The Backers of Islamophobia

The Correlation with Right-Wing Zionism

On the producer side of Islamophobia rhetoric, ideological Christian personalities are the primary content-creators and preach fear to their followers, but there is another faction that produces – or more usually supports the production of – this misinformation: the right-wing Zionists. The Islamophobia industry deploys “intellectual” attacks backed by hardline supporters of Israel to extend its reach into Palestinian territories. Money talks, and by emphasizing what they view as the threat of Islam and Muslims to unsuspecting citizens, they create an atmosphere where their policies against the Palestinians will be met with less resistance.

The Islamophobia industry is honeycombed with pro-Israeli magnates who served as financial suppliers, injecting eye-popping cash flows into the accounts of various fear campaigns. For the most part, their largesse was a silent operation, void of the public recognition that usually accompanies such high-dollar handouts.[2]

The issue of Israel is closely linked to the issue of Islamophobia. For Religious Zionists, Palestinians are non-Jews—outsiders—and God’s commandments are quite harsh against them. Christian Zionists share a similar view. They frame their language about Islam and Muslims in a religious context that supports the return of the Jews to the Holy Land to precursor the second coming of Christ. Both groups in the pro-Israel Right, even with different ideological motivations, have come to see Israel as a state threatened by Islamic expansion; therefore, a narrative that portrays Islam as a clear and present danger had to be created and distributed.

The Islamophobia industry is comprised of an alliance of members from many shades of the pro-Israel Right. Despite the variances in the reasons for their antagonistic campaigns against Muslims, the fact is that they are all firmly planted in the same pro-Israel, anti-Muslim camp.[3]

Identity politics are often used by leaders to advance a political agenda that would otherwise be unacceptable to their people. The motivation for propagating false narratives are obvious: if you can convince people that a group is inherently dishonest, then people will believe that group is inherently dangerous. And if that group is believed to be inherently dangerous, then people will naturally demonize them and accept bigoted laws against them. This fear-mongering tactic is not new. It was used against the Jews in Nazi Germany, and it was used against Japanese-Americans during WWII. Most people have never met a Muslim, so it is easy for the majority of people to accept this propaganda.

When 9/11 happened, most Americans were shocked, struggling to understand what was going on. However, many Israeli groups were not so taken-aback. Benjamin Netanyahu, then prime minister of Israel, remarked that Israel and America were fighting the same war. He connected the Palestinian adversaries of the Jewish state with the 19 hijackers: both were Arabs; both were Muslims. Therefore, according to his logic, both had the same inherent tendency for terrorism. Bush’s “War on Terror” did precisely what Netanyahu, and many other right-wing Israeli leaders like him, hoped for—it gave Israel the political cover to continue its brutal policies against the Palestinians unhindered.

Asked what the 9/11 atrocities would mean for US-Israeli relations, Netanyahu told The New York Times, “It’s very good”, before quickly adding, “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy” and would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror”.[4]

For this connection to play out in fact and not just in theory, Israel and America had to have the same enemy. However, Palestinians never threatened the United States in any way, so this common enemy could not be just the Palestinians. Something more menacing was needed, and Islam itself served this purpose brilliantly. By hyping-up the narrative of a monolithic Islamic Threat marching on the West, Israel could cast itself as the bastion of and “Judeo-Christian” values in the drama playing out on TV screens across the United States.

This imagery of “Western” civilization facing down “Islamic” barbarity found its home in the particularly receptive ears of politically influential, white, right-wing Christian evangelical pastors and their followers. By all measures, this strategy can only be considered a success for Israel and its supporters. The political scientist Neve Gordon notes that from 2001 to 2007, Israel killed more Palestinians per year than it had during the first 20 years of occupation. Additionally, since the onset of the second Intifada in October 2000, Israelis have slaughtered twice as many Palestinians as they did in the previous 34 years.[5]

Following the Money Trail

CAIR researchers published a report in 2019 that reveals an enormous web of anti-Muslim organizations connected to a wealth of funding sources, both fringe and mainstream. There are eight mainstream charities from which significant funds (over $3M) are channeled to Islamophobia organizations. The way these funds get from reputable mainstream charities to fringe right-wing and xenophobic hate groups is that most of these charities operate on a “donor-advised” basis. That means that the donors include the recipient of their donations when they submit their monies to the charity. Since most of these Islamophobic organizations do not have inflammatory names, the funds are anonymized and sent without oversight.

From the generic Donor Advised Funds, Vanguard Charitable donated $3.7M, Donors Capital Fund Inc. donated $4.4M, Schwab Charitable donated $5.7M, and Fidelity Charitable donated $8.7M to Islamophobic organizations. From the Faith-Based Donor Advised Funds, Jewish Communal Fund donated $3.2M and National Christian Foundation donated $15.7M to Islamophobic organizations. Finally, from the Private Family Foundations, the Abstraction Fund donated $3.1M, Adelson Family Foundation donated $6.1M, and Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism Inc. donated $32.4M to Islamophobic organizations.

These charities have a track record of supporting various philanthropic and worthy causes, so it is a shameful travesty that they have been used as a channel for subsidizing hate groups. On the other hand, it is heartening to know that most of this financial support is unwitting. Most mainstream foundations are more than likely being exploited or used by donors who seek to anonymize their contributions to anti-Muslim special interest groups, so there is hope that as light is shed on the nature of these end-recipients, the charities will reserve their rights to give the funds entrusted to them to organizations that do not have hate in their agendas.

Unfortunately, there are American philanthropies who ideologically align themselves with the Islamophobia network, normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry and violence against Muslims. The Clarion Fund donated $17M to produce Obsession, a 77-minute DVD on “radical Islam’s war against the West,”[6] which was circulated in September 2008 to influence voters against Barak Obama and in favor of John McCain. The Fairbrook Foundation has been a consistent financial supporter of Robert Spencer’s anti-Muslim website, Jihad Watch. In 2005, they gave almost $200k to Spencer directly and nearly $1M to Jihad Watch’s parent group, the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Between 2004 and 2009, the Fairbrook Foundation donated $125k to Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT! for America, $67k to Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, and $410k to Daniel Pipes’s Middle East Forum. [7] In 2017, it was found that the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF), which had claimed to renounce hate, was involved in funneling money into the coffers of anti-Muslim activists, too. [8] This trail connecting donations to ideologies confirms the right-wing Zionism that backs the majority of Islamophobia today.


[1] (CAIR 2019, 10)

[2] (Lean 2017, 219)

[3] (Lean 2017, 200)

[4] (Abunimah 2011)

[5] (Ram 2009, 76)

[6] (Lean 2017, 219)

[7] (Lean 2017, 222)

[8] (Lean 2017, 223)

The Backers of Islamophobia

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