Thursday, February 27, 2003

New York Post investigative article shows that the anti-war effort by certain groups is being financed by 'questionable' sources, including the Communist Party and Islamic Jihad.



February 23, 2003 -- THE antiwar group Not In Our Name has attracted a lot of attention in recent months by publishing a "statement of conscience" in newspapers across the country. The organization purchased two full pages in the Jan. 27 New York Times to run the statement, which assails the Bush administration for "unleash[ing] a spirit of revenge" after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and embarking on a course of "war abroad and repression at home."
The letter was signed by hundreds of celebrity endorsers, including the actors Ed Asner, Martin Sheen and Marisa Tomei; writers Kurt Vonnegut, Alice Walker and Barbara Kingsolver; musicians Graham Nash, Pete Seeger and Mos Def; and politicians Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. The combination of well-known names and high-profile ad placement has made Not In Our Name a leading player in the antiwar movement.

Yet, relatively little attention has been paid to Not In Our Name's financial support network. A look at that network shows that the group relies on tax-exempt foundations that in the past have been - and today still are - affiliated with a variety of radical causes, including the defense of convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal, support for Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba and involvement with figures linked to Middle Eastern terrorism.

AT a Not In Our Name demonstration held on Jan. 27 outside the United Nations, one speaker declared that opposition to a war in Iraq, as exemplified by the rally, "is becoming a broad-based movement." A look behind the scenes, however, suggests that the organization itself is not broad-based at all, but is, rather, one of a small group of radical sects devoted to causes far removed from the antiwar effort. Not In Our Name is in fact two groups, which began as one.

The organization was created in March 2002 by a gathering of left-wing activists that included representatives from the Revolutionary Communist Party, the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, Refuse and Resist!, the International League of Peoples' Struggle and the National Lawyers Guild, among others. The organizers intended for Not In Our Name to stage protests across the country and also draft, according to the group's organizing document, a "Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience to be issued by well-known artists, intellectuals, activists and people in public life, lending their moral authority and their unified voice to the resistance movement."

AT least in the latter goal, Not In Our Name has been extraordinarily effective. But it had to split in two to succeed. There had been concern among organizers that some of those who might be inclined to sign the statement might not want to be associated with Not In Our Name's activist wing. So the group created two separate entities, one called the Not In Our Name Statement (which handles the manifesto and the collecting of celebrity signatures) and the other called the Not In Our Name Project (which handles street demonstrations and other protests).

"For the statement to succeed, we thought it should be separate from any form of political actions," says Clark Kissinger, a member of the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party who has played a major role in organizing Not In Our Name. "We wanted people to be able to sign the statement without having their names used to endorse other actions."

Today, the staffs and finances of both groups are managed independently. Still, both parts of Not In Our Name need to raise money. Rather than creating foundations to collect cash, they formed alliances with so-called "fiscal sponsors" - that is, already established foundations that could use their tax-exempt status for fundraising.

THE Not In Our Name statement that appeared in the Times included a small box asking that donations be sent to something called the Bill of Rights Foundation. Last year, the foundation agreed to serve as Not In Our Name Statement's fiscal sponsor, but a look at the group's Internal Revenue Service records shows that until recently, it has had nothing at all to do with the peace movement. Rather, almost every dollar raised by the group for several years went to the legal defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the convicted cop-killer whose case has become a cause célèbre among some on the Left.

In 2001, for example, the foundation spent a total of $102,152, of which $95,737 went toward Abu-Jamal's legal expenses. In the year 2000, the foundation spent $75,956, of which $57,722 was for Abu-Jamal. And in 1999, the foundation spent $155,547, of which $139,126 went to Abu-Jamal's lawyers.

At the end of 2001, Abu-Jamal changed his legal and finance team, leaving the Bill of Rights Foundation without its main cause. In 2002, it hooked up with Not In Our Name Statement. Foundation president Judith Levin sees the Abu-Jamal case and opposition to a possible war as closely linked. "They're related as a matter of principle," she explains. "The connection is the violation of civil rights of people in this country."

FOR its fund raising, the Not In Our Name Project is allied with another foundation, this one called the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization. Founded by several New Left leaders in 1967 to "advance the struggles of oppressed people for justice and self-determination," IFCO was originally created to serve as the fundraising arm of a variety of activist organizations that lacked the resources to raise money for themselves.

In recent years, IFCO served as fiscal sponsor for an organization called the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom (their partnership ended when the coalition formed its own tax-exempt foundation). Founded in 1997 as a reaction to the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, the coalition says its function is to oppose the use of secret evidence in terrorism prosecutions.

Until recently, the group's president was Sami Al-Arian, a University of South Florida computer-science professor who has been suspended for alleged ties to terrorism. (He is still a member of the coalition's board.) According to a New York Times report last year, Al-Arian is accused of having sent hundreds of thousands of dollars, raised by another charity he runs, to Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Times also reported that FBI investigators "suspected Mr. Al-Arian operated 'a fund-raising front' for the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine from the late 1980s to 1995." Al-Arian also brought a man named Ramadan Abdullah Shallah to the University of South Florida to raise money for one of Al-Arian's foundations - a job Shallah held until he later became the head of Islamic Jihad.

TODAY, IFCO sponsors Refuse and Resist!, an antiwar group with ties to the Revolutionary Communist Party, and also devotes substantial energy to supporting the Castro regime in Cuba. Cuba is a particular favorite of IFCO's executive director, the Rev. Lucius Walker, who, addressing a "solidarity conference" in Havana in November 2000, proclaimed, "Long live the struggle of the Cuban people! Long live the creative example of the Cuban Revolution! Long live the wisdom and heartfelt concern for the poor of the world by Fidel Castro!" Both IFCO and the Bill of Rights Foundation are tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charities, which means that all contributions made to them - whether for antiwar protests, Cuban solidarity rallies, or the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal - are fully tax-deductible.

The groups have been quite successful. The most recent IRS records available for IFCO, from the year 2000, show that the foundation took in $1,119,564 in contributions. For their part, organizers of the Not In Our Name Statement report that they have taken in more than $400,000 in recent months for the purpose of publishing their statement. It is not possible to say who is giving the money, or whether it comes from many people or just a few; federal laws do not require tax-exempt foundations to reveal their donors - or even whether donations are received from inside or outside the United States.

'WE who sign this statement call on all Americans to join together," says the Not In Our Name manifesto. To hear the group's leaders speak, one might think that is actually happening, that there really is a "broad-based movement" represented by these activists. But a look at the people and organizations involved in Not In Our Name suggests otherwise - no matter how many celebrity signatures they might collect.

Byron York is National Review's White House correspondent. From the Feb. 24 issue.