WASHINGTON - A woman who with her husband has contributed large sums to pro-Israel and Jewish groups is the principal funder of the group that has taken the lead in opposing an Islamic center in lower Manhattan.
Jihad Watch, the group that is organizing a rally against the planned Islamic center timed for the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 2001 attacks - the center is planned for within three blocks of the site of the attacks - is funded by Freedom Center, a conservative group based in Los Angeles.
An investigative report appearing on the online version of Politico on Saturday says that it has confirmed that the "lion's share" of the $920,000 funneled through Freedom Center to Jihad Watch over the last three years originated with Joyce Chernick.
Aubrey and Joyce Chernick, Politico reported, have over the years contributed to, among other groups, the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles; the Anti-Defamation League; the Zionist Organization of America; MEMRI, a group that distributes translations of inflammatory Arabic language material; the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a group that tracks what it depicts as the threat of radical Islam; the American Jewish Congress; CAMERA, a group that tracks what it says is anti-Israel bias in the media; the Central Fund for Israel, a clearinghouse for moneys directed to pro-settler groups; and a number of conservative think tanks.
Aubrey Chernick, additionally, was at one time a trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
A number of these groups, including the Investigative Project, the ADL and the ZOA, have positioned themselves as opposed to the Islamic center. Other Jewish groups, led by the Reform movement, have been outspoken in supporting the center.
Jihad Watch, founded by Robert Spencer, has in recent months taken on board Pamela Geller, the New York-based blogger who launched efforts to stop the center's building.
Jihad Watch leads those groups that contend that the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who founded the Cordoba Initiative -- the organization behind the planned center -- is not, as he and a number of Jewish backers claim, a moderate attempting to bridge divides, but is instead a radical.
Rauf has spoken overseas on behalf of the U.S. State Department, under the Obama and Bush administrations, and has described the United States as a nation whose freedoms benefit Muslims.
He also eulogized Daniel Pearl, the Jewish journalist murdered in 2002
by Pakistani Islamists, by saying that such victims demand a response
from Muslims that they, too, are Jews.
He has refused to outright condemn Hamas, the terrorist group
controlling the Gaza Strip, and has among his associates some prominent
The Islamic center's opponents, led by Jihad Watch, have demanded an
accounting of the proposed center's donors, although Rauf has of yet
barely raised funds for the center.