By now many of you know about the controversy surrounding the film "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." In brief, the Clarion Fund, which is closely related to Aish HaTorah, send DVDs of Obsession to…
…28 million voters in swing states in a move clearly designed to bolster John McCain's presidential campaign.
Most of the furor surrounding this move has correctly focused on the Clarion Fund and its hidden its connections to Aish.
But before we deal with this latest example of Aish HaTorah dishonesty, a word about the film itself is necessary.
Many have criticized Obsession for being thinly veiled anti-Arab propaganda which paints Islam with a very broad tar-filled brush.
I have not seen the whole film. I saw bits of it on Fox last year. But I understand the atmosphere in which Obsession was made.
Obsession was released in 2005. But it was conceived, written and produced during a long string of terror attacks against Jews in Israel.
Is it one sided?
But that one-sidedness can and should be understood by viewing Obsession for what it is: a propaganda film conceived and made in the heat of war. And it must be clearly stated that the other side in this war – Osama Bin Laden, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, etc. – is made up of brutal butchers who intentionally kill and maim non-combatants. These non-combatants are not victims of "collateral damage." These non-combatants are intended targets in baby strollers, city buses and shopping malls. And they are Jews.
Obsession's swing state distribution three years after the film was first released and in very close proximity to a US presidential election is a wholly different matter – especially when the Democratic candidate is a Christian man with Muslim middle name and black skin.
It is no secret that Israel's hard political right would much prefer a John McCain presidency.
It is also no secret that a small but significant portion of Americans are frightened by Barack Obama's middle name and by the color of his skin.
If those frightened Americans who live in swing states can be persuaded to come to the polls and vote against Obama, McCain would have chance of winning the presidency.
And so we've seen a slew of emails targeting Jewish and Evangelical Christian voters and falsely claiming Obama is a Muslim and that he is "anti-Israel."
And then Obsession was distributed free to 28 million potential voters in swing states – including Florida, home to tens of thousands of elderly Jews who are especially easy prey for the McCain backers peddling fear and lies about Obama.
The St. Petersburg Times did some detailed digging and exposed the Clarion Fund's symbiotic connections to Aish HaTorah and the deception used by Clarion and Aish to mask those connections.
Aish spokesman Ronn Torossian (of 5WPR Agriprocessors' sockpuppetry infamy) denied Aish's connection to the film or its pre-election free distribution:
Ronn Torossian, spokesman for Aish HaTorah, said that his group would in "no way be involved with Clarion Fund or Obsession because Aish HaTorah is a charity and must remain apolitical."
The Times apparently didn't know Ronn's history. Torossian himself is a hard right fanatic who never saw a settlement or "outpost" he didn't like. He is also the most hated PR flack in the country, known for abusive and threatening phone calls, emails and text messages to anyone he dislikes or perceives as getting in his way.
But what the St. Petersburg Times also did not know is that this is not Aish HaTorah's first attempt to illegally influence a national election.
In 1994, Aish HaTorah head Rabbi Noach Weinberg secretly backed the formation of the Third Way political party, funneling money (raised primarily in the US for "outreach" – ultra-Orthodox missionary activity) to fund the Third Way. Made up of two Labor Party Members of Knesset, the faction broke with Labor and became an independent party, winning four seats in the 1996 elections.
The Third Way was supposedly a one issue party, formed to stop Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. But the truth is a bit different. Whatever the MK's intent, Rabbi Weinberg backed the Third Way in order to topple the Labor government lead by Yitzhak Rabin and scuttle the Oslo Peace process. When the Third Way won four seats in the 1996 elections, it helped Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party for a governing coalition. This wasn't particularly surprising, in part because the operations head of the Third Way was former leader of Likud's young leadership.
The point is, Aish HaTorah hid its involvement in the Third Way just as it hid its involvement in both the making of Obsession and the film's free distribution on the eve of an election. In both cases, Aish clearly seems to have broken the law.
As the controversy over Obsession's free pre-election distribution heated up this week, McCain campaigner Joe The Plumber played the role of McCain attack dog, claiming that a vote for Obama was a vote for the "death of Israel."
The McCain campaign responded to reporters' questions about this disgusting lie this way:
Shortly after Wurzelbacher's statement was made, the McCain campaign issued a statement saying "while he's clearly his own man, so far Joe has offered some penetrating and clear analysis that cuts to the core of many of the concerns that people have with Barack Obama's statements and policies.…there is good reason to question the judgement Obama would bring to the Oval Office."
Here it is on video:
Let's see. Scare emails labeling Obama a Muslim. Obsession distributed free of charge to 28 million potential voters in swing states. Joe the Plumber says a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel. McCain does not distance himself from that remark.
Coincidence? I doubt it. So should you. And so should the FEC and the IRS.
St. Petersburg Times: Aish Obsession Election.pdf