Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August 2008, pages 32-33

Special Report

Not All Politics Is Local: A Colorado Race And the International Kahanist Network

By The DC Investigative Journalism Collective

ON MARCH 1, 2008, a Palestinian-American woman named Rima Barakat Sinclair raised her hand at a Denver meeting of the Colorado Republican Party. Little did she know that her simple action would initiate a string of unforeseeable consequences, with the potential of substantively changing the terms of the Israeli-Palestinian debate in U.S. politics.

About 50 party members attended the meeting, held in Colorado’s overwhelmingly Democratic, and Jewish, 6th House District. They were there to choose a candidate for the seat of Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), who was ineligible to run for re-election due to term limit restrictions.

By a vote of 25 to 23, Barakat Sinclair defeated the one other contender for the position. Her candidacy was then confirmed in a unanimous second vote.

Then the trouble started—thanks, perhaps, to individuals associated with Denver-based Jewish Republicans of Colorado, or J-GOP, which has a history of support for Israel’s most extreme right-wing politics.

Just days after the March 1 meeting, Denver Republican blogger Joshua Sharf expressed his dismay at President George W. Bush’s efforts to achieve before leaving office a framework agreement for a Palestinian state. “Will someone please explain to me exactly why we’re supposed to help broker a base of operations [crossed out in original] state for these jackals and hyenas?” Sharf wrote.

A few weeks later, Sharf issued a challenge to the state party’s nomination of Barakat Sinclair, labeling her an “Islamist” and a “terror apologist.” Since he had referred to her in a 2006 post as a “terrorist financier,” this ad-hominem attack actually showed relative restraint on Sharf’s part.

An article in the InterMountain Jewish News entitled “Daggers at Israel: Unusual House Primary” describes Sharf as a supporter of “Americans Against Terrorism” (AAT), a “grassroots pro-Israel group based in Denver.” Records at the Colorado secretary of state’s Web site indicate that AAT was registered in March 2003 by Boulder attorney Matt Finberg, with directors William P. Eigels and Neil Dobro—only to be “administratively dissolved” in September 2004.

On June 3 of this year, Sharf announced that he had turned in the required signatures allowing him to challenge Barakat Sinclair’s nomination. The now candidate also noted that his “close friend and supporter, Dr. Neil Dobro, will be the speaker at the monthly dinner of the Jewish Republicans of Colorado on June 19. Neil, the founder of Americans Against Terrorism, will be speaking on Israel’s Prospects Against Terror for the Next 60 Years.”

Dobro has accused Barakat Sinclair of being a champion of “terrorist gangs.” His view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is clear cut: “Arab ”˜victims,’” he writes, “are killed inadvertently and in part for their bad choices. Israelis are killed purposely by terrorists.”

His solution is equally straightforward: Palestinians who do not want to get killed should “do as thousands of other Arabs have done: get away from what surely will be the line of fire.” In other words, Palestinians who wish to stay alive should leave their homes and flee, as thousands did during 1948.

When contacted via e-mail, Barakat Sinclair shared with the authors (dc-ijc) an April e-mail exchange with Sharf’s current campaign manager, Ruth Prendergast, discussing the latter’s “concerns” about Islam. In her e-mail, Barakat Sinclair expressed her “shock and pain” over Prendergast’s claims in a conversation during a monthly breakfast meeting of Colorado Republican Women that “Muslims have a plan to infiltrate the U.S. government and that [they] believe that all infidels should be killed. Your suggestion,” Barakat Sinclair writes, “that Muslims should, first, renounce their beliefs before they run for office was outrageous.” Pendergast does not deny in her response that she holds those views. “Quite naturally,” she writes, “I am not the student of Islam as you are, however, I do have concerns.”

Barakat Sinclair also showed Rocky Mountain News columnist Bill Johnson a “raft of angry mail and anti-Muslim Web postings” about her, some mirroring the same Islamophobic views. The attacks have elicited letters of concern from local interfaith groups, including the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, which lamented the use of “religiously incendiary statements in the political arena,” and the Denver”“based Abrahamic Initiative, which issued a letter cautioning that “Islamophobic rhetoric has been used in the District 6 campaign.” An e-mail petition circulating worldwide, which includes signatures from Israel, asserts that “Christian right and Jewish extremists have launched a character assassination campaign against [Barakat Sinclair]. She has been called ”˜a Palestinian cockroach,’ ”˜a terror apologist’ and worse. The silence of religious moderates and secular organizations has magnified the influence of this small group.”

In an e-mail to the dc-ijc, Sharf stated that “I have, in the course of the campaign, said nothing disparaging about Ms. Sinclair’s religion or ethnicity. Period. And I challenge her or her supporters to show where I have because they cannot. Period.”

In his initial blog calling for a challenge to Barakat Sinclair’s nomination, however, entitled “Islamist Trouble in House District 6,” Sharf writes that “Mrs. Barakat Sinclair is a local Muslim activist” and that she “has a stated goal of getting Muslims involved in the political process.” Sharf ends his call to action with the following:

“What we don’t need is a Barakat in Sinclair’s clothing.”

In April, the J-GOP itself weighed in, asking whether a Republican candidate with an “anti-Israel bias” could be elected.

An Unexpected Turn

As a local cautionary tale, the events described above are instructive in their own right. But the story extends well beyond Denver. Matt (Moshe) Finberg, the registered agent for Americans Against Terrorism, is a wealthy former Boulder real estate attorney who in 2007 made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) and now lives in the illegal settlement of Shiloh, “near Jerusalem and outside the [1967] Green Line”—i.e., in the occupied West Bank.

On March 8, 2004 Finberg also registered “Israel’s Best Friend” (IBF) with the Colorado secretary of state’s office as a non-profit corporation, listing his law firm as the registered agent. A May 20, 2007 posting by “Yekutiel” under the heading http://israelsbestfriend.org on the Web site Kahane.org—designated an alias of the banned foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) Kach and Kahane Chai by the U.S. State Department—explains that “At one time we went by name Gedud HaIvry and IBF...now we call ourselves the Israel Canine Unit or Dogs for Israel’s Defense...”

Gedud HaIvry is Hebrew for “Jewish Legion”—also listed by the State Department as an alias of Kach and Kahane Chai. The State Department list includes The Judean Legion, Jewish Legion and Kahane.org, as well as numerous other aliases (see November 2007 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 31). The Jewish Legion is headed by Mike “Yekutiel” Guzofsky, former CEO of Kahane Chai.

Nor did Finberg stop with Israel’s Best Friend. In 2005, in the wake of the Israeli government’s unilateral removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, Finberg registered two other nonprofit groups with the Colorado secretary of state: Revava and Hameir L’David, associated with former Kahane Chai activist David HaIvry (aka David Axelrod). The filings for Revava and Hameir L’David state that their business is to “receive donations.” Both groups are registered as “trade names” of B’Nai Elim, another nonprofit founded by Finberg, who served as its “international chairman.” Finberg also served a stint as “international chairman” of a revival of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League, also registered (in August 2004) as a nonprofit with the Colorado secretary of state, but now delinquent.

In 2005 Finberg defended his association with HaIvry/Axelrod, stating that HaIvry was a member of Kach and Kahane Chai “10 to 20 years ago when the parties were no more controversial than the Green Party in the U.S.” In 2006, Finberg was a guest on “Voice of Judea,” the Internet TV show of Mike Guzofsky, former CEO of Kahane Chai.

According to the U.S. State Department, Kach, Kahane Chai and its aliases continue to engage in terrorist activity by:

  • using explosives or firearms with intent to endanger the safety of individuals or cause substantial damage to property (including an attempt to leave an explosive-packed trailer outside a Palestinian girls school and hospital in East Jerusalem)
  • threatening and conspiring to carry out assassinations
  • soliciting funds and members for a terrorist organization

Meanwhile, Back in Colorado...

In Denver last October, the J-GOP hosted Marc Prowisor, described in a 2005 Boston Globe article as commander of volunteer “quick-response teams of settlers armed and funded by the [Israeli] government” in the settlement of Shiloh. The discussion topic at the J-GOP event was “Tactical Response in Israel: Equipment for first responders and perimeter systems.” According to one participant, “equipment” included weapons. Checks were signed and handed over.

One month after Prowisor’s appearance at the J-GOP, the “Boulder Jewish Republicans Special Israel-Topic event” hosted another speaker from Shiloh—Matt Finberg.

In his e-mail Sharf informed dc-ijc that he supports “the actions of both the State Department and the Government of Israel, which also banned the Kach Party.” When asked whether he supports the current Republican administration’s efforts to achieve a framework for peace based on a two-state solution, his response was: “no comment.”

Sharf also stated that he supports the entry of Muslims into the American political process, “as the great strength of our system is its ability to incorporate people from all backgrounds into that process.”

His stated support of bringing Muslims into the political process will be put to the test by how he responds to statements (and actions) from his supporters at odds with that position.

Whoever wins the August primary, or even the November general election, one local issue will remain to be addressed: how did a small group of Coloradans establish a funding network for designated terrorist organizations banned by the governments of both the U.S. and Israel, and establish it through nonprofit, U.S.-taxpayer subsidized corporations certified by the Colorado secretary of state?

Colorado taxpayers may be surprised to learn whose money is being used to finance terrorist organizations in the Middle East. 

The DC Investigative Journalism Collective can be contacted at <[email protected]>.