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Stefanik's Israel Trip Funded by Group Tied to Anti-Muslim Figures

By Donald Shaw at Sludge, May 30, 2024

Rep. Elise Stefanik’s recent Israel trip to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was funded by a group with ties to multiple individuals who are commonly labeled anti-Muslim hate figures, according to a travel disclosure filed today with the U.S. House.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) in Israel with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

(Photo via Stefanik House of Representatives website)

Stefanik, a New York Republican who chairs the House Republican Conference, conveyed to Netanyahu the “House Republicans’ unwavering support for Israel, our most precious ally,” according to her website. She also delivered remarks at the Knesset, where she criticized President Biden’s decision to pause a shipment of bombs over Israel’s bombing in Rafah. “I have been clear at home and I will be clear here: There is no excuse for an American president to block aid to Israel—aid that was duly passed by the Congress, or to ease sanctions on Iran, paying a $6 billion ransom to the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, or to dither and hide while our friends fight for their lives,” Stefanik said before Israel’s legislature.

According to a new disclosure, Stefanik’s trip was paid for by the conservative Jewish Policy Center, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that describes its mission as “educat[ing] the American public about Israel, foreign affairs and domestic issues of importance to the Jewish community.” The organization spent nearly $48,000 on the trip, including on business-class airfare tickets for the representative and stays at luxury hotels. Stefanik’s chief of staff, Patrick Hester, joined her on the trip.

The Jewish Policy Center has multiple individuals on its board of fellows who have been identified as anti-Muslim hate figures by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other left-leaning groups.

Fellow Daniel Pipes, the president of the rightwing think tank the Middle East Forum, was listed as one of the top five purveyors of anti-Muslim misinformation by the Center for American Progress in its 2011 report Fear, Inc. on the roots of Islamophobia in America. Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, a multi-year research project on Islamophobia, has an extensive profile of Pipes’ comments over multiple decades, as he has argued for various forms of discrimination against Muslims to counter the threat of Islamic terrorism. The initiative says Pipes “supports racial profiling and the surveillance of Muslim communities and believes Muslims in the United States seek to infiltrate and overthrow the country.” 

Another fellow, David Horowitz, runs an organization that SPLC labels an anti-Muslim hate group called the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The Freedom Center says its mission is to “combat the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror.” Founded in 1988, the David Horowitz Freedom Center operates as a hub for multiple anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-Black misinformation projects, including the websites FrontPage and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch that distort news stories and history to depict Muslims as terrorists and rapists.

On its website, Jewish Policy Center republishes articles from the Center for Security Policy, an anti-Muslim think tank that was founded by Frank Gaffney Jr. The SPLC considers the Center for Security Policy to be an anti-Muslim hate group and calls Gaffney “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” The Jewish Policy Center has hosted Gaffney on panels to discuss foreign policy issues.

Stefanik’s speech in Israel denounced the Biden administration’s warnings to Netanyahu’s government to consider civilian casualties in its military response in Gaza. Last month, House Republican leadership took up a foreign aid package—stalled in the chamber for months, after a version cleared the U.S. Senate—that directed some $26.3 billion in additional aid to Israel. The measure passed the House on April 20 by a vote of 366-58 and was signed days later by Biden.

This election cycle, the PAC of lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has given $284,000 to Stefanik’s campaign in conduit contributions through April 30, placing her in its top 10 recipients among House Republicans. Earlier this month, Stefanik was asked on Fox News about being mentioned as a potential pick for vice president by former President Donald Trump, a possibility she did not rule out.

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