand Torossian echoed in Jared Kushner’s New York Observer, where he is joined by Democratic campaign strategist and lobbyist Hank Scheinkopf in waging a campaign for NIF’s marginalization. (Kushner is the Orthodox Jewish son-in-law of Donald Trump, the most considered man in conservative politics.) Their efforts have thus far succeeded in banning BDS supporters from the parade generally, but not NIF specifically.
NIF, of course, does not support BDS, financially or otherwise. As the organization offers in a policy statement on its website:
“The NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland. NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs. However, NIF opposes the occupation and subsequent settlement activities. NIF will thus not exclude support for organizations that discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.”
AFDI press release sent by Juda Engelmayer to a separate Jewish journalist who requested anonymity.
AFDI press release sent by Juda Engelmayer to a separate Jewish journalist who requested anonymity.
Torossian dismisses NIF’s distinction between boycotting Israel and Israeli settlements.
“NIF endorses BDS as defined by anyone in the Pro-Israel camp,” Torossian says. “NIF supports BDS – as they say on their site. They don’t get to define a word in their own way.”
When countered with the fact that BDS is a formal set of principles and goals defined by the BDS Movement, a coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations, and not something defined by the Pro-Israel camp, Torossian insists, “They agree with my definition, they just choose to play word games.”
In a report from the Anti-Defamation League, which recognizes Geller as a leading anti-Muslim extremist, the organization notes that “Geller routinely attacks organizations that oppose her agenda and views, often employing inappropriate Holocaust terminology and imagery to deride mainstream Jewish civil rights organizations.”
Sure enough, Geller’s ads claim that BDS is “the new Nazism,” thereby insinuating that NIF supports Nazism. (The ZOA has also hosted Geller as a speaker and defended her against charges of bigotry by branding her critics “Islamists.”)
Perhaps it’s for these reasons that Torossian strenuously denies that he is working with Geller, despite contributing to her blog and sharing several of her views—even going so far as to threaten legal action against this reporter for suggesting disbelief.
“As I have said numerous times, my firm does not represent her or her organization,” insists Torossian. “I personally stand against BDS and NIF.”
Unfortunately for Torossian, while employed at JTA, I personally caught his company engaged in online impersonation, a fact which he also swore up-and-down at the time was not true. His word is simply not credible.
When asked for comment, NIF’s Vice President Naomi Paiss offered in response, “We are wasting as little time as possible on Torossian and Geller. Our donors agree.”
Full disclosure: Ronn Torossian and I once shared a dentist. Also, I am a former member of the New Israel Fund New Generations New York Steering Committee.

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