Duping the media isn't difficult. All you have to do is give yourself an impressive title and claim to be working for a prestigious institution.
The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) in King's College London excels at such deception. Its staff are treated as authoritative sources on "terrorism," without there being any explanation of their connections to the Israeli establishment.
Though headquartered in England, the ICSR was established as a partnership between the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and a few other universities. Each year the Herzliya center hosts a major conference on "security," at which powerful business and political figures discuss how to reinforce Israeli apartheid.
At the 2003 conference, Benjamin Netanyahu, then Israel's finance minister, tried to defend the wall being built in the West Bank by contending it would help prevent a "demographic spill-over" of Palestinians into present-day Israel.
Shiraz Maher, a "senior research fellow", at the ICSR has been in demand recently as a pundit on Syria. During an appearance on Al Jazeera, he denounced the Iranian government-financed Press TV and Russia Today as "propaganda channels."
His description wasn't inaccurate (numerous media outlets warrant the same label). But it is telling that he implied those hostile to a Western assault on Damascus were resorting to propaganda, when he regularly parrots Israeli propaganda himself.
In a blog he writes for the right-wing British magazine The Spectator, Maher has praised Netanyahu for bombing Syria earlier this year. In other posts, he has stated it was a "palpable falsity" to call Israel an apartheid state (he didn't bother elaborating). And he has urged the European Union to blacklist Hizballah as a "terrorist organization," echoing an appeal made repeatedly by Israel.
I contacted Maher to ask how he defined terrorism and if he accepted that Israel resorted to state terrorism. "I don't see where the question is coming from," he replied. "It's a fairly technical legal question."
When I asked him why he never drew attention to his Herzliya links in his articles or TV appearances, Maher said that the ICSR has "no financial relationship" with the Israeli center. Yet he would not give any details on how the ICSR is funded, telling me that I would have to put any such questions on matters to John Bew, the center's director.
Bew did not respond to my requests for a copy of the ICSR's accounts. Yet Bew is known to answer requests from pro-establishment journalists. In July, he was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 program "Thinking Allowed," where he stated that "anyone who grew up in Northern Ireland, like I did, will know terrorism is not a concept" but an "objective fact."
The slot featuring Bew lasted for a full 26 minutes. That would be considered a long time by many broadcast journalists, yet neither Bew nor the presenter availed of the opportunity to explain that he is linked to an Israeli university supportive of state violence. (Bew, incidentally, will soon leave London for Washington, where he will take up the "Henry Kissinger chair in foreign policy" at the Library of Congress.)
The ICSR is registered as a charity and donations to it are tax deductible. Yet it is hard to believe that the information it has supplied to Britain's Charity Commission gives a full picture of its resources. This indicates that it had an income of £20,000 ($32,000) in the financial year which ended in August 2012 and that it spent only £5,000 during that year.
It appears that two of the main donors to the ICSR are businessmen Edward Atkin and Henry Sweetbaum.
According to the ICSR's website, the students are able to discuss how to "further peace and understanding" in a "politically neutral environment." This is pure spin: projects of this nature are regarded as "normalization" by many Palestinians because they promote cooperation in a situation of inequality and injustice, without acknowledging that Israel practices a form of apartheid.
It is doubtful whether or not Atkin is "politically neutral" himself (can any wealthy entrepreneur really be apolitical?). He is also a donor to the Community Security Trust (CST), a group that has engaged in a witch-hunt against Jewish activists who speak out against Israeli apartheid.
As my colleague Asa Winstanley revealed in 2011, the CST has strayed from its official remit of monitoring anti-Semitic incidents to snoop on left-wing Jews, whom it has branded "extremist," a term it normally reserves for the far-right.
The ICSR was founded in 2007 by Henry Sweetbaum, a former head of the building supplies firm Wickes Companies. Sweetbaum is named as a donor to King's College London in that university's latest annual report. He also remains the ICSR's chairman.
Attempts by the ICSR's staff to distance themselves from Israel lack credibility. Boaz Ganor from the Herzliya center was another founding member of the ICSR and is still one of its official "partners." Ganor has encouraged Israel to commit even more war crimes than it already has: in a 2006 opinion piece, he advocated both "pre-emptive and reactive strikes" against "Palestinian terror." Civilians have been the main victims when Israel has undertaken those kinds of "strikes."
Given they are in a "partnership" with a man who openly calls for the murder of people based on the racial group to which they belong, perhaps the media should be a little more probing the next time it gives a platform to the ICSR and its "experts."
•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 19 September 2013