Steven Rosen had a reputation for being one of the most effective pro-Israel advocates in Washington. By some accounts, he relished that reputation. According to a New Yorker profile, he once boasted of being able to gather signatures from 70 senators in a 24-hour timeframe.
While Rosen’s two decades with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been analyzed in the media, other aspects of his work have evaded scrutiny. One little-known fact is that he has helped the Israel lobby to expand beyond the US.
Rosen is among the lobbyists connected to a pro-Israel group with the deceptively bland name of European Leadership Network.
A biographical note prepared for a 2013 Los Angeles conference on financing pro-Israel activities billed him as a “senior strategic adviser” to that organization.
The European Leadership Network is coy about its relationship with Rosen. His name does not seem to feature at all on the group’s website. Neither Rosen nor the European Leadership Network replied to a request for clarification.
Is something being concealed here? One reason why the organization may not wish to broadcast its links to Rosen is that his reputation has been tarnished.
In 2005, he was charged with conspiracy to violate US law on espionage. It was alleged that he had passed on confidential information to a journalist and a foreign diplomat.
The case against Rosen dragged on for a few years before the charges were withdrawn in 2009.
The case proved embarrassing for AIPAC, which fired Rosen, alleging that his “conduct did not comport” with its standards. Rosen sued his former employer over his sacking. Intriguingly, a judge dismissed Rosen’s lawsuit on the grounds that it was “impossible” to know what standards AIPAC expected of its staff.
Since his fall from grace, Rosen has been recruited by Daniel Pipes, an influential bigot who has recommended the mass incarceration of Muslims.
Rosen joined Pipes’ Middle East Forum, a club dedicated to promoting “American interests” and “Western values.”
The work conducted by Rosen in that capacity suggests he regards American and Israeli interests as synonymous. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Rosen argued repeatedly that the US should back away from demanding an end to Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.
With branches in several cities, the European Leadership Network has conveyed the impression it is a moderate organization. It has jointly hosted events with influential “think tanks” such as the European Policy Centre in Brussels and Berlin’s Federal Academy for Security Policy.
It has held discussions with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. In France, the European Leadership Network has claimed that some of its advisers have become the main foreign policy aides to Emmanuel Macron, the president.
Arié Bensemhoun, head of the European Leadership Network’s French office, has made a series of ignorant comments. “In France, the Islamists want to kill the Jews,” he tweeted last year. “Like the Palestinians in Israel.”
The French press has suggested that Bensemhoun is more strident than other prominent players in the country’s pro-Israel lobby. Bensemhoun is fond of using terms such as “Islamofascism” and even “Nazi-Islamism.”
Such facile rhetoric echoes the racism of Europe’s far-right, which has portrayed Muslims as a threat to freedom.
The European Leadership Network purports to be interested in “dialogue” and the “pursuit of peace.” Its commitment to those noble ideas is questionable.
At least three of its earliest administrators – Raanan Eliaz, Roz Rothstein and Michael Dickson – are also serving or former board members in StandWithUs.
Headquartered in Los Angeles and bankrolled by the Israeli government, StandWithUs pumps out propaganda for the Israeli military – the same army which subjects Palestinians to a brutal occupation.
The aforementioned Steven Rosen has been named, too, as a “strategic adviser” to StandWithUs on documents filed with the US authorities.
One such document states that StandWithUs applies its “mission of education” through the European Leadership Network. It appears that the European Leadership Network was established, effectively, as a front for StandWithUs before being spun off.
The array of different groups in the Israel lobby can be bewildering. Keeping tabs on them involves wading through an alphabet soup of acronyms.
Though these groups may not be identical, they do have one thing in common. All want to shore up international support for Israel, a nuclear-armed apartheid state. Everything they do should, therefore, be monitored and exposed.
•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 11 September 2017.