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Thursday, 27 September 2018 06:41

Meet Nina Rosenwald, the Sears Heiress Seeding Islamophobia at Home and Abroad

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BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

islamophobiaPhoto from a 2016 peace rally in Minnesota. Fibonacci Blue / Flickr

Mounting debt, numerous store closures, and the challenge of digital retailing is causing Sears, once one of America's iconic retailers, to struggle mightily to stay afloat. Meanwhile, Nina Rosenwald, an heiress to the Sears Roebuck fortune, whose grandfather Julius Rosenwald was an early investor in Sears, Roebuck & Company, is spreading millions of dollars around, helping anti-Muslim organizations and projects at home and abroad, stay afloat. Through the William Rosenwald Family Fund, a nonprofit foundation named for her father, a famed Jewish philanthropist who created the United Jewish Appeal in 1939, Nina Rosenwald, has along with her sister, Elizabeth Varet -- a co-director of the family foundation -- have donated millions of dollars to "organizations that fan the flames of Islamophobia," according to a Center for American Progress report titled "Fear." 

Through the founding and funding of the New York-based Gatestone Institute, Nina Rosenwald – who has been labeled "the sugar mama of anti-Muslim hate" -- was neck deep in the German elections, with Gatestone supporting the anti-Muslim Alternative for Germany, "the new far-right political party competing in the … election," The Intercept's Lee Fang reported.

During the election campaign, "Rosenwald's site, the Gatestone Institute, publishe[d] a steady flow of inflammatory content …, focused on stoking fears about immigrants and Muslims. …The website warn[ed] of the construction of mosques in Germany and claims that Christianity is becoming 'extinct,'" Fang pointed out. 

Gatestone generated stories became the engines for social media attacks against Chancellor Angela Merkel and what Gatestone called her open-door refugee policy. 

According to Fang, "The website's Germany-related coverage includes story after story about migrants raping German women, claims that migrants are bringing 'highly infectious diseases' to Germany, and Muslims are transforming entire German neighborhoods into 'no-go zones' where local police have lost control. Many of the claims about Muslims in Europe have been debunked as false or sensationalized."

If many of these charges sound familiar, it is because they are, having been used in political campaigns in other countries, as well as in the US.

What is supremely ironic is that Nina Rosenwald's father, the late William Rosenwald, "used his share of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. department store fortune to settle Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi terror in Europe," Fang pointed out.

As if financially supporting Gatestone wasn't enough, Nina Rosenwald's foundation supports such renowned Islamophobes as Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney, and David Horowitz. Some reports have noted that Horowitz, the former leftist turned right-wing propagandist, founder and president of the think tank the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and editor of the Center's publication, FrontPage Magazine, is one of Stephen Miller's mentors. Miller is the White House aide that has taken the lead in developing onerous anti-immigrant policies in the US. 

From 2013 until he was appointed President Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, which, NBC News reported has "promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news, some of which was amplified by a Russian troll factory."

In March of this year, Lobe Log's Eli Clifton reported that "Gatestone, where right-wing philanthropist Rebekah Mercer serves on the board and where the Mercer Family Foundation contributed $150,000 between 2014 and 2015, collaborated with The Rebel to produce 12 cross-branded videos featuring anti-Muslim advocates including Daniel Pipes and Geert Wilders in 2016. Topics included 'the dangers of the Islamization of the West and the growing influence of Sharia law' and 'Will Europeans succumb to Islamization, or will they rise to fight radical Islam and hold onto Western values?'"

Nina Rosenwald, "alongside John Bolton, host closed-door salons in Manhattan for those willing to pay $10,000 to attend. Speakers have included: Steve Bannon, Newt Gingrich, Alan Dershowitz, and Antonin Scalia," Clifton reported. 

She has long been a major donor to Middle East Forum and also contributed $140,000 to the Friends of Israel Initiative (FOII), between 2012 and 2014. FOII has taken a liking to the so-called New Right in Europe, a liking that allows it to excuse many of those groups' anti-Semitism, as long as they support Israel. 

Another favored Rosenwald right-wing provocateur is James O'Keefe, the fellow that has made a career out of producing so-called sting videos and then rearranging them to produce his desired results.  In December of last year, The Daily Beast's Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, took a dive into the funding stream of O'Keefe's Project Veritas.  "Previously undisclosed donors listed in Project Veritas's annual tax filings reviewed by The Daily Beast include Sears Roebuck heiress Nina Rosenwald," Markay and Suebsaeng reported. 

In a July 2012 piece in The Nation titled "The Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate," veteran journalist and author Max Blumenthal takes a penetrating look into Rosenwald's political choices. He reported that over the years, Rosenwald, the "Manhattan socialite who travels in some of New York City's most elite financial and political circles," has been at the center of the conservative movement's anti-Muslim projects.  Among other endeavors, she "has helped sustain the pet projects of … David Horowitz; … supported former Lebanese Maronite TV anchor Brigitte Gabriel, who told an evangelical audience in 2006 that Muslims 'have no souls—they are dead set on killing and destruction'"; given Frank Gaffney's The Center for Security Policy (CSP), a Washington-based think tank over $400,000 "to churn out conspiratorial pamphlets like his 2010 'Shariah: The Threat to America,' in which he warned that American Muslims were engaged in a 'stealth jihad' to place the country under the control of Sharia, or Islamic law."

"But no single anti-Muslim activist has benefited more from his relationship with Rosenwald than Middle East Forum founder Daniel Pipes, bankrolled to the tune of $2.3 million over the past ten years by the Rosenwald family's philanthropies," Blumenfeld wrote. "Pipes thanked Rosenwald for '[taking] on a leadership role when the [Middle East] Forum was yet fledgling, helping us through some tough spots.'"

Over the years, Iran has been of special interest to Rosenwald and her bellicose comrades. With Trump at the UN accusing Iran of sowing "chaos, death and destruction" across the Middle East, after pointedly removing the US from the Iran nuclear deal; US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning Iran that the US could respond militarily if American interests are targeted by Iranian backed groups; National Security Adviser John Bolton, telling Iran there will "be hell to pay" if Iran messes with the US and its allies; and, Christian Right leaders such as mega-pastor John Hagee, pushing for a more muscular approach to Iran, look out world are you ready for another display of "shock and awe?"