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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Noah Pollak


noah-pollak-eci
    • Emergency Committee for Israel: Spokesperson
    • Commentary: Contributor
    • Middle East Forum: Former editorial assistant

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Noah Pollak is a neoconservative pundit who has worked for an array of militarist "pro-Israel" organizations since the early 2000s. He has been a director and spokesperson for the Emergency Committee for Israel, a contributing writer for Commentary magazine, and an assistant editor of Middle East Quarterly, which is published by Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum.[1]

Pollak appears to have first received public attention with the launch of ECI, a Washington-based pressure group established in mid-2010 that claims "to provide citizens with the facts they need to be sure that their public officials are supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship." Pollak was initially identified as director of the group.[2] Board members have included William Kristol, editor and founder of the Weekly Standard and cofounder of the Foreign Policy Initiative; Rachel Abrams, a divisive pundit and blogger who is the spouse of Iran-Contra veteran Elliott Abrams; and Gary Bauer, a well-know Christian Zionist who leads the lobby groups American Values and Keep Israel Safe and serves on the executive board of John Hagee's Christians United for Israel.

A key ECI tactic has been publishing ads that attack critics of hawkish Israeli policies and one-sided U.S. support for the country, sometimes alluding to anti-Semitic motives. The group's first act was to run a controversial attack ad in July 2010 targeting Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), insinuating that he supported Mideast terrorists.[3]

In March 2012, ECI ran a full-page ad in the New York Times accusing several Democratic Party-aligned organizations—namely, the Center for American Progress and Media Matters—of being "anti-Israel," highlighting the various Jewish foundations that have supported the work of these groups. The ad urged Times readers to "call these foundations and ask them: Why are you funding bigotry and anti-Israel extremism?"[4]

Pollak told the Jewish daily Forward, which identified him as "a spokesman" for the group, "We wanted to start a conversation about the appropriateness of mainstream philanthropies supporting organizations … that are so hostile to Israel. The conversation has begun."[5]

The ad, however, appeared to backfire when many of the people and organizations cited in the ad as critics of the liberal groups protested ECI's decision to quote them out of context and without permission. Writing in the Forward, "pro-Israel" Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz said the ad "misrepresents the truth," while Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman told the New Yorker that it was "misleading, distorted, inaccurate."[6] Additionally, according to the Forward, "most of the five Jewish organizations that were named in the ad told the Forward they had hardly been affected, despite ECI publishing their telephone numbers."[7]

In an interview with the right-wing Jerusalem Post, Pollak justified the establishment of ECI in an already crowded "pro-Israel" advocacy community, saying, "We will not rest until there is a pro-Israel group representing every pro-Israel person on earth."[8]

Asked how ECI differed from other "pro-Israel" groups, Pollak said: "Well, for starters, ECI is pro-Israel. Our purpose is to address three major threats to the U.S.-Israel alliance in the context of the American political debate: the Iranian nuclear program and Iran's sponsorship of terrorist groups; the campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel; and the hostility of the Obama administration to the traditional closeness of the two nations. At bottom, we believe that the turn against Israel is a rejection of America's special role in the world as a defender of liberal democracies. We will do great damage to our own national soul if we allow ourselves to become cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state."[9]

During a CNN interview with Campbell Brown (wife of neocon operative Dan Senor of the Foreign Policy Initiative) in early July 2010, Pollak highlighted the Iranian threat. Asked whether Israel and the United States were on the "same page," Pollak said he though not but added that "there is a developing consensus that something needs to be done and that it would be very, very bad if the Iranians went nuclear."[10]

Inter Press Service writer Eli Clifton discovered that ECI's website domain was initially registered to long-standing Republican Party figure Margaret Hoover, who served under Karl Rove during the George W. Bush presidency. Hoover, a great granddaughter of Herbert Hoover, is a right-wing pundit and blogger who has appeared on Fox News and other media outlets.

Commenting on Pollak's and Hoover's work on ECI, Clifton wrote: "It's pretty clear that Pollak and Hoover, along with the people behind Keep Israel Safe and Stop Iran Now, are part of the extensive neoconservative echo chamber which seeks to create the appearance of a diverse coalition of grassroots groups calling on the US to prevent Iran from going nuclear by any means necessary. Things as simple as a looking at the registration on a domain name reveal that these groups are part of an intensely partisan (both Republican and Likudist) campaign to push the U.S. into a military conflict with Iran. And CNN, which just last week summarily fired a senior editor for a tweet praising the late Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, is amplifying their message."

Pollak got his start in neoconservative and Likud Party politics shortly after graduating from Vermont University in 2003.[11] After graduation he moved to Israel, where he worked as an assistant editor for Azure, a magazine published by the Shalem Center. The Jerusalem-based center appears to be a Likud Party-aligned group that claims on to engage "in research, education, and publications in areas that include Jewish moral and political thought, Zionist history and ideas, Biblical archaeology, democratic theory and practice, strategic studies, and economic and social policy." One of its projects is the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, which is funded by major Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson.[12]

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Sources

[1] Yale MacMIllan Center, "Intenational Relations Students," http://www.yale.edu/macmillan/iac/students.htm#pollak (accessed 18 July 2010).

[2] Eli Clifton, "Former Bush Administration Official Heads Up Latest Astroturf Group Pushing For Attack On Iran," Inter Press Service, LobeLog.com, July 11, 2010, http://www.lobelog.com/former-bush-administration-official-heads-up-latest-astroturf-group-pushing-for-attack-on-iran/.

[3] Eli Clifton, "Familiar Neocons And Christian Zionist Head Up New "Emergency Committee For Israel" Inter Press Service, Lobelog, July 13, 2010, http://www.lobelog.com/familiar-neocons-and-christian-zionist-head-up-new-emergency-committee-for-israel/.

[4] ECI ad, New York Times, March 1, 2012, http://www.committeeforisrael.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/CAP-MM-NYT.jpg.

[5] Both quotes cited in Paul Berger, "Campaign Succeeds in Stirring Charity Pot," Forward, March 16, 2012, http://forward.com/articles/152682/campaign-succeeds-in-stirring-charity-pot/.

[6] Both quotes cited in Paul Berger, "Campaign Succeeds in Stirring Charity Pot," Forward, March 16, 2012, http://forward.com/articles/152682/campaign-succeeds-in-stirring-charity-pot/.

[7] Both quotes cited in Paul Berger, "Campaign Succeeds in Stirring Charity Pot," Forward, March 16, 2012, http://forward.com/articles/152682/campaign-succeeds-in-stirring-charity-pot/.

[8] Shmuel Posner, "Noah Pollak on 'cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state,'" Jerusalem Post, Posner's Domain, July 15, 2010, http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/rosner/entry/noah_pollak_on_cynical_participants.

[9] Shmuel Posner, "Noah Pollak on 'cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state,'" Jerusalem Post, Posner's Domain, July 15, 2010, http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/rosner/entry/noah_pollak_on_cynical_participants.

[10] CNN Transcripts, "CAMPBELL BROWN: Immigration Showdown; President Obama Meets With Israeli Prime Minister," CNN, July 6, 2010, http://www.cnnstudentnews.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1007/06/ec.01.html.

[11] Yale MacMIllan Center, "Intenational Relations Students," http://www.yale.edu/macmillan/iac/students.htm#pollak (accessed 18 July 2010).

[12] Israel News Agency, February 6, 2007; Philanthropy News Digest, May 3, 2007.

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Noah Pollak Résumé

    Affiliations

    • Emergency Committee for Israel: Spokesperson/director
    • Commentary: Contributor
    • Middle East Forum: Former assistant editor, Middle East Quarterly
    • Shalem Center: Former assistant editor, Azure magazine

    Education

    • Yale University
    • Vermont University: BA (2003)

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